Blue Tarp Tours? A peculiar name you might say. And I suppose it is. But so is Church Of The Blue Tarp after which it is named. COTBT is in Ilea, a small village in Ethiopia near the border with Sudan. The church has no name really, but I call it Church Of The Blue Tarp because the desperately poor people meeting there do so in a stick-walled, mud-floored structure, the roof of which consists of a blue, United Nations refugee tarp.
I became acquainted with COTBT in May, 2012, at The Parish Church of St. Helena’s in Beaufort, SC. The sermon that day was delivered by Bishop Grant LeMarquand, Anglican priest & missionary, serving in the area that is home for COTBT. He shared a deeply moving message highlighting the generosity of the truly destitute women of COTBT. I was so moved by their story that I kept thinking on it over the course of the next few days. It was during this time that I affectionately coined the name Church Of The Blue Tarp.
As that name came to life, it occurred to me that I might want to call still my five years distant tour operation Blue Tarp Tours, in honor of COTBT. I had some really cool Southport & Cape Fear themed names in mind, but once conceived, I could not shake the name, Blue Tarp Tours. So I took it, or you might say it took me. Either way, it also seemed right to deepen my connection with COTBT, and Bishop Grant by helping the indigenous pastors that work with him in ministering to the larger flock he has throughout his region. You see, these pastors might have to walk many miles in extreme heat to get to the villages they care for. But sometimes they can travel by bicycle. In view of this hardship (that’s what I call it, for I doubt the pastors complain) Blue Tarp Tours has committed to donate a portion of all tour and apparel profits to help provide bicycles for these pastors. So, at Blue Tarp Tours we like to say that you are invited to “ Walk with us so they won’t have to.”
If you have toured or bought Blur Tarp merchandise, you have already helped out. Thank you. If you would like to help more, and believe me the need for more is great, please visit our contact page and send us a message. We will reply with information on how you can help further.
Thank you & Keep on Tourin’
Bishop Grant’s condensed sermon shared in Beaufort, SC
There is a little church in western Ethiopia, in a town called Ilea. The church’s walls are made of a few bamboo sticks. There is nothing inside but a bare, smooth floor of packed mud. Its roof is a blue UNHCR (UN High Commissioner for Refugees) tarp. The small congregation somehow had found a chair for me to sit in, while they themselves sat on the ground. They listened as I taught about the woman who had given Jesus her wealth – her gift of costly ointment worth a year’s wages; who had given Jesus her pride – in the ancient world only a slave could be required to attend to a person’s feet; who had given Jesus her reputation – she had scandalously let down her hair in public to wash Jesus’ feet. With my sermon over, it came time for this poor church in IIea to give their offering. To the handfuls of grain and little one birr monetary notes (worth six cents) that were laid on the collection mat, the women began adding their gifts. One laid down her head scarf, another her necklace of plastic beads. One by one, these women, who from a western perspective had ‘nothing’, came and, like the woman with Jesus, gave their ‘costly’ gifts. ’Costly’, because that was all they had. In the West, because of, or perhaps in great part due to the ‘much’ that we have, we as a society, are deeply unsatisfied and spend our wealth on pleasure, in hope of finding joy. The women of Ilea do not have this choice, for they do not have ‘much’ from which to buy pleasure. But in giving all of their ‘wealth’, they have joy. As in Jesus’ day, it seems the poor have something to teach us about wealth and it’s proper connection to joy.