by Emma Midgley
BBC Berkshire Reporter
The new Bishop of Reading has been working in Ethiopia
The new Bishop of Reading has been working in Ethiopia since 2002.
During that time he has helped refugees from Southern Sudan, carried out baptisms in crocodile infested rivers and met underground Christians in Somaliland.
But this week Bishop Andrew Proud has swapped remote villages in Africa for a trip to John Lewis in Reading and a visit to Vodafone in Newbury.
The Bishop told BBC Radio Berkshire: "human nature was the same everywhere."
Speaking to presenter Andrew Peach he said: "It's going to be different, but it is exciting to work with individuals and communities and to see them change and develop."
"Of course, life in Ethiopia is very different, we shall miss it."
"We've seen people facing huge challenges but they've managed to maintain hope, real hope and real determination to try to work hard to change their lives and their lot for themselves and their families.
There has been an expansion of Anglicanism in Gambella
"I hope I can bring back those experiences back to this area," he said.
"I wanted to be in Reading and the diocese of Oxford, which is very committed to working with individuals and in communities to transform those communities."
Mr Proud and his wife Janice were appointed through the United Society for the Propagation of the Gospel (USPG) to work with the Anglican Church in Ethiopia in 2002.
Mr Proud initially served as the chaplain of St Matthew's Church in the capital Addis Ababa.
Then, in 2007, he was appointed as the Area Bishop for the Horn of Africa, an area, within the Diocese of Egypt, that includes Ethiopia, Eritrea, Djibouti, Somaliland and Somalia.
Despite visiting neighbouring Somaliland in an attempt to set up a library and reading room, Bishop Proud was unable to visit war-torn Somalia during his years in office, as the country is so dangerous for Christians.
And even in Somaliland, Christians keep a low profile because the country is 99.9% Muslim.
Mr Proud said none of the seven Somali Christians that he met celebrated their faith openly.
Bishop Andrew Proud carried out baptisms in Ethiopia
He said: "I met twice with seven Somali believers, all of whom are underground. On the first occasion, I merely introduced myself, listened to their needs and opened the scriptures for them.
"On the second occasion, I baptised three young men and celebrated the Eucharist, which was the first time they had ever received communion.
During his time in the Horn of Africa, Mr Proud counted among his achievements setting up a wide-range of community initiatives in Ethiopia, including two libraries for schoolchildren in Addis Ababa.
In the remote area of Gambella, in western Ethiopia, he oversaw an expansion in Anglicanism, with churches growing in number from eight in 2002 to 53 today.
He also helped to establish an Anglican centre and library in this region that is providing agricultural, health and literacy programmes to local communities, irrespective of religious background.
During their early years in Ethiopia, Mr Proud worked alongside his wife to support refugees who had fled a two-decade civil war in Sudan which ended in 2005.
Many of the refugees have now returned since the subsequent peace treaty.
In the Gambella region, Mr Proud held baptisms in crocodile-inhabited rivers and trekked through a machete-cleared path to deliver a Christmas sermon to a remote village community.
The bishop, said he was excited about working in Reading and going to see Reading FC, although he normally attends Arsenal games.
He will take over the post of bishop from the Right Reverend Stephen Cottrell who became Bishop of Chelmsford in November.
Mr Proud, who is 56, will take up his post in April 2011.