written by Joy Casey
We rolled into the town where we will be staying while visiting churches in the countryside. After 22 hours flying which was, thankfully, uneventful, we spent the next 12 hours getting to where we are now. The last leg of the road trip was bone jarring. When finally we pulled into the parking lot, Abebe, Abonesh, Miki and I just sat without saying a word. After a few minutes, Abebe bowed his head and said, “Let’s pray,” and pray he did, offering thanks that we made it and that our 4WD didn’t get swallowed up in a pothole and still had intact tires.
The ‘we’ I refer to is our Country Manager, Abebe, our accountant and Abebe’s wife, Abonesh, and our Children’s Director, Miki. Zerihun, our Evangelism Director, was already here as he needed some extra days so arrived earlier.
After a wonderful refreshing sleep and cool shower (no hot water), we headed out early this morning to visit three churches. Two of the churches are in the midst of construction and the other is a little over a year old. Come along with me on a journey into Ethiopia’s countryside – I always feel that my posts are part travel log, part cultural education and part sharing what God is doing.
The first thing that struck me is how green everything is. The green told me there had been recent rain evidenced by large mud puddles. My hosts confirmed that March and April are usually dry months, but this year there had been a lot of rain. As most of you are probably aware, for the past two years this part of Ethiopia has been in the clutches of a terrible drought. Many people (children, too) died of starvation and the livestock population succumbed as well. Older children were sold into indentured servanthood to save their lives. It was a dreadful, frightening time. People began begging God for rain so they could eat, and God heard and answered by bringing unseasonal torrential rain. The lighthearted discussion in the car today was maybe prayer for rain should be taken down a notch or two! However, having seen what parched earth looks like and the devastation it causes … I will never complain about rain.
The blooming cactus epitomized the exuberance of new growth and the promise of abundance.
Everywhere I looked I saw fields being plowed, others newly planted, and fields abundant with corn, potatoes, beans or cabbage. The “roads” in this neck of the woods are notoriously awful, but today took the cake. With the rain, muddy gullies were the standard fare. In fact, one church we wanted to visit no longer has a road to it and the others are iffy.
Thankfully we have a tank for a car and Miki as a driver, and those two factors had us successfully pulling in front a church all framed with a shiny tin roof. Even though it was Saturday, plenty of children were on hand to welcome us and show us their new exercise books and pencils.
I met a wonderful Christian sister, Burtukan, who is the teaching aid for the literacy classes. She loves helping the children learn to read and do simple math and is so good with all of them. It was fun to watch their interaction and see how enthusiastically they responded to her.
This is the place where we will be building a kindergarten for 20 students, adding additional classrooms as time goes on. The transfer of property for the school is being finalized and we hope construction can begin soon.
I spoke with an unassuming woman, a mother of five, who, in her gentle way is a vibrant evangelist. Sena had been to one of our retreats where my friend, Dinah Monahan, taught through scripture how God sees and values women. When Sena returned home, she gathered together a core of Christian sisters and shared with them this revolutionary teaching. They began meeting regularly for prayer and inspiration and then expanded their circle to include Mus!im friends and neighbors. She reports the Mus!im women are so hungry for encouragement and the need to feel valued, they are secretly meeting regularly with this group of Christian women. The sisterhood has afforded a safe environment to share about their marriages, children and struggles of daily living. The Christian sisters, all former Mus!ims themselves, can relate to many of their circumstances and are well equipped to sympathize, but ultimately, they point the women to Jesus who is the only one who can carry our burdens.
Several Mus!im women have come to accept Jesus as their Savior – but even those who haven’t yet taken that radical step keep coming to coffee at Sena’s house. Sena and Burtukan invited Abonesh and I to one of their homes for a proper visit over a cup of buna (coffee). I wanted nothing more than to do just that, but we were expected at our next church so regretfully had to decline. On another trip, I want to visit this town again with Abonesh (she is a wonderful interpreter, insightful, warm and caring) and have a prolonged visit with some of the women.
We are adding another missionary to this area, and it was fun to interview this young man (22) who is sold out for Jesus. He has been boldly sharing the gospel adding people to the church regularly because of his witness. He was born and raised in this hotbed of Mus!im fundamentalism, but when he was 12 years old his father heard the gospel and accepted Christ with all his family also becoming Believers. Our new missionary is perfectly at ease in this culture and able to easily engage others in spiritual conversations. We believe he will be an excellent partner for our long-term missionary in this town.
I have so much more to share about this crammed-full day, but my eyes are involuntarily closing. This discourse is also a bit long, so I’ll pick up where I left off for the next post. Ciao!