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The day Bishop Joseph of South Sudan came to St Giles’ Café

Our weekly Thursday afternoon Café in the Church started much as it always does, with our regulars taking their usual places at the tables, deciding which cakes to have with a cuppa, which to take away, and catching up on the week’s news. In the lull that followed, we let them know we were about to be visited by Bishop Joseph Aba from South Sudan. They were intrigued and probably thought it was a long way to come for coffee and cake……

One of our villagers is closely connected to a charity called CRESS UK (Christian Relief and Education in South Sudan), set up to work with local churches in educating and training South Sudanese with the skills to enable them to establish self-sustaining communities. (Visit the CRESS website for more about the Bishop’s week in Wiltshire.)

He arrived, accompanied by members of the Wylye and Till Valley benefice Ministry team, to a warm welcome and beaming smiles. After he had described his elation at seeing snow for the first time and sharing pictures with folks back home, he talked about what it was like to be a nation in exile in Uganda. The aim, through a series of projects over 5 years, is to equip the refugees with the skills necessary to rebuild their nation in the medium to longer term. He acknowledged it would be a slow process. Churches and homes have been destroyed, but not the hope that they carry in their hearts. The Bishop believes he has been called by God to lead a return, and his faithful optimism is inspiring. We compared the situation to Biblical exile stories, thinking particularly of the capture of the Israelites by the Babylonians and their eventual return to rebuild Jerusalem.

Those sitting at the table with him made him laugh with their questions and observations - clearly fascinated by his taking off his coat in a church that felt cooler than it was outside!

He signed the visitors’ book before leaving for yet more tea and cakes at Steeple Langford. His heartwarming and thought-provoking visit to St Giles’ Café gave us all plenty of food for thought, and we felt we had made a lasting connection with a people longing to get home.

Yvonne Allen LLM



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