by Joy Casey 

Yesterday we created an atmosphere where friendship deepened between two cultures that are diametrically different in just about every way imaginable.  There is only one thread that ties us together — Jesus — but His presence in all of our lives is enough.  We quickly and easily bridged the cultural and language gap as only women who love the Lord can do.

Dinah shared about the women in Jesus’ lineage – how some of them weren’t even Jewish and led less than honorable lives (think Rahab and Tamar).  Yet God led two of the gospel writers to include them in Christ’s genealogy.  Including women in genealogy was never done in Jewish culture, but this inclusion is a great picture of how God views race, gender and former lives!  Abonesh, our Ethiopian friend and interpreter, gave a teaching that was super challenging segueing into prayer for one another.

One sweet lady, Gadise (Ga-DEE-say), has been married for a number of years but has been unable to get pregnant.  Another of the wives just had baby number six and shared that she had lost three babies, one at 8 months gestation.  She despaired of carrying a healthy child, but God heard her prayers and allowed her to be a mother.  She led the prayers for Gadise.  In this culture, having children is looked on as a blessing straight from heaven.

After tea break, we prayed for each woman individually and anointed her with oil to go and be Christ’s ambassador in her village.  It was a sweet and powerful time!

We ended the morning by giving each a beautifully made bag designed and sewn by a lady in Arizona.  I’ll go into more detail about these bags in a later post … but they were enthusiastically received.

Throughout the day I interviewed the men who are part of our Bible school.  I learned a lot!  The interviews were eye-opening to me in ways I never expected and impressed on my heart deeply the necessity for this grounding that needs to not only continue but double in size.  I will be talking more about this two-year course throughout the year.  We are in the second year of our pilot program, but from what I am hearing the teaching has revolutionized our missionaries’ personal lives and ministries.

The afternoon session was with husbands and wives together and many of the ladies showed up with their heads wrapped in the new scarves from their bags.  The men were not left out!  They, too, received gifts brought by Dinah and Mars.  Included were personal water filter “straws”, socks (!) and a monetary gift.  I had the privilege of placing Proclaimer Bibles in the hands of the leaders of each church represented.  These larger solar charged audio Bibles have good speakers and will be used in listening stations the missionaries will set up for people who cannot read or do not have Bibles to come and listen to God’s Word and have a discussion afterward.

We ended the day with a group picture and many, many individual pictures.  (Remember, I can only show pictures of the women in this post.)  People who sponsor the frontline workers will personally be sent updated pictures.

We reluctantly said goodbye to this first group of missionaries and headed back late in the day to our hotel, tired but happy.  Thursday this group will head home and missionaries from two other people groups will arrive.  In the past we have had all the missionaries together.  This year we split them up according to tribal language and it worked much better.

Four of the couples headed home to an area that is completely under the control of a terrorist group called the Oromo Liberation Front.  The OLF has blocked all transportation routes (roads and river), so people wanting to leave the area have to go on foot.  These eight people carrying three babies walked eight hours to get to the nearest town.  They spent the night and then took a bus to Shashemene where the retreat was held. Today they face the same trip in reverse.  The rainy season has started early this year … I can only hope they don’t get caught in a squall.  I am in awe of their determination and sacrifice to join the retreat!