A letter from Carolyn Weber in Ethiopia
Grace and peace to you in the mighty name of our Lord Jesus Christ!
God is so good! All the time!!! I have been living my life in the fast lane since last writing in July. Instead of leaving Ethiopia for my three-week summer vacation, I wanted to personally experience life in the remoter areas of Ethiopia, far from this capital city of Addis Ababa. My life has been forever changed by my travels through the countryside by public bus, mini van and Isuzu truck to places like Debesso, which is 68 km. south of Ghimbi, where people believe they are so far off the beaten path that they have been forgotten by the rest of the world. The Debesso Bethel Presbyterian Church, which is part of Illubabor Bethel Synod, is being built there. Each part of that structure is coming into being by the faithful prayers and hard work of its members who trust God will provide what is needed to complete it. [See photo album picture 1.]
It was also in Debesso that God switched on a light bulb in my head and showed me how news traveled in Jesus’ time. There are no cars or vehicles in Debesso. Our feet carried us cross-country through the mud of the rainy season. I had walked out 7 km. to visit one of the Rev. Temesgen Ayana’s churches and bring them greetings from the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and our partner Mekane Yesus Seminary, where I teach. Later that afternoon, after a devastating downpour of rain, we learned from others walking on the road about the young shepherd boy, age 14, and five of his flock, who were struck by lightning and killed. The news echoed across the hillside as we walked back to town and sobered all who heard it. The next morning the whole community gathered to walk with the family and the coffin to the church and on to the cemetery for the young shepherd’s burial. “Neither death, nor life ... nor anything in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
In Gambella I shared in a wonderful time of healing with 24 women from across the East Gambella Bethel Synod. [See photo album picture 3.] Long before I arrived here, lifelong Presbyterian mission workers the Rev. Niles and Ann Reimer had been teaching those women as well as pastors, evangelists, government workers and many others. [See photo album picture 4.] I preached at the Bethel Mekane Yesus Church in Gambella [See photo album picture 5.] and traveled many miles out to our historic Presbyterian missions in Gilo and Pokwo. Many children accompanied me to the historic Presbyterian church and mission clinic in Pokwo.
Upon my return from Gambella, I flew ’way north to Mekelle, where one of my students, who graduated this spring, became the first Protestant pastor to be ordained in the region of Tigray, which is heavily Ethiopian Orthodox. His church had never seen a clergywoman before and I was deeply honored to be invited to bring lengthy greetings from the pulpit at that ordination service. [See photo album picture 7.]
The day after my return to Addis Ababa I jumped back into my daily Amharic language learning every morning, which continues to mid-December. On September 1 I began teaching five courses — four of them to theology students: Intermediate English, Advanced English, Diploma 2 English, and Spiritual Formation, and Spiritual Formation for Degree 1 Jazz Music School students here on campus. Course and exam preparations and piles of grading have consumed large portions of my time this fall. I also advise four Degree 4 students in the writing of their Bachelor of Theology papers, and I mentor 10 theology students at monthly lunches in my home.
The devastating flood that washed through our seminary compound added another layer of busyness as I welcomed a Swedish missionary couple, Dr. Staffan and Ingela Grenstedt, into my home for 2 weeks along with the muddied items retrieved from their flooded home. [See photo album picture 9.] The floodwaters rose above their heads in just four minutes! The miracle of that flood was that it happened midafternoon under a sunny sky. If it had been during the night, the locked iron grates on all their windows may have caused loss of life by preventing their easy exit. Our students also suffered the loss of their dining hall to the floodwaters, which compounded the already great financial burden of our students who came this fall with little or no financial support from their churches. Scholarships are desperately needed. We all have prayed mightily for God’s provision for our students and their families back home in the countryside.
I continue to preach monthly at the Anuak fellowship here in Addis Ababa. Later this month, I’m looking forward to welcoming PC(USA) mission co-worker, the Rev. Debbie Blane, my friend who teaches at Nile Theological College in Khartoum, Sudan. She will take temporary leave during the referendum in South Sudan. God graciously prepares the way before us to meet our needs. I lift up my hands and my heart and say, “Hallelujah! Thank you, God! What a mighty God we serve!”
You all are the best ever! Thank you for providing the means for me to serve here in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Thank you for your powerful and effective prayers and gifts. Thank you for equipping so many servants of the Lord here in the Horn of Africa. Know that God multiplies every sacrifice you make to spread the Good News and bring life and hope and healing. God bless you!!!
The 2011 Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, p. 57