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A letter from Carolyn Weber in Ethiopia

April 2013

Grace and peace to you, dear friends, in the name of our risen Lord Jesus Christ!

Life has moved along here at a hectic pace since my January return to Ethiopia.  Unlike the West’s March celebration of Easter this year, the Orthodox calendar places Easter on May 5.  Most seminary students have now departed for their two-week break with families in distant places.  The Addis Ababa Bethel Mekane Yesus Anuak Congregation will celebrate Good Friday as in the past two years with the call and the falling away of the apostles and final carrying of the cross out to a grassy place as if it were the body of Christ while congregants following behind silently reflect on ways they have denied Christ. Easter Sunday will bring a glorious resurrection service in the worship space. Afterward the congregation will walk to my home to enjoy the traditional Anuak foods that the women have prepared as well as several hours of drumming, praise, prayer, and preaching.  God is good!

I am experiencing great joy in teaching the Bachelor of Theology degree students Intermediate English, Advanced English, and Spiritual Formation and the M.A. in Practical Theology students the newly formulated Personal Development course. In addition my monthly mentor group meetings with 11 students have given opportunities for honest sharing and impassioned prayer. PHOTO 1

Intermediate English team teacher Gunnar Sorenson from Norway focused the first half-semester on grammar. We wished him farewell last week at a lovely lunch he provided for the class. Our teaching team has consisted of four nurturers (teachers who nurture the Growing Participators—students).  While Gunnar and I have done the main teaching, Jasmin from Switzerland and Marilyn Hansen, PC(USA) mission co-worker, facilitate two small groups once a week where there are opportunities for the students to discuss many things and also read and work on pronunciation. PHOTO 2 These English students also studied Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s life and then wrote brief biographies about people who have influenced their own Christian journeys. Because British and North American spellings often differ, I must constantly check my dictionaries as I mark papers.  Our current class focus on harmful traditional practices, including FGM (female genital mutilation), brought this response from one non-Ethiopian student: “It’s important to know about harmful traditions even if they’re not practiced by your ethnic group because you never know where God will call you to serve!”

After spending the past month and a half writing and revising project proposals to address needs in their home communities, the Advanced English students gave 3–10 minute oral presentations about them.  The students imagined that the 30 people in the audience were representatives of donor agencies and NGOs that might fund their projects.   PHOTO 3 Much laughter, goodwill, and critical thinking was generated by the probing questions the “donors” asked the presenters.  The students grew in their appreciation for their colleagues as they heard about the challenges facing their classmates in their home communities and churches.  My heart was touched by students who later revealed that they are among two or three educated persons in their distant communities who could prepare proposals inviting organizations to partner with them.  The students reported that these skills will be invaluable to them in the future.

Another skill they learned this week was creating a CV (curriculum vitae/resume). CVs are important to have nearby because students may be asked to preach or give a training on short notice, to meet with a potential sponsor for their present or future studies, to consider serving in a different ministry setting, or to be interviewed for a mission publication.  After preparing their draft CVs students interviewed each other. PHOTOS 4, 5

Working through an abridged version of Maxie Dunnam’s Workbook on Becoming Alive in Christ over the past seven weeks, the Spiritual Formation students reflected from many angles on what it means to contain Christ’s indwelling presence. As Paul declared to the Galatians (2:20), “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.” These students will bring stories they are gathering in their home areas over Easter break about Christians who have stood firm in their faith despite persecution, imprisonment, torture, and death.

Using the general outline of Dr. Margaret Aymer’s Confessing the Beatitudes, which challenges people to reflect deeply on the meaning of each beatitude in light of the Accra Confession and their own current situations, the master’s students have shared some of the confessional statements their triad groups have formulated.  The students have felt great anguish as they’ve realized that they have been doing little to reach out to the very people Jesus was speaking about. PHOTO 6

Thanks to your support of PC(USA) World Mission, I had the privilege of attending a recent six-day Regional Africa Gathering of PC(USA) Africa mission co-workers at the Grail Centre outside Cape Town, South Africa.  I was moved by the mission service given across this vast continent by Presbyterians in the name of Jesus Christ.  Two personal highlights for me were reconnecting with Rev. Bob and Kristi Rice, who serve in Congo.  We were the three lone PC(USA) mission co-workers who were trained during January 2010. PHOTO 7 Another special highlight for me was the opportunity to create and lead a Taizé Prayers around the Cross service for our first evening vespers. Several excursions to places like Betty’s Bay near Kleinmond, South Africa, introduced us to this penguin colony and beautiful vistas. PHOTOS 8, 9, 10

I had just finished Nelson Mandela’s Long Walk to Freedom when I met a member of his Xhosa tribe on my flight from Addis Ababa to Johannesburg.  She invited me to read her article commemorating the 100th anniversary of the 1913 Land Act, which deprived blacks of 87 percent of the territory in the land of their birth. She also shared about South Africa’s increasing poverty and large numbers of pregnant schoolgirls due to abductions.

Thank you for blessing many people through your prayers, encouragement, and sacrificial gifts, which empower my mission. I am extremely grateful for the recent gift of 500 bushels of grain!  God takes what we have, blesses and multiplies it, and works incredible miracles to his glory.

Please pray that:

•     The people of Ethiopia may know Christ

•     Rain will fall where it is needed

•     Christ’s will may be done at Mekane Yesus Seminary

•     The marking of papers will be completed

•     My July 18 cataract surgery stateside is successful

May you know the joy of being forgiven and freed by God through our risen Lord!

Carolyn Weber

The 2013 Presbyterian Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, p. 107
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