A letter from Carolyn Weber in Ethiopia
Grace and peace to you, dear friends, in the mighty name of our Lord Jesus Christ!
This Advent 2012 letter finds me here in the United States, where it has been my great joy since the end of June to share our great God’s touch upon so many lives in Ethiopia. You opened your churches, homes, and hearts to me as I have interpreted my mission of teaching at Mekane Yesus Seminary and the many additional opportunities extended to me.
During my visits across the U.S. to the presbyteries and/or churches of the Cascades, Chicago, East Iowa, Great Rivers, Missouri River Valley, Northern Waters, Prospect Hill, Sacramento, Santa Barbara, Shenandoah, Whitewater Valley and more, you have taught me much about your lives, sharing your passion for ministry and outreach to folks nearby and across the world. As you shared personal and church struggles, hopes and dreams for the future, you have indeed blessed me with the jewels of your lives.
I love our connectional church! Facebook helped me connect with North High classmate Sue Barrett and Mosher Pilgrim Presbyterian Church in Omaha, Neb. as well as San Francisco Theological Seminary classmate Karen Cornwell Fortlander in Portland. Meeting friends whom I have only known over the Internet has been so uplifting, such as Kathleen Moyer in Vancouver, Wash. New friends I met in one place, such as the New Wilmington Mission Conference, turned up in other locations. With each of my visits, the world has grown smaller and smaller. Chance questions asked about your lives also brought rich blessings. Much history was shared as you showed me local sites and places precious to you. Scattered opportunities for retreat time refreshed my spirit. Time with my family in Chicago, Los Angeles, and northern Minnesota has been rich, as well as providing opportunities for mission interpretation.
My worshipping community in Addis Ababa is the Addis Ababa Bethel Mekane Yesus Anyuak Church. Through Breezy Lusted and Rev. Niles and Ann Reimer I began worshipping there in 2010 upon my arrival in Ethiopia. We are excited and full of anticipation regarding the publishing and distribution worldwide of the first-ever complete Anyuak Bible. Many prayers are needed for this whole endeavor which has been decades in the making.
2012 has been filled with much for which to give thanks. My Mekane Yesus Seminary students remind us daily to be in an attitude of gratitude for each and every breath we take, each person with whom we share our journeys, each morsel of food we enjoy. I look forward to returning to the seminary to continue the mission God calls us to share.
May God bless you, each and every one! Your names are stitched in God’s book of life and your faces are etched in my mind and heart. I rejoice, too, in your sacrificial gifts of prayer and encouragement and mission support. Thank you from the bottom of my heart! I also ask your forgiveness for opportunities that did not materialize for me to be with you as my time has been limited.
Many have been making preparations for Christmas over the past several months. Here in the U.S. we busily prepare our homes with special decorations; we prepare gifts and food to share with friends, family, and colleagues. “But,” comments Kathy Beach-Verhey in Feasting on the Word: Year C Volume 1on the Luke 3:1-6 text, “into our Advent ‘busy-ness’ each year enters John the Baptist. He interrupts our schedules and demands that preparations of a different kind be made. John demands that we get ready for Jesus….John forces us to examine ourselves and our world….Advent, John reminds us, is a time to prepare to welcome Jesus and not just our invited houseguests.”
Beach-Verhey continues: “God sent the message to John, not in Rome, not in Jerusalem, but out in the wilderness….not the seat of political or religious power…. God’s choice of John and where God spoke to John are indications of what God expects from us. Our repentance, our turning around, will likely involve us looking at the structures and the systems and the people of the world around us in new and different ways.” Maybe John’s “job is to make us uncomfortable enough to truly repent and prepare for the coming of Jesus.”
Contrast these preparations with the ones that my students report that our Ethiopian brothers and sisters are making. Each day of the week before Ethiopian Christmas on January 7, Christians there are fasting and praying in preparation for the second coming of the Lord.
Out in the countryside, believers are preparing special choir programs and youth programs for their worshipping communities. In Ethiopia “youth” includes persons aged 18-30. Here in the U.S., many choirs will present musical cantatas for their communities. Christmas programs featuring children’s Sunday School classes will be presented. Acts of charity are extended both in Ethiopia and in the U.S. to share the necessities of life with persons in their communities who need them.
The emphasis in Ethiopia is on celebrating Christ’s coming through daily worship and on gathering together with friends and family over several days. Santa generally does not visit Ethiopian homes and churches; therefore Santa is relatively unknown in Ethiopia.
The following prayer litany uses the hymn “Sanctuary” as an invitation for God’s mighty Spirit to work within us, not only during this Advent season but every day of our lives:
Lord, prepare me to be a sanctuary, pure and holy, tried and true.
With thanksgiving, I’ll be a living sanctuary for you.
Lord, may this time of Advent waiting be a time of preparation,
a time of cleansing, hallowing, slowing us down.
May we take a step away from our hectic lives and silently reflect on those desires that prevent us from allowing You to truly be born in us anew.
Open our eyes to the people and systems around us that deny the fullness of life, especially to the “least” of our brothers and sisters.
Lord, prepare me to be a missionary, pure and holy, tried and true.
With thanksgiving, I’ll be a living missionary for you.
Lord, as You draw us closer to You, change our hearts.
Transform us in body, mind, and spirit to be more like You each day.
May we be Your change agents who go boldly where You send us and courageously share You and Your life-giving Son, so that families, churches, communities, and nations around the world may have life in the fullest.
May we live simply so that all Your children may simply live. Amen.
· • this time of transition in Ethiopia
· • the Mekane Yesus Seminary
· • my return to teaching in January
· • the publishing and distribution of the complete Anyuak Bible
· • God to prepare the hearts of the Anyuak people in Ethiopia and around the world to want to study and learn the Word of God
· • literacy training for the Anyuak women and girls, men and boys to equip them to read and understand God’s promises.
Advent blessings to all! May your Christmas and entire new year be filled with Christ’s light and love, joy and peace!
Your sister in Christ,
The 2012 Presbyterian Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, p. 95
The 2013 Presbyterian Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, p. 107
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