Entering Aira

Entering Aira


We rise early this morning so that we can set out for Aira. Drivers from the BirbirDilla Synod in Aira are coming to pick us up. This journey has been a two-day trek in the past over very difficult roads under construction. Now the highway is complete, and we intend to zoom to Aira in only one day, darting past sheep and goats on the highway, children going to school, farmers transporting crops, women carrying sticks for fuel.

When we get to Aira, we will find the guest house we have been assigned, then assemble for dinner with our hosts. It will be a wonderful meal and a time to greet long-time friends and new colleagues. Since we were last in Aira, a new hospital administrator has been named; he will be very important for the work Rachel and Ron will be doing this week.



Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian, and he led the flock to the far side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up. So Moses thought, “I will go over and see this strange sight—why the bush does not burn up.”

When the Lord saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, “Moses! Moses!” And Moses said, “Here I am.” “Do not come any closer,” God said. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” Then he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.” At this, Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God (Exodus 3:1-6)

The first time we were in Aira, we had gone into the countryside to see the Yubdo Project, the agricultural project that Good Shepherd sponsored in 2006 and 2007. As we were standing at the river, looking at a capped well (which provided clean water to the surrounding farms and villages), the rain began, and we were drenched. We struggled up the muddy river bank and into our vehicles. We just wanted to get back to the guest house and dry, clean clothing. However, as we drove into Aira, the leading vehicle veered right onto a side street and up to Lalo Aira Congregation. We walked in and found the elders (congregational council) meeting there. We exchanged greetings, and then they invited us to kneel at the altar while they prayed for us. Laying their hands on us, one of them, a woman, prayed with increasing fervor and passion. And though we did not understand the words, we knew that God was there. It was holy ground.

There was no fire, no burning bush, but the Spirit brought us together in an undeniable way that day. It was an unforgettable moment, one way God brought the church in Aira and Good Shepherd together.



Tuesday was travel day – all the way to Aira in one day. It was a long day of riding. We left Addis Ababa at 8:00 a.m., after a half-hour of stowing all the suitcases on the top of the LandRover. We had brunch in that wonderful hotel in Ambo (about two hours west of Addis Ababa, where we sat outside among the flowers). Then it was a full day of just riding. Because there were seven of us (we four, Rev. Tadese, a guest lecturer at the seminary named Michael and the driver) returning to Aira, we had a LandRover with low seats along the sides, facing each other, potentially holding 10. We filled the vehicle (with drinking water, snacks, each person’s carry-on, and a couple suitcases that would not fit on the top.  Because the seats are so low, there was a lot of shifting and stirring, trying to maintain a comfortable position.

But the scenery was breath-taking. It is the end of the rainy season, so everything is beautifully green and lush. In fact, we saw many, many farmers coaxing teams of oxen pulling pretty basic plows through fields. “Yes,” Tadese said, “this is our planting technology here.” Teff (the grain from which the Ethiopians make budena – bread – is still green and will be ripened in November or December. Corn is nearly ready for harvest. In fact we got some roasted corn (on the ear) along the highway, one of our snacks on the long trek.

And yes, the highway is completed all the way to Gimbi, and there are sections paved between Gimbi and Aira. What a pleasant ride this year! But even though it’s a paved highway, it’s still the same thoroughfare filled with a wild collection of travelers – men with canes hoisted over their shoulders, women carrying enormous bundles of sticks, little boys herding cows, kids walking to and from school, horses and donkeys pulling an astounding variety of homemade wagons and carts, calves which for some reason frequently stepped right in front of the LandRover (we didn’t hit any, but that was due to the skill of the driver), flocks of sheep (tails down) and goats (tails up) meandering near the edge of the highway, and semi-trucks, three-wheeled scooters and Toyota pickups cutting in and out of traffic – just like us. 

We arrived in Aira at 7:00 p.m., unloaded the collection of suitcases and bags from the top of the LandRover, then were hosted by Rev. Tadese at Onesimus Nesib Seminary for dinner.

We’re home now – in the home inhabited through the years by the expatriate doctor serving here. No visiting doctor right now, so we have moved in. It’s a lovely home that looks out over a deep valley full of plants and animals. We will enjoy this spot.

Tomorrow Ron and Rachel start working with hospital staff. Girma is going to help them get started, and I’m going to start the day with worship at the seminary, then probably sit in a few courses there. While we have a list of things to do, schedules are very fluid here, and we will be nimble!