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A letter from Carolyn Weber in Ethiopia

February 26, 2010

A collage of highlights from my first week and a half in Ethiopia:

Photo of several people reading from a Bible.

 

Loudspeakers along the street calling Muslims to the first prayers of the day generally awaken me shortly after 5 a.m. each day. A rich variety of bird calls and twitters follow as the sun edges over the horizon. A four-lane divided highway, the Ring Road, was recently completed by the Chinese. With it a myriad of little shops and restaurants, a taxi hub of mini-vans, even a stationer’s shop with a copy machine have come to this area near the Mekane Yesus Seminary (MYS), which was built here on the southern edge of Addis Ababa years ago when it was mainly undeveloped countryside.

Third and fourth year seminary students crowd into the classroom, dragging desks right up to the blackboard on our first day of the course on Holistic Ministry and Development, a two-credit-hour elective. Class starts with the song Micah Mandate (Micah 6:8.). I sing a line and the students echo:

He has shown you (echo), O Man (echo),
what is good and what the Lord requires of you (echo). Repeat.
But to do justice (echo),
and to love mercy (echo),
and to walk humbly with your God.

The 45 students who attend my class will learn about ministering to the whole person, urban and rural development, poverty and the environment. After each class, I invite four students to the tea break, an opportunity for me to get up close and personal, have them mark my map with their home communities and hear about their passions in ministry.

Most students come from rural parishes all over Ethiopia to study theology, English, pastoral counseling, the Old and New Testaments, Muslim-Christian relations, leadership development, evangelism, spiritual formation, English and much more. Many churches in this rapidly multiplying partner denomination, the Ethiopian Evangelical Church of Mekane Yesus (EECMY), are depending on active lay members while these students are away at seminary in Addis Ababa, growing as Christian leaders.

Lively, exuberant worship with the Anuak people last Sunday flew by without my noticing that 2½ hours had passed! Worshipers sang and clapped many praises to God, accompanied by a variety of drums. There were a number of readings from the Anuak translation of the New Testament and an impassioned sermon, and the choir sang several numbers. I even recognized the Apostles Creed. Most worshipers were far from home — as students or in this capital city for medical reasons. The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has had a long partnership with the Anuak people to produce an Anuak translation of the Old Testament. This decades-long work is nearing completion as the first draft copy is being printed in Nairobi, Kenya.

It was a treat to enjoy an Ethiopian meal in Breezy (Marie) Lusted’s home with special guests Ann and Niles Reimer who had just returned from the Gambela region. These three long-term Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) mission co-workers have spent nearly four and half decades on the Anuak project and Niles is developing several Bible studies in Anuak.

I’m blessed to be learning the Amharic language using a cutting-edge method, the Growing Participator Approach, developed by Greg and Angela Thomson which is being used in Afghanistan, Kazakhstan and our language school here in Ethiopia. I’ve just completed my fourth morning of class. We are learning as babies and small children do — by observing actions and objects and listening to these unfamiliar sounds for the first two weeks. Greg and Angela were with us yesterday from the United States. Our teacher is called a Nurturer because he’s nurturing us in our language acquisition, encouraging each of us as a Growing Participator.

I’m temporarily residing with Reformed Church of American missionary, Barbara Kapanga, here at the MYS compound while my new home is being readied. Her home is a lined with fiction and nonfiction books, which are serving me well in lesson planning for my Holistic Ministry course.

Thank you for your prayers and generous support of the seminary! You are shaping the lives of these pastors and pastors-in-training and their congregations back home through your sacrifices. You are making a crucial difference in their lives by your gifts which provide essential books, tuition payments and instruction. As Christ is shared across Ethiopia, a future filled with hope is coming into being. Thanks be to God!!!

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