A letter from Rachel Weller in Ethiopia
February 27, 2012
It seems like this month has been full of activity and full of waiting at the same time. Waiting is much easier to do while there is activity happening around me. But now all the activity has gone and I am left waiting.
Our activity started in mid-January when Michael and I moved to Gambella—at least partially. With the help of Hassan, the synod driver, we piled a bunch of stuff into the Land Cruiser and then piled the three of us into the front seat and made the two-day trip. Thanks to a government push to improve Ethiopia’s roads the trip took only a day and a half. Most of the roads were great. From Mettu to Gambella the road looks like a winding Pennsylvania road—with white lines and everything! We stayed with the East Gambella Bethel Synod (Anuak) for a week before we took a bus trip up the mountain to Dembi Dollo.
That was a fun trip. The 60-mile trip by public bus up the mountain took five hours—I’m sure I heard the bus puffing, “I think I can, I think I can” as we rounded a hairpin curve only to see another one ahead! The passengers were surprised to see “ferengies” (foreigners) on the bus. I enjoyed surprising them by speaking Amharic and then Oromiffa! In Dembi we had many wonderful visits with old friends and new church leaders, remembering the past and envisioning the future. Michael was invited to preach at the “big” church in town on Sunday on what turned out to be “Mission Sunday,” according to the lectionary calendar. It was an excellent opportunity to explain some of his sermon illustrations from 15 years ago, which we discovered people were still mulling over, pondering their deeper meaning! He challenged the congregation to acknowledge the work of the missionaries of the past, who brought the gospel to the region, and then, seeking God’s Word, to take off their shoes and socks, roll up their pant legs, and do what God wants the Dembi Dollo church to do toward increasing His Kingdom. His translator for that sermon was Chaali Yosef Letta—the current president of the Synod, a graduate of the former mission school, Bethel Evangelical Secondary School, and grandson of one of the early pastors, Qes Letta. There was lots of symbolism all around—enough for another 15 years discussion!
Monday morning we took the bus back to Gambella, discovered that the space where we had put our stuff and thought we would settle into was being renovated (torn apart top to bottom), so we moved to the West Gambella Bethel Synod (Nuer) compound and set up life in the thatched-roofed tukuls, where we now are.
Jack Jordan, son of the first missionaries to the Nuer of Ethiopia, Chuck and Mary Alice Jordan, was there already and had set up his kerosene stove and a barrel with a faucet for running water. He was already busy fixing anything that needed fixing, including an old outboard motor (for a boat that was recently stolen, we found out). Using his Nuer language skills and handyman expertise, he helped us make more improvements to our temporary living place by designing and working on a latrine, shower, and kitchen space.
At the end of January we had our first group of visitors—an eclectic group of people. Frank Dimmock, the PC(USA) coordinator for medical work in Africa, made his annual visit, bringing with him an Africa-experienced Presbyterian from Texas. Our daughter Amira came for two weeks after visiting her high school alma mater in South Africa. And the son of friends from our volunteer days in Egypt, Stephen Mehanni, came to fill in some time while he is on break from medical school in the States. For a week we had lots of conversations and trips to the several projects PC(USA) works with in the two synods in Gambella region—all of which I will keep an eye on, give advice when necessary, and encourage along the way. The projects include the three clinics, Pokwo, Gilo and Adura; two early childhood development programs (preschools), one in each synod; and Community Health Evangelism (CHE) programs, which I will be developing. We saw lots of opportunities for partnershipsJ.
It was so nice to have Amira here. She took one look at our situation and began thinking how she could improve it! She built a swing and with the leftover pieces, Stephen put together a xylophone. We’ve made friends with some kids living nearby who now come over every day to play on the swing, bang on the xylophone, and drink the (warm!) water from the spigot. They are teaching me Nuer—so what, if I am learning to speak with a 3-year-old lisp! Nyak calls me Yachai and my daughter Ameya!
Then everyone left. Michael and many of the synod leaders went to Addis for meetings. Jack, Amira, Frank, and Martia returned to the States. Stephen went to Pokwo to work in the clinic for a week. All the improvement work … stopped. I took a deep breath and tried to wait gracefully. With so many lists of things to do, things to accomplish, waiting is a chore. I waited for a week and then I decided to wait in Addis, where I am now. Michael’s here. Lydia (our other daughter) came yesterday. The Internet and electricity are regular enough to work when I want to work. I have several contacts to make and purchases to consider.
My basic philosophy of mission weighs in much less on doing stuff than it does on building relationships. But stuff does need to be done to build a foundation upon which relationships can be developed. Pray with me that that stuff stays out of the way of the relationships both Michael and I are eager to build as we do our part in the work of Kingdom building.
On a note about Michael, please pray for his travels this month. Later this week he will be in Khartoum with a group, then he will meet PC(USA) leaders in Ethiopia and travel to several sites here and then to South Sudan. All of these places are faced with so many challenges and have so many possibilities. Pray for peace. Pray for God’s overwhelming love to be visible in these places. Pray for safe travels.
Thanks for your part in this work. Your prayers, emails, and Facebook notes, as well as your financial support, are all encouraging.
CHE coordinator for the Bethel Synods of the Ethiopian Evangelical Mekane Yesus Church, especially in Gambella
The 2012 Presbyterian Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, p. 95