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There is a great deal of poverty here, of that there is no doubt. We’ve traveled from Addis (the capital) to Jimma (95% Muslim territory) to Metu and the outlying areas beyond. We haven’t seen the bloated bellies and red tinged hair that is so prevalent in Haiti due to malnutrition, worms and starvation. I’ve seen the look of hopelessness in the beggar’s eyes but not the man that resembles a holocaust survivor with protruding bones and sunken eyes that speaks of a life of despair.
West of Addis is what they call the bread basket of Ethiopia, maybe even Africa. There is a high unemployment rate, but still families are fed because many are sustenance farmers supplying what they need on their own.
There is little escape from the poverty though. It is everywhere. Dirt roads that lead to lean-to houses made of discarded aluminum and tarps from various aid agencies. Sleeping quarters in Addis are found on the side of the road - aluminum scraps held together with tarps with wood out each side so that it can be moved if necessary. I asked if they needed permits for these and Alamu laughed at me; they serve as sleeping quarters for those unlucky enough to not have a space to call their own.
It seems in most third world countries many things remain the same
Trash is everywhere, part out of disregard for the area and part because there is just nowhere to put it.
People depend on people. There are countless little tarp covered corners of sidewalks where residents peddle their wares - lemons, potatoes, onions, papayas, many, many bananas. Others sell the necessities of grain and of course coffee. With so little space in homes, I imagine them each day making their rounds to each familiar face to buy the day's needs. Not too much and not too little.
Crammed vans and buses full of Ethiopians make their daily routes along with donkeys pulling carts of people and the tiny three wheeled cars that run on lawnmower engines. Dad likes to call these the Little Blue Donkeys.
In the case of death, no expense is spared, even if they have to go without personally. In great funeral processions, they walk somberly to the final resting place - never letting the sun go down between the time of death and time of burial.
Above all else, there is an American influence. It’s on their clothes. Clothes that may be hand me downs from our charity shops in the States or bought from a lean-to shop with mannequins with only partial body parts on the side of the street. Every home, whether made of discarded collections of mismatched tarps, the packed mud tukels, cement block homes or the affluent multistory homes with fancy gates... each and everyone has a satellite dish.
To find an authentic Ethiopian product, one must go deeper than the city and past the tourist trinket markets. Those are found in the homes of those that live and love this place.
But isn’t that much the same way at home? You can’t buy my memos spatula in any store or my mother's handmade quilt on a shelf.
That’s the beauty of travel such as this. We meet friends and join in fellowship with our brothers and sisters in Christ and when welcomed into their homes we are treated like family. Nobody made me eat potatoes! And everyone watches diligently for onions for Karen’s allergy.
The smiles that cross my dad and Doug’s faces when they see a long lost friend and greet them with a handshake and countless hugs .... those little things make us feel as if we are more than just temporary tourists. Maybe we are more of a tiny thread in the great tapestry that is Ethiopia.
I was told last night at dinner that once you tasted the water from Ethiopia it becomes a part of you and you can’t help but return. It’s a long flight from home .... but well worth it! I am blessed beyond what I can count.
With much love from Ethiopia
Went shopping today which was fun! Had a great time finding goodies for everyone. Miss you all.
Also saw the infamous Lucy today. Not much of her is left but they have done a great job in the museum with her.
It’s our last night in Metu and it’s been a good day. I worshipped at Kes Amenna’s home church, which was quite an honor. (He is the president of the Synod). I was told very clearly that my sermon was to be no shorter than 40 minutes. So I preached and I preached and I preached. I plan on continuing that tradition at Front Royal Presbyterian.
There was no air conditioning. The 500 plus congregants sat on rickety benches and in windows and in doors - wherever they could get a spot. The choir sang two times, each for twenty minutes at a time and it was wonderful! Children wandered between laps of loved ones and nursing mothers fed their infants. I loved the Spirit and family feel of worship. Best part ...nobody complained except my dad who said I was too loud. (wonder where I get that voice from ....)
The scripture was from Luke where the servant does all that is expected of him and then Luke asks the question “Do you deserve a thank you for doing what you are supposed to do?”
(Women of Metu)
I shared how the one word I know in Oromo is “Galatoma” which means thank you. So I say it all the time. But when I say it to Kes Amenna he replies “it is my duty.”
What is our duty when the van pulls away from Metu tomorrow? Our friends here have been saying to us “We don’t want to miss you.” I think that speaks volumes.
Distance is hard. I’ve been there and recently I’ve walked through those deep waters with a friend. It is hard to stay in relationship when one can’t look the other in the eye and say, “I love you”. It is harder still to be so far as to not be able to wrap your arms around the one you love. Sometimes it is just the mere presence of the loved one that is so greatly needed.
Africa is a long way from Front Royal. I too don’t want to miss my new brothers and sisters in Christ.
The theme for this Sunday’s service was not chosen by me, but by the church leadership. It was “Prosperity through hard work.” I told the congregation this morning that I’ve never had to work as hard as they do. I don’t carry heavy loads of sticks on my back for miles up and down hills just to make a fire to cook dinner. I don’t have to wash my clothes on a rock in the river and wait for them to dry. I don’t have to carry my water from the well and I don’t have to grow, pick, roast and grind my own coffee. (That is if I drank coffee of course ....) There are so many things that are different that I told them I couldn’t preach to them about hard work because I am soft.
But I could preach about the prosperity that comes from working together in community towards the Kingdom. That is the hard work that we do together ... and we can’t go at it alone. I do not want to miss my new friends. But we all know it’s time to go home.
I don’t know what tomorrow will bring. I do know that for 27 years this Synod and our Presbytery have worked together in full communion to further the Kingdom of God. That is hard work.
I also know there is work yet to be done.
But as we say goodbye, and as we worry about how the miles between us will affect our relationship, I’m reminded that I have neither wrapped my arms around Christ nor looked Him in the eye and said “I love you.” But I am still His and He is still mine.
Building on that, my prayer today is for safe travels for our group and God's continued blessings on those we leave behind.
I don’t want to miss them, but I will and today I count that as a blessing.
With much love from Ethiopia
Random thoughts for the day:
It is past the halfway mark on our trip and this is always the time I miss my family the most.
Today was different though ... we had meetings with different people regarding the good work that DASSC (development and social services committee) as well as partnership meetings and gathering with the seminary staff.
Oh the stories they shared! I’m enthralled by the stories of women suffering from uterine prolapse after giving birth and in Need of fistula surgery. Curious? Watch the PBS special, "A Walk to Beautiful." Tomorrow or Saturday, I’m hoping to have the opportunity to see both the hospital my dad worked at for 3 months, as well as the fistula hospital. But the best part about DASSC is that they have the power of the church behind them while remaining a NGO (equivalent of a secular non-profit in the states), which allows them to receive government funding to achieve greater results. It also allows them to serve not only Christians but all people regardless of race, which I’m pretty certain is our command from scripture. I’ve long thought this is the path for the church in the future.
One story is of the Menja tribe (spelling may be incorrect). They are what most would consider the “untouchables”. They are outcasts and scavengers. They weren’t allowed in public buildings, their children were not allowed to attend school and the entire community shunned them and wouldn’t purchase their wares or support their businesses. It was devastating to the tribe. 75% of the 10,350 individuals in the area were Menja. The DASSC program began an inclusion program that after six years of attitude adjustments and communications now the Menja people are known for their honey and are beginning to be accepted as members of society.
Praise the Lord!
And then more meetings - some troubling and some very affirming. It reminds me that all partnerships and relationships struggle from time to time and the important part is to stay in the story together. At times today, my heart hurt.
But God always provides!
At lunch, I met a little six-year-old girl named Rihnad, daughter of an employee at the restaurant. She wore a bedazzled hijab and was thrilled when I took her photo. We were instant friends. Surprisingly we returned to the same restaurant for dinner and when she saw the “forenge” (foreigners) returning for dinner she waved and immediately came to sit on my lap.
I was prepared this time. Debbie Dumez had made some wonderful coloring cards for my trip to do with as I pleased. I pulled them out along with a blue and a green marker and she knew exactly what to do! But her face lit up when I found the pink sharpie. Pink is obviously her color. She snuck away to show her mom while I ate dinner and when she came back looking for me, she had colored each and every one of the cards and was so proud. We sat and shared names and colored and she knew exactly what to do with my iPhone and what games to play. As we were about to leave we said our goodbyes, but God knew I needed a little more time - so He opened up the heavens and the rains came down. Little Rihnad climbed back on my lap as we watched my family videos and saw funny pictures on my phone. To simply have her smile and welcome me has been the warmest and most touching part of the trip so far. When time came to leave, she turned and hugged me fully with both arms wrapped around my neck and I couldn’t help but cry. It was one of those hugs you never want to let go. Sadly, those hugs seem few and far between these days.
I realize that there are so many challenges here in Ethiopia and I can’t solve them. My tiny mind can’t begin to understand what they face day to day.
At each meeting, they ask for our prayers and I am happy to pray.
They ask for our help financially, and I will do what I can.
But most importantly I hope we can walk away not wanting to let go, like little Rihnad’s arms around my neck ... anxiously awaiting our next meeting, sharing in one another’s joys as well as sorrows, and accepting one another for who we are.
Rihnad is Muslim ... she may or may not have known I was a Christian. The truth is.... it didn’t matter. I believe if we could all have the blind eyes of a child, if we accepted one another based solely on the grace of God instead of stubbornly trusting in our human knowledge, the world might be a better place .... but I’m pretty sure Jesus said that as well.
From Ethiopia with much love
Food critique of the day? Sweet and sour chicken is not what one would expect ... it is more like Chicken with ketchup and served with potatoes - if you know me you know I was quite disappointed. But vegetable soup at dinner did not disappoint and I dearly missed my mother’s skill at distinguishing flavors because that’s one recipe I’d like to recreate!
And yup ... it’s still raining.
Finally, I had that wonderfully warm shower I had been looking forward to tonight and as soon as I got all lathered up with soap in my hair and all over my body .... you guessed it. No more hot water. I’m just thankful there was water at all and my travel companions are no doubt thankful I showered.
Miss you guys!!!
I have been enthralled with the Muslim - Christian relations in this place. Today we drove to what seemed like the ends of Africa for hours and hours to visit other Presbyteries and to bring greetings from Shenandoah Presbytery. As we drove through the towns, one can’t help but take notice of the heavy Muslim presence. The women in burkas, almost all women have their heads covered and even young children covered up head to toe in the heat.
One of the Presbytery’s at Darimu said that tensions run high after dark but in the light, there is much conversation to be had. Sounds almost biblical doesn’t it ? In the past month, they have converted 10 Muslims to the Christian faith. But it is not an easy road.
As one can imagine, the Islam religion runs deep within ones culture and family and choosing to convert isn’t just the matter of changing churches from Presbyterian to Methodist, it is a life threatening experience. One man converted and the Presbytery had to protect him in their offices and then transport him to Metu because there were threats on his life. He had to leave his family behind. And that is just one story.... there are many.
And I wonder. Do I have that kind of faith ? To risk all that I have for a Savior I just met ?
An even bigger question is do I have the faith to preach in a Muslim populated area the Good News on which I base my salvation and trust that God can do the rest ?
I don’t know. My life is simple and yet it is very much the same.
Do we have the evangelical tools, the burning desire to share the Good News as they do over here?
It is great Work that it being done here. I am in awe of the strength and perseverance of our brothers and sisters in Christ.
And I am humbled here because their churches are so full and in comparison ours are so empty. We have so much space we don’t know what to do with it and they have so many people they don’t have the space fore them all.
It would be easy with such immense church growth to hold angst and hatred toward the Muslims, yet I’m so thrilled to say that Mekane Jesus Church welcomes and serves all people regardless of race, religion or culture. And I’m pretty sure that’s what Jesus intended In the first place !
I got to see dad’s clinic and the very basic housing he lived in while he was here. I’ve gotten to share a piece of my dad's life that has been his source of hope, energy and faith since his retirement. And I give great thanks for that.
I’ve also gotten to experience various toiletry accommodations of which I’m not so thankful .
Many of the kids in these far off places they don’t see white people very often - they’ve looked at us with great curiosity and get a big kick out of calling out what little English they know :
You you you you
Take me to your country
Forenge ( foreigner )
Hello. Hello. Hello.
And my favorite today
I love you
It’s been a long day. A good day.
That is my phonetic spelling of good night in Oromo.
With much love from Ethiopia
And if you ever find yourself in Darimu Africa. Order the lamb tibs ... believe it or not this chick thinks they could give Chick Fil a a run for their money.
Today was a good food day !!!! I’m getting used to waking up in time for breakfast - I like to sleep more than eat ... but the porridge with local honey is rather yummy. And Alamu always seems to have an ice cold coke ready for my morning caffeine intake.
They feed us tooo much food but I’m never quite sure when the next meal will come so I always have a back up plan - which I haven’t had to use yet !
We traveled all over Africa today. I’m pretty sure we saw each corner of the continent we were driving so long ... waterfalls and calimbus monkeys, poinsettia trees and children waving at the "forengees" ( foreigners) were just a few of the sites.
We saw the clinic dad worked at and I was appalled at the conditions in which woman give birth. Don’t come to me whining about back pain and morning sickness ladies - none of us would survive this labor and delivery room !
It was good to see where he spent his time and the little home he made his own. He slept on a wire bed with a very creaky grass mattress. Jacob - no more complaining about your mattress at home ! I’ll bring you home a straw mat like your Big Daddy’s !
The churches were all wonderful to see. The growth of Christianity over here is mind boggling. Mekane Jesus churches are everywhere and we got to meet two different Presbyters and see the old and the new churches.
But back to my good food day. I was worried around lunchtime ... I was growing weary of injera and wanted some good old Chick Fil A , but alas they don’t deliver here. Instead, in the small office of the Darimu Presbyter we broke bread and injera with lamb tibs that were the best ever. They had a different green sauce and lots of rosemary and the lamb was tender as could be. I can’t tell you how mouth watering delicious it was. It was the best meal yet ....
And then on to more churches and Presbyters and more people and greetings. And I’m so glad mom convinced me to pack my LLBean boots because we walked all over the countryside and the rainy season doesn’t seem to want to end.
At one stop they insisted on serving us egg sandwiches and I hate eggs - almost as much as potatoes. Luckily my travel mates ate plenty so I didn’t look all that rude.
And back on the road again we went. And we drove and we drove over every bump and rock we could find, but I’m not complaining because the red sunset over the mountains was breathtaking! Finding the monkeys in the trees made me feel like a kid again hunting out punch buggies on family vacations. That is until the rain came and darkness swooped in and I white knuckled the "oh $&:#" handle till we were back on solid ground.
Arriving back at the compound we were all dusty, exhausted and not hungry at all, but that didn’t stop our hosts from a complete spread for dinner.
My favorite go to dish any day of the week is chicken and rice and Ethiopia did not disappoint - I added a litttle avocado and it was perfection on a plate.
So, now I’m fat , happy and showered and ready for bed after a fantastic day all around. Praise God for all the amazing work being done around here... but more on that later - I’m pooped
With much love from Ethiopia.
I’ll ask for your prayers today for silly me - I’m feeling quite a bit homesick for my Jacob and Isabelle ... yes and Paul as well. I’ll tag on Holden and Magpie - I didn’t realize how much I depend on those silly animals to bring me joy and I’m not about to make friends with the satanic cat that still insists on calling on the evil spirits outside of my door. Don’t worry - I have recordings for you when I get home !
Night all !
I have a dear friend that says. “It doesn’t cost anything to be clean .” And in our world. This is very true-( though I do love my rhoomba vacuum and that wasn’t free )
But that isn’t the way here.
It almost feels impossible to be truly clean. And it isn’t because they don’t want to be, it just can’t be.
The roads are of dirt.
Homes made of a packed mud.
Floors made of cement (if they are lucky).
Clothes hung outside to dry and return with a slight layer of dust.
Water carried in recycled gasoline containers.
Raw meat hung out for sale in an open stall, mere feet from the road.
Before long, one gets used to it. But every once in a while I’ll use a wipe on my face or Q-tip in my ear ( don’t tell my audiology professor!) and I’ll realize just how much the dirt permeates everything.
But the Ethiopians... I don’t know how, but they escape it.
Yesterday we took a 3 mile hike up and down the mountain to see the Gore coffee fields. It was an adventure after a night of solid rain. I thought the Toyota four wheel drive would certainly fail us or we would tip the truck when the mud got too deep. Many many thanks to our very talented driver!
But the hike was muddier and riskier. They call the wet rocks here - Ethiopian ice and they are slick. Our wonderful tour guides broke off eucalyptus branches for each of us for walking sticks - which saved me many times. I obviously am the clumsy one in the group because two of our guides walked behind me the entire way, catching me when my feet slipped, laughing at my gait and even offering to carry me piggy back style if necessary. Luckily, I made it in one piece.
My Bean boots were covered in mud- almost unrecognizably so! And yet I looked down at Kes Amenna’s shoes and they barely showed a speck of dirt. And one tour guide ended the mud packed hike with white tennis shoes - how I will never know.
The interesting thing is that since all food is eaten with your hands (Alamu says this is because he likes the taste of his fingers) they are very particular about hand washing. At each meal, a young man will come around with a bowl and basin with soap and individually wash each guest’s hands. It is a sign of hospitality as well as a sign of cleanliness since most hands dive deep into the same dish with food wrapped in injera.
And I’m reminded of Jesus washing the feet of his disciples. Such a common everyday thing to do... if you wear sandals on a dusty road washing your feet upon entering a house is sensible. But never would a guest wash their hosts feet ... even Peter knew that; “Never, never My Lord, you will not wash my feet .” And when Jesus explained that if He wasn’t washed by Jesus, then Peter would have no part in him. (John 13)
So, I wonder how is it that I can wash my host’s hands here? How can I show my hospitality and love for the service and care they have given me? Not because they need a part of me ... but because I most desperately need a part of them.
I love Peters response “if that is so my Lord - then wash all of me ...”
Somehow I don’t think that is the appropriate response here ....
Cleanliness is more than just a salsa stained shirt or muddy boots - it’s a Spirit and a sense of loving one another no matter their habits, customs, traditions, beliefs or even their faith. To me, in this place it means a clean heart held in the light of day with no reservations of what may or may not happen tomorrow.
It is trusting one another with that same heart, even though the valleys and mountains before us seem so deep and so wide.
And it translates into this beautiful ceremony of washing hands - in that, and in life we trust one another to keep us safe. To keep us safe from the germs that cling to our hands as well as the sins that cling to our souls.
Lord... wash me and keep me clean for only in you can I become a servant in times of great need. Only in your Christ can I see clearly enough- past the dirt and muck of this world and see your call and your Truth.
Today I ask for prayers for the partnership between EECMY, Ethiopian Evangelical Church of Mekane Yesus and the Shenandoah Presbytery. For over 27 years we have served, loved, worshipped and shared together. My prayer is for 27 more.
With much love from Ethiopia
Clumsy me ... 3 miles on muddy paths and Ethiopian ice and not a scratch on me. Today about 40 yards outside my door I slipped and fell. I’m fine - a tad bruised (my ego mostly) but I broke my good camera and that upsets me most.
And food wise.... the spice is really getting to me so I’m going a bit more cautious these days. Last night was an avocado sandwich and today’s lunch was a mixture of lamb, pasta, avocado and cooked carrots. Quite yummy.
I’ve also made friends with Satan the cat .... it seems he’s just lonely. A few scratches behind the ears and he is now my best friend (plus I accidentally on purpose happened to drop some meat on the ground for him. And yes, I was reprimanded by dad. )
And... if someone is reading this and sees my children or husband - please give them a Carrie hug! And if you see Holden give him plenty of snacks. :).
Today we visited a few of the local churches, down some extremely bumpy roads and some I wouldn’t even call roads.
Yesterday, I preached at one of those churches - Kola Korma and it was an experience !
Interesting to know is the name comes from the history of the area. It was the place where they sacrificed cows in order for the blood to reconcile them to God. When the church was built, the congregants wanted the name changed because they felt that was not part of them anymore. But the leadership fought to maintain the name for historical sense as welll as theological.
It is important for us to remember where we’ve come from so that we can better understand the gift of today. Before, many sacrifices were made in that spot. It became a type of idol to worship the cows sacrifice as ones own. But the terrifying part was that the reconciliation never lasted. Another blood sacrifice would soon have to be made again.
Today, the sacrifice is done in the form of one who gave His blood in place of each of ours. Christ Jesus Himself.
To remember is important. To erase our past is to run the risk of forgetting the blessing of today.
So, yesterday I preached at Kola Korma, a sister church of Opequon Presbyterian. I believe the words put in my mouth were more of God than they were of my own because I came away hearing the gospel in a new way myself.
Lesson #1 my jokes don’t translate well. I brought greetings from my family knowing that they knew my mother and sister. I said I was the second daughter of Dr Bill and obviously the smarter, prettier, favorite child. They didn’t laugh. Woops. (I was kidding of course ).
Lesson #2. Apparently it takes more words in Oromo to translate the few words I said ...or I was preaching heretical thoughts and my translator felt the need to fix my mistakes.
I preached on Jacob wrestling with God at Peniel in Genesis chapter 32. And in that wrestling there also came reconciliation and a blessing. I found common ground for both my brothers and sisters in Christ here as well as back home. We all experience division. We all experience the betrayal that Esau must have held in his own heart. And all of us have been on the side of the deceiving Jacob. But we must find that common ground because we are too divided.
Ethiopia right now is in the midst of great change. The government is now run by the Oromo which has upset much of the country as the Tigre are no longer in leadership.
Sounds familiar ? Our country too is divided because some are in power that others wish were not. And we protest as well. These things, are in fact, universal.
But the truth comes when we wrestle with God and demand that blessing - not knowing what exactly that blessing will be. Accepting a blessing is a hard thing to do, especially when it is not what you want.
I myself find division in my personal life in great need of reconciliation. It is easier to walk away. It is easier to stand my ground, just as it would have been easier for Jacob to do so many years ago. But our way is not often Gods way.
And that my friends is the blessing itself - the wrestling with God.
The blessing here is also the challenge. Our churches are so big, yet so empty. Their churches here are so small, yet so full. They ask for more space and we ask for more people.
So I ask you. Is that a blessing or a challenge ? It is both and it is as much us as it is them. It is koinonia.
Building the Kingdom of God together.
I didn’t come here looking for that blessing so I will wrestle with our good God a little more and bring back what it is He alone wants me to bring.
I will also wrestle with the work of reconciliation in our nation, in Ethiopia and in my daily life. I pray that God blesses me in the end as He did jacob and Esau - even if it isn’t the blessing for which I asked.
I pray deeply for his calling in this place and I anxiously await reconciliation and koinoinia upon my return.
In the meantime, as always. I ask for your prayers.
From Ethiopia with much love.
Ps. Did you know even plain spaghetti here is spicy? I had another rough stomach day but am on the mend ! Everyone else is well and I am so enjoying getting to know my fellow travelers. I do feel deeply grateful to be here with my dad - he is deeply loved in this place !
I’m preparing for worship at the sister church of Opequon Presbyterian and to be quite honest I’m quite nervous. Normally my nerves aren’t a worry Sunday mornings. I have my Isabelle taking care of details in Front Royal ( she has been called my associate at times because of her helpfulness.) I look forward to the familiar faces and smiles from my friendly and loving congregation and I prepare myself for the teasing from Alex and the joy of Little Christian.
So now I am sitting in the church office listening to wonderful music and sipping my water. My thoughts are far from Shenandoah Valley and are instead on those pouring - literally hundreds - in for worship. There are over 480 churches in this synod and that doesn’t count the preaching points that have fewer than 50 members of which there are over 200. In this Synod the Gospel was preached at over 700 churches in 7 different languages. Christianity is alive and well here in Ethiopia, not as a safety religion in case of bad times, not a safeguard against evil and not as a conventional thing to do on Sunday mornings.
It is intentional.
It is worshipful.
It is full of Spirit.
Not to say that our worship isn’t any of these things - it is a different energy. There are simple benches and a loud sound system ( I wonder if the church elders fought over that one !). There are young and old and children carrying their mother’s old purses and little boys having their hacky sack taken away by their moms before worship begins - some things are universal.
Will my simple words be heard ? Will I be enough ? What if I say something offensive or blatantly wrong ? These are my worries this morning and I feel your prayers covering me.
But even more so than that, I see the cute smiles and curious eyes of the neighborhood children peeking around the corner giggling at the white woman sitting on a bench so tall that my feet dangle like a little child. And that reminds me that we must be like children to enter the Kingdom of God.
So we take selfies and show pictures and laugh and giggle and I feel the Spirit and my soul is at ease.
Sometimes the Spirit blows like a mighty wind on Pentecost. At times it is a quiet breeze like Elijah met in the cave. And this morning the Spirit was the smiles of little children encouraging another little child -myself, that it is more about God than it is about me. And for that I give great thanks
I think Carrie said, " Make a funny Face!"
Today I found out I have an Ethiopian sister and an adorable 8-month old nephew. Let me explain. About 14 years ago, my dad spent some time working in a hospital in Metu, Ethiopia. There, he met a doctor who had been caring for a young girl by the name of Bizunesch. At the age of 13 she had lived in the hospital for three years. She was neither patient nor staff and by the grace of God she was healthy and AIDS free. Yet, with both parents deceased from AIDS, she had no family, save a toddler brother. Not wanting to put her out on the street as homeless, the Ethiopian doctor tended to her and refused to discharge her knowing what her fate would be beyond the hospital. So the hospital became her home. The nurses were her mothers, the patients her only friends and she ran errands for staff and slept in a corner bed each night safe and sound. She had no living family to care for her. There were no aunts or long lost uncles. She was an orphan in every sense of the word and she had nowhere to go.
The doctor met my father, also a doctor, in 2004 when he was spending 3 months volunteering his time in the Met hospital. As they began to talk, he introduced my dad to Bizunesch, our shy young orphan who only stared at the floor and couldn't speak to the foreigner who would finally give her a home. The Ethiopian doctor asked if Dad had any connections with the Gore Home, an orphanage supported by the PC(USA) and that is where Bizunesch story began to change. Yet at thirteen, Bizunesch was unsure. The hospital was the only home she had ever known. As they shared the story and opportunities ahead for her, she couldn't answer. She simply sat quietly with downcast eyes staring at the floor. Not knowing if she would go or not, Dad and Yonas (family friend and Ethiopian minister) arranged a visit to the Gore Home.
At breakfast that morning, Dad heard a timid knock on the door and there she stood; no eye contact, shy and frightened but willing to give the Gore Home a chance. Upon arrival, the staff introduced her to another young girl in the orphanage and they spent some three hours exploring and getting to know one other. When she returned to Dad and Yonas, their arms were interlaced together as if they were best friends. Her grin went from ear to ear. She had found her home.
Over the years, another family, Don and Barbara Utz from First Presbyterian Church in Winchester, became her sponsor through a Presbytery program called care. They not only paid her expenses but also paid for her to go to technical school for accounting.
Dad visited as often as possible over his three month stay and then on each subsequent visit to Metu. Each time he was met with smiles and laughter from his Ethiopian daughter and upon leaving, tears of sadness. Today I saw those same tears from both Dad and Bizunesch on the porch of the guest house. To Dad's surprise, he was a grandfather! She was holding an adorable and healthy young boy whose name means "Gift from God." Dad gently teased and berated her for not having her husband ask his permission for her hand in marriage. They laughed and hugged like real family does after being apart for some time.
Bizunesch, Dad tells me, is a true miracle child. Both her parents died of AIDS, yet she remains HIV free. A child of her age on the streets of Metu wouldn't have lasted long. Whether she would simply die of hunger or be forced into prostitution, her life would never have been her own. It is rare to see my dad cry. But today I give thanks to our good and gracious God that I was in this place halfway across the world to meet my Ethiopian sister...
"I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you took me in, naked and you clothed me, sick and in prison and you visited me."
We drove them both home through the crowded and horn filled streets of Addis where there seem to be no traffic guidelines. We turned up a mud road and stopped beside a collection of lean -to buildings held together with rusted steel, tarps and various discarded materials. There she lives in a one room home with her husband and son. She tells me it is small and very expensive, it leaks when it rains, and she sleeps next to the toilet. But she also tells me she feels blessed because most don't even have a place to call home.
Today I ask for prayers for all orphans and I give thanks for God's hand in Bizunesch's life. Ethiopian side note: "Father" can mean both birth father as well as benefactor. Here my dad is seen as Bizunesch's protector or benefactor.
With much love from Ethiopia,
PS. Today's lunch was a delicious lamb dish, slightly spicy with injera. But alas, it is day 2 without my Dr Pepper and the withdrawal is beginning to set in. My first world problems in this third world country.......
We are now in Jimma after an almost eight-hour drive. You learn a lot about your companions and about life when in small quarters for any period of time. Today's journal includes those thoughts.
Baboons butts are really ugly.
Turkish toilets will really help you build up your quad muscles.
The Ethiopian driver will not turn around for you to catch the wildcat cheetah on the side of the road no matter how hard you beg.
Don't listen to my mother. You don't always have to wear a dress or skirt in Ethiopia.
The horn on the car is more effective than the brakes at times.
Donkeys and women are the beasts of burden in Ethiopia.
The hardest job in Ethiopia has got to be a driving instructor.
There is no Chick-Fila...fast food Ethiopian style is a child on the side of the road with a bucket of apples.
Baboons do not like goldfish or cheezits.
Taking a bath on the side of the road buck naked is an appropriate activity.
If a donkey is asleep in the middle of the road, do not wake him. Drive around.
One must supply one’s own toilet paper in Ethiopia.
I will never complain about pot holes in the States again.
If OSHA or DSS ever visited Ethiopia, the entire place would be shut down.
There are no child labor laws.
You can buy an authentic pair of Ray Bans for 100 birr. (About $4)
A drought is caused through natural circumstances. A famine is the result of dueling dictators.
Showing the numerous photos of my cat to our Ethiopian friends, always makes them laugh.
It is important that you check if your dress is not tucked into your underwear before leaving the restaurant bathroom.
There are no pigs in Ethiopia. They will never know the heavenly taste of bacon.
Babysitting your toddler sibling in the middle of the road is not considered child abuse.
I'm sure I'll learn more tomorrow. WIFI is questionable. Thanks Mom and Doug for posting for me.
Much love from Ethiopia,
PS: Oh....I went easy on food today. Chicken and rice. Turns out Ethiopian chickens aren't too fat and you have to work hard to get the meat off the bone (sometimes you eat the bone) but well worth it.
It’s 5 am. If you know me at all, my favorite thing to do at 5 am is sleep. But I was wakened by the morning prayers of the devote Muslims and I’m reminded of my small world. I have never traveled to a country that is predominately Muslim (about 50%) while the remaining are split between orthodox Christians and Protestants. It really is a beautiful sound and here in this place I wonder for what do they pray?
Last night we shared a delicious traditional Ethiopian dinner with meats and injera and of course bottled water. It was a tad spicy but the injera is growing on me once I get past the spongyness of it. But to fill my belly, I enjoyed a delicious bowl of tomato soup (Brooke, I thought of you!) and wonderful homemade bread. I can’t complain about the food thus far(which was the one of my fears.)
I have a history in Haiti and the beautiful people that make up that divided country and its sordid past that has devastated the people. It’s a challenge for me not to compare on this trip. But I’m finding the Ethiopian culture to be deep in the bones of its people. I sat next to a dear woman on the plane and after our 13 + hours of bonding, I was overwhelmed with her hospitality. After learning that I was a pastor visiting for my first time, she invited me to coffee at her house. Little did I realize till later that “coffee” at someone’s house is a ceremony complete with a full meal. To open ones home to a complete stranger in a foreign land; I have to say my thoughts went to how each one of us is so called to share that hospitality among our own neighbors - regardless of faith. Abraham entertained strangers in his home and he was richly blessed. The widow in Kings shared her last food with Elijah and she was rewarded tenfold with a jar of oil that never went dry. I’m looking forward to more of this country’s radical hospitality and how it will no doubt change me upon my return.
So, we are all here safely. A tad tired but safe. In speaking with the Wellers (PCUSA) local missionaries, the riots and protests have been happening regularly but have quieted down over the past two weeks. From what I can glean from our host Amenna, it is over the control of the government from the different tribes - Oromo (currently in power) and the Tigre (previously in power). They have a good prime minister who seems to be working for peace, and I can tell from conversations that is their greatest prayer here in Addis Ababa - peace. So I’ll ask you to keep that close to your heart as well.
It’s still too early my friends and I’m going back to sleep but with an oddly thankful heart for having been awakened by some that seem to be more devout than I. I covet your prayers but I am doing fine and I’m even learning some Oromo phrases. The guest house lodgings are beautiful with flowers and private rooms (showers and toilets!) and the most hospitable hosts - for which I give thanks. From Ethiopia with my love Pastor Carrie
October 12, 2018
I've been poked and prodded by doctors. I've counted and re-counted clothes, underwear and socks. I've written four sermons. I registered with the State Department. I think I'm ready to travel half across the world and meet some new friends in Ethiopia. This trip has been a long time in the making. As many of you know, my dad has been countless times and he has been nudging me ever since his first trip. So many things kept getting in the way - work, kids, Haiti and my outright fear of going that far away from my loved ones. But it's time and I'm slowly getting excited. So... I hope you'll follow along as I write and journal from afar and if you see any of my family, give them a hug and a kiss from me.