by Joy Casey in Ethiopia
written on Nov 4th

We encountered several significant traffic jams while driving the twisty paths to the village where our kindergarten is.  The “road” was jammed with cattle on their way to the lake for water or to the fields to glean the stubble of harvested maize.

It was also a market day, so many donkey carts laden with people and/or goods added to the maize our 4WD slowly maneuvered around.

The number one item on our to-do list today was to visit the three classes of kindergarten students.  I know our visit totally disrupts their routine, but the teachers don’t seem to mind and the children love to have us play with them.

I wanted to glimpse a little more of what the family life of a few of the students is like, so we visited three village families whose children are part of our kindergarten. Each father greeted us warmly extending delightful Ethiopian hospitality.  Chairs and benches were hauled outdoors so we could sit underneath a shade tree.  Food was offered and our host sat and visited like he had all the time in the world for us.

One gentleman had quite a large piece of property adjacent to his fields with several houses on it.  He proudly informed us he had 3 wives and 23 children.  Ten of his children were married with children, but he couldn’t remember how many grandchildren he had.  Everyone lived on the compound together (except for a few of his married children).  His 5-year-old son is a student in our Mana Gammachuu kindergarten and this father was so proud of his son.  He is #2 in his class and Dad bought him a backpack for a reward.  Of the 13 children remaining at home, all but 4 preschoolers are attending school.

The other two families weren’t quite as “colorful”, having only one wife and only 7 children to their credit.  But all expressed their happiness with the educational foundation their children are getting.  They were especially pleased with the small class size, personalized attention and nutritious lunch they get.

One father (remember, he has 7 children) walks an hour (one way) to a nearby town to finish his high school education; he is in 10th grade.  He places a high value on education and is thrilled that his daughter is rated #1 in her class.  All three families are adherents of Isl*m.  It is our hope that through ministry to their children their hearts will be softened to hear Truth about Messiah Jesus.

Before leaving our students’ homes, we left a gift of coffee and sugar and asked if there was anything we could pray with them about.  Their gratitude for the school and how it was impacting their child’s life was almost embarrassing.  They could hardly believe that we Americans would come all this way to visit their home.

Jason and I praised God that we were allowed to have an afternoon’s conversation with parents who have little in the way of material possessions but care deeply for their children’s future welfare they know can only be realized through education.  The educational foundation these children are receiving is made possible only because we have generous, amazing people in the U.S. sponsoring the children.

Twenty minutes away lies a village that is a bit bigger than the one we just left and has electricity.  It is also dominated by Isl*m and planting a church here has been a struggle.  For two years we have been denied property to build on.  If we were able to provide a kindergarten for their village, they would give us property to include a worship center.  But so far, we have not found the financial backing to start a school.  I am praying!

For now, we have a temporary church on a believer’s spacious compound in the heart of the village.  We will also construct another temporary building made of aluminum siding for our growing children’s ministry.  The tin can be reused for church construction once we secure land.  We had a sweet time of fellowship with the three missionaries ministering in this village, listening to their challenges as well as their hopes and dreams for their friends and neighbors.

Today was a perfect example of the differences in hospitality between Cold-Climate and Hot-Climate cultures.  Jason and I noted that everything, including how we walk when we are there, is at a slower pace.  Life here is to be savored, not attacked!  This morning while reflecting on what I wanted to accomplish throughout the day, I realized my mindset was definitely on what I “needed to do (tasks)”.  A paradigm shift in my thinking was required if I was to connect with Ethiopians.

Hot-Climate Hospitality

  • Hospitality is spontaneous, often without an advance invitation
  • Hospitality usually takes place in the home
  • Food and drink are involved

Cold-Climate Hospitality

  • Hospitality is taken very seriously and is planned for
  • It is not usually spontaneous.  The host usually needs advance notice of a visit
  • Hospitality is a special occasion, taking the full attention of the host*

*Page 78 Foreign to Familiar by Sarah Lanier