Tom Off To RSS

This time in two weeks, I shall be in Mundri, RSS. A flight to Addis Ababa; followed by another to Juba; and then finally a light plane to our destination. The rains have been so heavy this year that we were advised against driving the last leg.

I doubt many (or any) of you have heard of Mundri; and a google map search won’t show you a lot. It’s in the South of Sudan. I’m leading a SOMA team, (small Anglican Mission organisation) at the request of Bishop Bismark (Episcopal Church of Sudan) to teach at a Youth Conference he is gathering. This will be the fourth such trip I have made over the years – the first to Mundri, and the first as leader.

The team consists of 5 of us from UK (3 men, 2 women), Georgia from Kenya and Peter from Sudan. We are going under. We will be staying at the nearby Guesthouse of MRDA (they have a website – so does ECS.) Tim, from Blandford Forum (coincidentally) has just been there; I quote from a recent letter:

Lenin the Cockerel has absolutely no sense of time. There are sounds of the tropical night and the incessant laughter of the cooks outside my window. Add to that the call to prayer for the muslim celebrations of Eid at the Mundri Mosque, which is a couple of hundred yards from here, and you get the picture. Mundri is a complex mix of tribes and it appears that there is no great tension between Christian and Muslim, despite the pain between north and south as nations.

Please pray for us while we are away (15-28 Nov.) We want quickly to adapt to a very different world; to work well as a team; to stay healthy; to build lasting friendships and to help the Sudanese we will be with connect better with the Gospel of Christ.

Tom Gillum

St John’s: Venue For Night Shelter

If the long-range weather forecasters are correct, we could be in for a very cold winter this year – which is OK if you’re able to snuggle up to a lovely open fire in a centrally heated house, but not so good if you are homeless and on the streets on a freezing night. With that in mind, local churches will be once again opening their doors to the homeless during the winter months – and this year St John’s has the chance to take part.

At time of writing we’re envisaging opening up our church hall for about six Wednesday evenings/nights, probably starting from mid- February. We aim to lay on hot food and drinks, a bed for the night and, most importantly, friendship for about 15 or so guests.

Those of us from St John’s who volunteered for other churches last year found it to be a very positive and fulfilling experience. Practically speaking, this year we’ll be looking for volunteers to cook and serve food, clear up afterwards, and stay overnight on one night a week. Training will be given. We also need to raise money for food/bedding etc. More details on this soon.

Under the auspices of the Shelter Project Hounslow (SPH) St John’s will be sharing its Wednesdays with another church – Hounslow Evangelical Church – who’ll be operating the scheme from January. They’ll also be seeking volunteers – it might be good experience for anyone considering volunteering for St John’s.

If anyone is interested in volunteering, and would like more info about the SPH scheme, go to or contact Julian.

Julian Joyce

Cameraman in Machynlleth

7.30am Tuesday 2nd Oct, diverted from our planned story, told to drive to Mid Wales, location to be confirmed. From phone calls and Radio Five, we made a plan to report tragic news of April Jones’ abduction.

Approaching Machynlleth; people spread out, searching methodically on the ground, the thickets, hedgerows and bracken. Everyone soaked. Tim had closed his business for the day to bring his staff to help. “Well you have to do something haven’t you?” Dennis, a farmer was using his sheep dog. “We got to find ‘er, I can’t just stand around?” A young woman carrying her two year old, her silence speaking volumes. People from all walks of life, uniting and giving what they could.

The leisure centre was the focal point for all emergency services and broadcasters pitching their media circus. Volunteers worked tirelessly offering hot food, snacks and drinks for the exhausted rescue workers. All believed their efforts would prove fruitful in finding April safe, their collective spirit a driving inspiration.

The week unfolded as a race against time trying to piece together the events leading up to April’s disappearance. We went to villages, numerous woods, and to river banks with camera probes, boats, kayaks. Wherever our camera intruded, we were invited in.

John from a welding company where the suspect once worked painted a picture of what a lovely community Machynlleth was. He had settled there 12 years ago, “a place to bring up your children and have time to share and see it unfold”, highlighting the paradox of our own presence. Politely smiling at the thought of London life, he strongly “recommended” I think of an alternative.

With an arrest for murder, the atmosphere changed and hearts sank. We witnessed a town uniting, creating a spirit and energy that stays with one and reinforces the fact that true giving of whatever you can, is the way forward and restores faith, after such pain, in the human condition.

Harvest Offering

A massive thanks to everyone, and to God, as we have raised £10,260 in last Sunday’s harvest offering. This is amazingly encouraging. It means we have all but £1,600 of the £15,000 we needed for the building works. For those who have not yet given, please let Brian have it asap.

Welcare Richmond are extremely grateful for the amazing amount of dry goods you gave. Surplus going to other local charities.

Bright Colours and Smiles

Luca was 2 weeks premature. A perfectly happy child, the doctor said. He was good – almost too good: sleeping through the night, never cried. But for the next 2 months he would fall asleep after 2 minutes feeding.

Then good news: he gained weight. I stopped at a church to thank God for helping Luca. I sat with him in my arms and felt overwhelmed by this love for my child. I felt so peaceful knowing God is right next to me and Luca.

2 months later, another visit to the hospital. The pediatrician took longer than usual, concluding that Luca has Trisomy 21 (Downs). It was like falling deep into a dark nowhere, an emptiness. I could not cry. I sat on my chair and felt like a stone, unable to move or comprehend what this man just said to me. I have died: no, my child has just died. What is he saying?

And then everyone around me… sad. I felt abandoned by God who gave me my boy back just to take him away from me. WHY? Why me? And Luca: exploring the world crawling around the house behind the cat; laughing and happy.

When we were visiting Giovanni’s parents in Italy, Don Antonio, the village vicar called in ‘per un aperitivo’. With a smile he said, ‘God chooses the families well in which he places his special children’. With one sentence he broke the wall of sadness around me, and finally I was able to let go of the anger, sadness, and fear of the future. Above all I re-found my faith.

I have cherished every day with Luca and I am terribly proud of him. He does let not interfere with his life his so called “disability”. Some aspects need a little more input, more patience, and a great sense of humour. At times he just drives us crazy! He is very special and very much
loved. Who taught me more than I will ever be able to teach him. I often feel very lucky to accompany Luca through his life which is full of bright colours and smiles.

Jessica is a wonderful sister, and her lovely friends from the Blue School have always been so caring and kind to Luca including him in all the games…even dressing him up in girls clothes as boys were not allowed in the game!!