OUR PLAN FOR TODAY
We have this one day in Addis Ababa before we head west. There are a number of items on our agenda today: First, we will meet with staff from the social ministry department of EECMY; this is the department that oversees the Aira Hospital, along with numerous other social ministry organizations within the church. When Ron and Martha were here two years ago, this was an important connection.
Then, this afternoon we are going to Burayu-Katta, to meet many of the REAL girls we at Good Shepherd support. These beautiful young women, along with school directors Immanuel and Elfinish, are inspiring. The girls see a new future because of the scholarships they receive; they now have options for the future! We hope also to meet some of the girls we had supported who have graduated, who are now in university. And Immanuel and Elfinish are inveterate optimists – people of faith and vision.
GOD’S STORY/OUR STORY
He said to his people, “Look, the Israelite people are more numerous and more powerful than we. Come, let us deal shrewdly with them, or they will increase and, in the event of war, join our enemies and fight against us and escape from the land.” Therefore they set taskmasters over them to oppress them with forced labor. They built supply cities, Pithom and Rameses, for Pharaoh. But the more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied and spread, so that the Egyptians came to dread the Israelites. The Egyptians became ruthless in imposing tasks on the Israelites, and made their lives bitter with hard service in mortar and brick and in every kind of field labor. They were ruthless in all the tasks that they imposed on them (Exodus 1:9-14).
How interesting to note that “the more they [the Israelites] were oppressed, the more they multiplied and spread.” The church in Ethiopia is an example of this type of growth. During the communist government in the 1970s and 1980s, the church was persecuted. Congregations were not allowed to gather. Pastors were forbidden to care for their people; many were imprisoned. The General Secretary of the church, Gudina Tumsa, was assassinated by the government. And yet, in homes throughout the country, children were taught the faith, the gospel was shared, families met together to worship, and the church became a powerful witness of hope. When that government was ousted, it was as though oxygen met flame, and the church exploded – both in numbers and in faithful witness. The church in Ethiopia is now the second largest Lutheran church in the world. One of the Ethiopian seminary students, when asked about the growth of the church, said, “We don’t hire evangelists. We are evangelists. Everywhere we go we talk about Jesus.”
This is the church in which we are living during these days.
The American Guest House is on a busy thoroughfare in Addis Ababa, not far from the city’s center. We have rooms in a fairly new building – each with a bedroom/bathroom, connected to a central gathering space and a kitchen. We are very comfortable and secure here. As is typical in Ethiopia, the Guest House buildings are in a gated compound.
Our rooms became a hub of activity on Sunday. Rev. Tadese, the president of Onesimus Nesib Seminary, spent a full hour here late morning, talking about the plans for the seminary, his role as vice-president of the synod and the dormitory construction. He was in Addis Ababa on Saturday so he could order cement for the dormitory building that our 10% for Mission funds are helping to construct; on Sunday he picked up a teacher who will be at the seminary for a few weeks. Not only a seminary administrator, he’s also a general contractor!
Other leaders of the Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus also stopped by. In late afternoon we were delighted to welcome President Iteffa, BirBirDilla Synod president. He is here for a meeting of all the synod presidents (and a few smaller gatherings) and will be returning to Aira on Monday. Then, later this afternoon we were honored to greet Rev. Yonas Yigezu Dibisa, the executive director of the church unit responsible for mission and educational institutions. Rev. Yonas had been in Minneapolis this summer, and Pastor Samuelson and I were delighted to meet him for lunch. He is a man of gentle spirit, but immense responsibility for the EECMY – directing the missionaries that the EECMY is sending out within Ethiopia and to other countries as well as the college, university and seminandary institutions of this church.
We had scheduled dinner with various leaders of the EECMY, however, many of them were involved in a meeting regarding a recently developing issue in the church, and the meeting ran longer than dinner! We were delighted to welcome Teklu Wadajo, who had traveled with Martha Gisselquist and Ron to Aira three years ago when they began the Global Health Administrative Partners relationship with Aira Hospital. Teklu was born and raised in Aira and like Girma has an ongoing interest in the institutions of the church there. A bank executive in Addis Ababa, he has been president of the very large “mother church” of the EECMY, Mekane Yesus Congregation in Addis Ababa, has served on many significant boards and committees of the church, and is a candid source of information and advice. He also is a delightful dinner companion. In addition to serious discussion, there was uproarious laughter in our corner of the dining room!
Back at the Guest House, we crashed. It was difficult to get much sleep on the plane and, while Rachel and Ron had found a bit of time to nap Sunday, Girma was on the run with our driver getting supplies and I was welcoming visitors, so our bleary-eyed, jet-lagged group was grateful for quiet and sleep. Tomorrow we are in Addis Ababa and Burayu-Katta all day. Tuesday we leave for Aira.
An additional Update!
Monday could not have worked out better for us!
First we drove over to Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus headquarters for their social ministry work. We were able to meet with Dr, Abeya Wakawaya, the staff person who is responsible for planning and evaluation for their social ministry organizations. In addition, he’s is deeply interested in the health and future of Aira Hospital. He told us that Aira Hospital is doing very well right now, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have challenges. He looks forward to hearing about Ron and Rachel’s insights when we return from Aira. In fact, we have an appointment with him bright and early next week Wednesday for that purpose.
As soon as we got back in the van, the ideas started flying from Ron and Rachel, just based on Dr. Abeya’s comments. They begin the week at Aira already primed and ready to verify and evaluate.
In the afternoon we visited the REAL gifts at Burayu-Katta. What beautiful young women! We met all 15 of the girls who people and organizations at Good Shepherd sponsor. When asked what they want to do when they finish university, there was a preponderance of “nurse” or “doctor,” with a number who want to be an “engineer” too. Rachel talked with the girls, telling them how she started on the road toward being a nurse; you could see their interest, hearing from a young woman who has succeeded at what they dream of doing. Girma, an engineer, told the five girls who say they want to be engineers that they need to like math. Every one of them smiled and responded that it was one of their favorite classes. The give-and-take was delightful. Others are focusing on careers as a psychiatrist, a judge, an economist. No one wants to be a publisher. It’s my burden.
After Burayu-Katta we zoomed over to a restaurant which specializes in traditional Ethiopian food, music and dancing. The food was fabulous. The dancing and music was very interesting. Both our driver, Berhanu, and Girma were invited to join the dancers on the stage, but both demurred. Now that would have been a sight! We didn’t stay late, so we missed the Oromo dancers. There were phone calls to be made and blogs to write. Plus we hope to leave early for Aira.