A letter from Rich Hansen in Ethiopia
“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another — and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” (Hebrews 10:24-25)
In Addis the roads are jointly used by cars and herds of sheep, bulls or goats. Donkeys plod along with weighty sacks of grain on their backs. Often a stick, or a whip called an alengah, is used by the herder to “spur” the animals on. Although these verses are not promoting the use by Christians of an alengah, the verbs in Hebrews 10 are ones of action:
Spurring on … meeting together … encouraging …
These verses reflect what we have experienced through our relationships with others during this season of our time in Ethiopia. Rich and I have tried to spur others on toward love and good deeds; we have met together with others; we have tried to encourage others. But in the process we have been the ones who have been spurred on and encouraged.
At the end of fall semester, we hosted a gathering of Ethiopian Graduate School of Theology (EGST) students from Rich’s class in our home to celebrate their commitment to their studies and to honor them for their hard work and perseverance. Nearly every student came. Rich had planned to say a few words during the evening, but the evening did not go as we had intended. One student stood to introduce the program that they had planned! Student after student stood up and shared what they had learned in their class, the ways in which their faith had been strengthened and their faith questions addressed and what Rich and his teaching had meant to them. Students shared from their hearts — some to the point of tears — which was such an encouragement, not only to Rich, but to me and our four children present as well. The students showered us with love. They sang and danced to fervent worship songs, as Ethiopians do so well. They presented us with a card signed by every student and a bedspread of Ethiopian hand-stitched design. The evening had been an amazing instance of spurring on … meeting together … encouraging…
Two days later on December 25th we hosted a Christmas Day gathering in our home of 11 fellow mission workers and friends whom we have come to know, plus six in our family — seventeen in total. Three are serving in Sudan and the remainder here in Ethiopia. Included were professors, an author of Amharic Christian literature, a facilitator of AIDS awareness within the Ethiopian church, a pastor/teacher, a nurse focusing on evangelism and health care. As we feasted, shared, laughed and commiserated, Rich and I felt spurred on just being in the presence of people who make sacrifices in order to participate in God’s Kingdom-building here in Ethiopia and Sudan. Rich and I looked around the room as the group read scripture and sang carols, sensing that the Day approaching was one day closer. Spurring on … meeting together … encouraging…
Two days ago I met with a young Ethiopian woman who sold us our living room furniture. Kidist and I had gotten to know each other a bit. I received a text message from her that she had lost her job and suggested that we get together. As we sat in Kaldi’s (the “Starbucks” of Ethiopia) having tea and ice cream, I thought of all the cultural boundaries we were leaping over as we laughed and shared: age, ethnicity, religious traditions, economic status, language, level of education. Yet encouragement was very real in our conversation. Kidist had me read her the Bible story of Joseph, his brothers and his coat, from a beginning reader Amharic book. She smiled her delight as I labored over each sentence. I felt privileged that she talked with me about the loss of her job and the difficulty of being the only female living with three brothers, with both parents dead.
No, we are not called as Christians to use a stick or an alengah as we journey together. But we are given a precious calling as the body of Christ to spur one another on, to meet together and to encourage one another. Rich and I are thankful for the privilege of experiencing Hebrews 10:24-25 here in Ethiopia.
Rich and Marilyn
Primary prayer request:
- Rich has been invited to teach a 30-minute Bible study each morning during a four-day annual conference of the Mekane Yesus denomination (our partner here in Ethiopia). Representatives of worldwide partners of Mekane Yesus from Europe and the United States will join with Ethiopian leaders February 9–12 in considering the theme of “Living worthy of our calling.” Please pray that Rich is given the Holy Spirit’s insight about where to focus these four studies and that he will present God’s Word to them with humility and courage.
Other prayer requests:
- Praise that my friend Kidist got a job the day after we met together
- Prayer for EGST as a new building is under construction and funds need to be raised.
The 2011 Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, p. 57