A letter from Carolyn Weber in Ethiopia
Grace and peace to you in the precious name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!
July has always been a special month for me because it is my birthday month! I have wonderful memories of gatherings with family, friends and colleagues to celebrate birthdays — theirs and mine. Because of my very hectic Monday–Friday schedule of morning Amharic language learning and then afternoons teaching four one-hour back-to-back classes of listening and speaking English with my 70+ English-crash-course students, I was only vaguely aware of my approaching birthday until the day it occurred this past Monday.
I told my students Monday that they are my family while I’m here in Ethiopia and that I was honored to celebrate my birthday with them. For Monday’s Scripture reading I selected the first part of one of my favorites: Philippians 4:4: “Rejoice in the Lord always and again I say, Rejoice.” Of course my students were interested in learning my age. When I told them, they had very shocked expressions. I think they believed I was the age of their mothers — and in fact I am closer to the age of their grandmothers — 64 years old!! Lift up your prayers and blessings for these students pictured here. If they successfully pass the final exam August 9 and the other entrance exams, they will be admitted to the Theology Department and the Music School here.
Three young men showed up at my door later in the evening with a beautiful birthday card and this message from my 5:35–6:35 pm class: “May our Almighty shower you with blessings on your birthday. We all love you.” Inside the envelope they gave me two wax birthday candles — a 6 and a 4!!!
Many U.S. friends sent birthday greetings through Facebook. On Tuesday when I arrived home for lunch with my two-day-a-week helper, there was a flurry of activity after we ate our lunch. Here’s what greeted me when I served Adaanach her coffee. She had made a delicious chocolate cake and added candles. She and her family gave me a beautiful card and the intriguing vase with lovely roses.
Now I must admit to the difficult part of celebrating my birthday here in Ethiopia. Months ago when I asked Adaanach about her birthday, she said she had no clue, that she was born in a highland area at home where there were no such things as medical care or birth certificates. I began to realize that many people across Ethiopia — and the world — find themselves in the same position. Perhaps that’s why so many people here celebrate each and every day of life — and don’t just save it up for one day a year!
Take a moment now to close your eyes and reflect on these truths: YOU are a beloved child of God.You are created in God’s image, to carry God’s light and power and presence into the world. Whatever burdens you are carrying today, our Lord wants to lift those from you and bear them himself. Release all that weighs you down and allow his grace, mercy, love and healing power go to those unhealed, broken places within to bring you spiritual refreshment, restoration and new life. “May the blessing of God rest upon you, may God’s peace abide with you, may God’s presence illuminate your heart, now and forevermore.”
Thank you for your support and encouragement for Mekane Yesus Seminary, its students, staff and faculty — and pray that Christ will be at the heart of all we do here. Keep my travels in your prayer thoughts — at the end of July to mid-August — by public bus to Ghimbi and Debesso to visit a student’s family and community there and to observe the poverty and grassroots development envisioned there. Then on to Gambella by bus, visiting small villages and leading a women’s training and time of healing there before flying back to Addis Ababa and then flying north to Mekelle to another student’s ordination. While in Mekelle I will visit with HIV/AIDS orphans living there. After that I hope to spend five days in silence and spiritual renewal at a retreat house at Debrezait, where I plan to write a few chapters about grassroots development for the class I will teach next January on Holistic Ministry and Development. I want to experience firsthand and lift up the Ethiopian context in all that I am teaching.
May God bless you, your family and church!