In 2017 St. Andrew’s, my church located in Maryland, launched the Western Gambella Bethel Synod (WGBS) Theological Empowerment Project in response to an urgent appeal from the WGBS leadership for help to improve and expand their only theological training school. With the support of other churches in the Baltimore Presbytery, New York and North Carolina, St. Andrews collected nearly 7000 volumes of theological reference books and Bibles. Volunteers spent over 400 hours sorting and preparing the 6,150 books which were sent to the Theological Book Network (TBN) for shipment to Ethiopia. The books are still being held by the TBN because the school has not been able to build a library suitable for the books.
Located in Southwestern Ethiopia, WGBS is a part of the Mekane Yesus Church which grew out of over 100 years of Presbyterian missionary service there. WGBS which is currently supported by PCUSA missionaries Michael and Rachael Weller, serves the 150,000 to 200,000 Nuer people living in that region. Due to violence in the South Sudan, hundreds of thousands of refugees have flooded into Ethiopia. The church is ill-equipped to deal with this situation, and is in desperate need of seminary resources to train pastors. In recent communications from the school we have learned that refugee leaders have also asked to take classes. Even though the school has not been able to cover current program costs, the staff and administrators voted to add a track for refugees and are voluntarily work more unpaid hours to facilitate these new classes.
At my urging, St Andrews has discussed helping to build the library, but we have not actively pursued the project. Sometimes you need a kick in the seat of the pants to get you moving. My kick came a month ago when I learned I have stage 4 pancreatic cancer. I feel led by the Holy Spirit to make sure the books are on shelves in a new library in the time I have left. With help from my sister Leah Preston, we are finalizing plans for the building and getting ready to order materials. We expect construction to begin in September. We will use local contractors. Leah will serve as logistics coordinator. Nephew, Adam Pollock, will supervise the construction with help from his dad, Ron Pollock.
The building will be a simple cement block building 23 by 70 feet with a veranda all around it to provide extra study areas for the students. The roof system, windows and doors will be fabricated by Ethiopia Steel who made the roof for a building we built in 2014. Bookshelves with be placed along the walls so they are easier to light at night and to provide space for tables in the center of the room. We will install a row of light tubes down the center of the building to supplement day lighting from the windows. Since the city electricity is erratic, we will provide backup solar lighting. We estimate the total cost of the building with furnishings at $35,000.
St. Andrew’s invites other churches to join with us in our continued participation in this emerging partnership. We believe it has the potential to heighten our awareness and deepen our compassion regarding Christians and missionaries in Africa who carry on despite distressing circumstances. We need prayers that all the pieces come together and construction goes smoothly. Please share this letter with your friends and members of your church.
Contributions to help pay for building materials, may be sent to St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, 609 Center St., Mt. Airy, MD 21771. Checks should designated for the Gambella Library.
For more details about the project and Bible school contact Leah Preston: [email protected]/704-516-6462 Ed Pollock: [email protected]/301-831-7223.
A few thoughts from Leah Preston:
Many of you know that while my husband David Preston was taking his journey with Pancreatic cancer, David and I organized a building project in Dembi Dolle, Ethiopia and my brother Ed Pollock lead the team. This time, Ed will be organizing the building project from afar and it is my turn to be the hands and feet in Ethiopia. I am blessed to once again be able to help someone I love, continue to serve Our Lord until God calls him home. When ever that maybe.
Please keep all of us in your prayers as we continue to glorify Our Lord on the different journeys we are on here on earth.