A letter from Carolyn Weber in Ethiopia
Grace and peace to you in the precious name of our Lord Jesus Christ!
Daily I am witnessing the love of God and the transforming power of the Holy Spirit. Recently I preached at the 8 a.m. morning chapel service here on the Mekane Yesus Theological Seminary campus. My assigned text was 1 Corinthians 9:1-23. Paul shares in these verses the different ways he carries out his evangelistic witness — by meeting each person he encounters at the place where s/he is on her/his spiritual journey. I told the gathered community that this chapter of Paul’s letter actually contains a short course in “contextual theology,” which means shaping our presentation of the Good News to the life context of the people we are serving.
Advent will soon begin, followed by our celebration of the glorious event of Jesus’ birth. God gave us the supreme example of matching his message of love to the people:
- By sending us One whose body was like ours — made of flesh.
- By sending us One who was helpless and poor like most of the people in the world today.
- By sending us One who carried the love and divinity of God within every cell of his body and every particle of his spirit.
Jesus was Paul’s ultimate model for sharing the incredible Good News.
Paul was like one of those educated church leaders we know so well in our lives and churches today. As a converted Pharisee, Paul could have thanked God “that I’m not like that sinner over there.” Instead, Paul followed our Lord’s example — he gave up worldly power and prestige and humbled himself, becoming like a servant to the very ones the world cast off as worthless, the “least of these.” Paul became foolish in order to topple “the wise.” Paul became obedient unto death even as our Lord did.
I brought my little friend Binyam with me to the pulpit that day to proclaim God’s message from 1 Corinthians 9. (Binyam is Amharic for Benjamin — my youngest grandchild’s name.) You see, I stick out in a crowd here in Ethiopia. When I wave at strangers from a bus window, they might wonder what this crazy white woman is up to and turn away. But Binyam — well, he’s another story. He’s my little friend-maker for Jesus. He’s a very soft and fuzzy 12-inch-high brown bear hand puppet.
Last July as I traveled by public bus to Ghimbi, Binyam made friends with several children inside the bus. Then as I traveled the bumpy roads from Ghimbi to Dembi Dollo to Gambella in southwest Ethiopia by public minibus, Binyam danced and clapped his paws to the music and waved out the window to crowds of children. As the van continued through the countryside, people knew he was coming because they rushed up to smile and wave at him — even adult men laughed and waved. [See photo album picture 2.]
In one location the van driver told us all to exit the van because he wasn‘t continuing any further. As I waited for another bus to arrive, a crowd of children gathered around me to see Binyam. They felt his soft fur. They were intrigued that he could clap his paws and dip and sway. Some began to bop him on the head and Binyam began to rub his eyes and cry. I told the children that Binyam needs love, not blows to his head! After a bit, they began to say, “Mahn-ee, give us mahn-ee,” to which Binyam replied, “I have no money to give you, but I have something better — the love of God in Jesus Christ.” At that, Binyam stretched his arms open wide and bowed to them and hugged each of them.
As I shared this story in chapel, Binyam illustrated the points I was making. Seminary students and staff responded warmly — smiles and laughter as Binyam waved at them and danced and clapped his paws. You see, Binyam can go places where I would not be welcome. He is the ultimate icebreaker for Jesus. He cuts through the barriers of my white skin and graying hair to bring the joy of Jesus to people here.
Thank you, dear friends, for your sacrificial giving and prayer. More prayer is needed for the students, instructors, staff and administrators of Mekane Yesus Seminary. Pray for the street children, persons living with HIV/AIDS, families, youth, the poor, the hopeless, the sick, the grieving and all who do not know Jesus Christ. [See photo album picture 4.] Pray for the obedient church workers who are sacrificially spreading the gospel and planting incredible numbers of churches despite their wages of less than $25 U.S. per month! [See photo album picture 5.] Pray for the mission workers here and around the world. Pray for the little girls and young women who bear on their backs the heavy loads of firewood and clay pots of water over great distances — whose minds are not being educated and whose bodies are being stunted by the heavy burdens and lack of good nutrition so that when they try to give birth, many obstetric fistulas occur that cause those women to be cast out of their homes. (See the PBS Nova special, “A Walk to Beautiful.”)
We all thank you from the bottom of our hearts. Your gifts and prayers incarnate God’s love and bring life to your brothers and sisters in Christ here in Ethiopia. And you are doing it all for the joy of sharing the Good News of the tiny babe born in a manger, who is Love Incarnate, our Lord Jesus Christ. Joy to the world! God bless you all!
The 2011 Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, p. 57