A letter from Rachel Weller in Ethiopia
Walking through the NuLand village, where we live in Gambella, I hear kids' voices cry out through the stick fences, “Kawai, kawai!” It’s not my name but a generic word for foreigners, especially white ones. They run out to the road to greet me saying, “Maale! Maale!” I try my best to greet them appropriately: Peace, Peace in the morning, Peace in the afternoon, Peace to y’all, Peace while the sun in straight up in the sky, Peace when it's setting, Peace to your body, Good peace, Very good peace, Delicious peace, Sweet peace … but I can’t remember which is which, so we usually end up just laughing at each other. Today, though, as I walked to town I passed some boys playing “futboll” (soccer). One of them called out, very precisely, “Wera ching ba lak ka piu di lith lith” (At home wash with hot water).
A few weeks ago a boy came to me with a horrible wound on his lower leg. Did I have a Band-Aid? I closed my eyes, shook my head, and decided I would take care of it, but he needed to come back tomorrow so I could do it right. I went out, bought gauze, plaster (tape), and geevee (gentian violet). And so my daily wound clinic began. I think I see 30 kids every afternoon. After I triage them, I wash the worst wounds with hot water, swab them with GV, and cover them well with gauze and tape. I would love to treat them all, but I really don’t have time. I tell those with smaller wounds, one at a time, over and over: Wera ching ba lak ka piu di lith lith. Go home, wash with hot water. I suppose I’ve earned my own special greeting!
We arrived in Gambella a few weeks ago to begin to settle here and identify our places in the church. Before we can do any work, though, we need to fix a place to live where we can get adequate rest at night and fix food without too much hassle. The tukuls we sleep in are quite adequate—cool and dry—and the bed is ok. Without the usual bedroom furniture, we’re still using suitcases and trunks for storage – but it works for now. Back in February construction was started on a toilet, a shower, and a kitchen. I don’t really understand the reasons that they were never completed, but that was the first thing we did when we returned. And just in time for the rains. We now live in a very nice six-room housing complex consisting of three tukuls that serve as bedrooms and storage, a latrine, a shower, and a kitchen. Each room opens to the center where the entertainment system stands: the lizard tree which displays not only blue-and-orange lizards, but also yellow weaver birds, bright blue starlings, green bee-eaters, and several other birds depending on the season. On cloudless nights we enjoy the most wonderful ceiling, especially now during shooting-star season!
In the next few weeks we will begin the process of building a more permanent house, but for now we are very comfortable.
This life gives us a chance to understand the challenges of the people in our community a little better. I recently read a statistic that compared the availability of all of sub-Saharan Africa, with its 700 mil people, to that of Poland, which has 38 mil. Not only is electricity unreliable, water comes through the pipes whenever it seems to feel like it. It didn’t feel like it for a full two weeks. The one hand pump in the community is on the church compound where we live. It took three years to heat up and break the rock before they finally reached the water. Those who live too far away purchase water from a man with a donkey cart or go to the Baro River. Michael fills our large jerry can from the pump and brings it by wheelbarrow to fill up the water storage barrel by the lizard tree. Its ok, because he’s using wheels for transport—otherwise, I should be carrying it on my head! Our daily routine also includes purchasing items in the market daily and then preparing food from scratch. Since we don’t have a fridge yet we can’t keep any leftovers. This life is hard work. And for many around us, whose resources are so much less than ours, it seems nearly impossible. For them, the work of living leaves little time for work to make money for extras—like clothes. Or Band-Aids. Or school.
Your prayerful support is what we rely on to sustain us as we begin a work to improve the lives of these people who have been forgotten or ignored for too long.
In the service of our Lord,