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A letter from Carolyn Weber in Ethiopia

Advent 2011

Grace and peace to you in the precious name of our Lord Jesus Christ!

One day ago I returned from a two-week international language training event.  On an afternoon walk I clambered up thick chunks of stone that are the crumbling prison walls high on a hill where it is said the apostle Paul was imprisoned. Scanning the landscape below, my breath was taken away when I saw the ruins of the Ephesian amphitheater and forum.  On a later outing I stood in the middle of that amphitheater and heard the words from Acts 19, where Paul and his companions were denounced because the people were turning to Jesus and turning away from the “manmade gods [that] are no gods at all,” which was harming the business of the silversmith Demetrius who made small replicas of Artemis to be sold near the Temple of Artemis in Ephesus (the seventh wonder of the ancient world).

During our language training we studied Paul’s words describing Jesus—good instruction for us mission folks serving in host cultures around the world where we are learning host culture languages and/or teaching English to people from that culture. 

“Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.  And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross!” (Philippians 2:5–8).

Yes, Jesus gave up the form of God to become nothing, God veiled in flesh, a baby, who, after becoming completely part of his Jewish host culture for 30 years, took on the form of a servant (one of “the least”).  He humbled himself and became obedient.  The cost? A slow public execution as a criminal.  What did he accomplish?  Forgiveness, freedom, salvation for all who trust in him.  It is this baby of humble birth whom we adore, whose birth we now celebrate.

M.A. Practical Theology students analyze a case study on cultural context

Being nurtured in the language of this Ethiopian host culture and witnessing the extreme sacrifices many protestant Ethiopian Christians are making in order to share Christ with unreached persons have been very humbling experiences.  I am continually being broken and reshaped by God to serve and communicate our Lord Jesus with humility.

In addition to the variety of teaching experiences the Mekane Yesus Seminary has given me in both the B.Th. and M.A. programs this semester, the seminary community has been experiencing a season of sorrow as the 34-year-old wife of  my former student Deng Mark died from a heart attack, leaving a 6-month-old baby. Two weeks later Deng’s 10-year-old son was killed by a car as he crossed the street.  Last week our seminary administrator died minutes after arriving at a clinic feeling unwell.

An Advent devotional I recently wrote for Homestead Presbytery is a Christmas Eve litany of forgiveness entitled “No Room at the Inn.” Responses are from “Born in the Night, Mary’s Child” (PH30 Presbyterian Hymnal):

When do the “important” matters of my life—deadlines, commitments, relationships, stuff that is higher priority than You—squeeze You out to take residence in the outhouse?

Lord, forgive me for loving the stuff of this world more than You.

            Born in the night, Mary’s Child, a long way from your home;

            Coming in need, Mary’s Child, born in a borrowed room.

Lord, when do you stand at my door knocking because You want to come in and give me the gift of real relationship—the gift of Your Presence, Your very Self—but I am too busy with email and getting ready for my “friends” to come party?

Lord, forgive me for denying You, for turning my back on You.

            Clear shining light, Mary’s Child, Your face lights up our way;

            Light of the world, Mary’s Child, dawn on our darkened day.

Lord, when do I open the door of my inn—and see You standing there, ragged, hungry, sick, pregnant, in chains, without shelter, thirsty, smelly, freezing, a foreigner—and before I shut the door, say to You, “Go in peace; keep warm and eat Your fill,” without supplying Your need?

Lord, forgive me for only hearing Your word (and deceiving myself) without doing Your word.

            Truth of our life, Mary’s Child, You tell us God is good;

            Yes, it is true, Mary’s Child, shown on Your cross of wood.

Emmanuel, Lord of Love, forgive us and cleanse us from all unrighteousness, so that your effervescent spring of Living Water may bubble up in us to eternal life.

            Hope of the world, Mary’s Child, You’re coming soon to reign;

            King of the earth, Mary’s Child, Walk in our streets again.

Mekane Yesus Seminary spiritual formation and Intermediate English students greet you and say, “Thanks!”

Thank you for your faithful prayer and mission support, which are touching many lives here in Ethiopia and around the world. Thank you for providing my continuing education grant to study language learning. My first semester spiritual formation and Intermediate English students greet you and say, “Thanks!” Thanks for caring.  Thanks for equipping so many for ministry.  Please pray for this seminary to succeed in its mission.  O come let us adore him, Christ the Lord. God bless you one and all!

Carolyn Weber

The 2011 Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, p. 57
The 2012 Presbyterian Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, p. 95

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