A letter from Rich and Marilyn Hansen in Ethiopia
At the dedication of the wall of Jerusalem, the Levites were sought out from where they lived and were brought to Jerusalem to celebrate joyfully the dedication with songs of thanksgiving and with the music of cymbals, harps and lyres (Neh. 12:27).
What does the dedication of the temple have to do with a wedding, a visit from PC(USA) friends, the birth of a child, the sendoff of a colleague…? All are reasons to celebrate. We have had the joy of celebrating with friends here in the past few months.
When Ermias, a colleague of Rich’s, was leaving for three months of study in Scotland, we celebrated his last week here at a faculty and staff lunch at EGST (Ethiopian Graduate School of Theology). Everyone on the staff signed a card with a photoshopped picture of Ermias in kilts. He wore a pretend kilt (with good humor) and accepted a gift of “shortbread biscuits” to prepare him for British food. Ermias was sent off with much love and laughter.
When Doug Sensabaugh, Randy Webb and Millie Hiner came to Ethiopia representing Shenandoah Presbytery, we had a celebration dinner here in Addis. Carolyn Weber and Debbie Blane, both PC(USA) co-workers, joined us. The Shenandoah team had spent a number of days renewing relationships and building new ones with the Synod of Illubabor in western Ethiopia, with which their presbytery has had a 20-year connection.
While in the U.S. last month we had the opportunity to visit Shenandoah Presbytery in Virginia. At different times we were able to see Doug and Randy and Millie, share our memories of a meal and fellowship, and we look forward to the time when we will see each other again. Rich and I were also able to expand our relationships with others in Shenandoah Presbytery, especially with Massanutten Presbyterian Church. In addition, Rich presented a workshop at the Massanetta Springs Annual Bible Conference about the rapid growth of Christianity in the global South and how worldviews in different parts of the world affect our faith.
When our friend and language teacher Kafyelow was married this spring, we were honored to be invited. He and his brother wed two Ethiopian women in a joint ceremony that was filled with joy. From the moment the bride and groom arrived in a flower-bedecked car and entered the wedding hall together, people clapped and sang with fervor. After each person recited their vows, after each couple exchanged rings, after the lighting of a unity candle, there was more clapping and cheering. A final part of the wedding ceremony here is the public signing of the wedding certificate by a witness and the bride and groom. As the paper was held aloft by the beaming groom, those in attendance cheered and clapped again.
Rich and I recently attended another wedding, that of our older daughter, Megan, in Seattle, Washington. (See photo.) Although the traditions were somewhat different, the joy she and her new husband, Joe, felt was also palpable. Surrounded by family and friends, they walked down the aisle for the first time as husband and wife to the cheers and clapping of those in attendance.
When an EGST staff member had a baby this spring, the entire EGST staff visited Billion and her husband, and her newborn Meheret, in their home. As people held the sweet little girl, we marveled at her beauty and celebrated the occasion by eating an Ethiopian specialty. Gunfo is an extremely stiff porridge that looks somewhat like a bagel. In the hollowed-out middle is melted spiced butter mixed with the spice berbere. Traditionally it is served when people visit the home following the birth of a child, and many Ethiopians love it (we decided it must be an acquired taste).
When Lael had her first birthday, we were invited to her party. Lael is the daughter of Solomon, an EGST student Rich knows well. Although annual birthday parties are not typically celebrated here in Ethiopia, first birthdays are often marked with a party, giving thanks that the child has survived the first year of life. In the case of Solomon and his wife, they were particularly thankful for their daughter’s life because of potential complications during the pregnancy. Little Lael, although feeling overwhelmed by the activity, was surrounded by family and friends, and by a birthday cake and special Ethiopian bread. (She even wore wings in honor of Tinkerbell.) (See photo.) A pastor gave words of thanks, and Solomon testified to God’s grace with the birth of his precious daughter.
Celebrations were a time in the Old Testament when people gathered together to give thanks and recognize God’s gracious hand in their lives. Celebrations here in Ethiopia these last few months have also been times when God’s people gathered together to give thanks and recognize God’s gracious hand. Participating in these celebrations has been a privilege for both of us.
Marilyn and Rich Hansen
P.S. You may have heard that the deaths of two influential people have occurred in Ethiopia recently: the patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church and Prime Minister Meles. Ethiopians are mourning the loss of both of these leaders. Meanwhile, interim leaders have been appointed and life is proceeding here.
- Praise for our joy in sharing celebrations with friends here in Ethiopia
- Praise for the wedding of our daughter Megan and her husband Joe
- Praise for the quality (and quantity!) of new students (more than 100) who are enrolled at EGST
- Prayer that the quality of teaching will remain high as the student body at EGST exceeds 200 for the first time
- Prayer for the country of Ethiopia: for comfort for all those who mourn the deaths of Patriarch Paulos and Prime Minister Meles; for wisdom of leaders making decisions about the future of Ethiopia
The 2012 Presbyterian Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, p. 95