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A letter from Carolyn Weber in Ethiopia

July 2011

Grace and peace to you in the mighty name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!

World attention is currently riveted on the devastating famine in the Horn of Africa: in Somalia, Ethiopia, and Kenya. Because the Mekane Yesus Theological Seminary is located in the lush green capital city of Addis Ababa, we are not daily facing the specter of starvation. Much of our news comes from stories detailing the disaster and the difficulties of the food aid reaching the most severely affected areas. Many organizations here are directing their attention and resources to provide aid. Please pray fervently for God’s provision to reach all affected. At yesterday’s Inter-Mission Prayer Meeting, we learned that 80 percent of those affected are children! See Rich and Marilyn Hansen’s recent Mission Connections web letter for more information.

Ecclesiastes 3:1: “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.” 

Walking into Ethiopian shops, homes, or even classrooms at the Mekane Yesus Seminary, where I teach, I find a six-hour difference between wall clocks and my wristwatch. After serving in Ethiopia for the past year and a half, I am still adjusting to the many differences in time that can create communication difficulties with my Ethiopian brothers and sisters. We may be discussing an appointment time or the starting time for a meeting or worship service or determining the hours that a street vendor’s shop is open. Dates on receipts being submitted for reimbursement, meeting times on posted flyers, store hours—all of these are affected by the different ways in which we keep and understand time, so they may vary by six hours, or seven days, or even eight years!  This, more than anything, has caused me confusion. 

Days for Westerners begin at 12 a.m. The Ethiopian day starts at 6 o'clock. The Ethiopian New Year (Addis Amet) starts every year on the day we call September 11. Each of the first 12 Ethiopian months consists of 30 days, while the 13th month is either five or six days long and is called Pagmay. When Ethiopia advertises its “13 Months of Sunshine,” it isn’t just a ploy, but rather a reality (except when we are in the rainy season!!). The translation of the Amharic titles for each month does not result in our January, February, March, etc.; however, the translations of the Amharic names of the days of the week do correspond with our Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, and so on. Finally, because we Westerners follow the Gregorian calendar instead of the Julian calendar, which Ethiopians follow, we find ourselves in the year 2011 rather than 2003, which began for the Ethiopians on our September 11, 2010. This year both calendars overlapped, which caused Easter to be celebrated on April 24 everywhere.

A group of students together, in a celebratory manner.

Degree 1 students celebrate end of year.

All this talk about time reminds me that my students who just completed their first year of theology studies believe that it’s time for a change; it’s time to educate their parishes about harmful traditional practices such as early marriage, female genital mutilation, marriage by abduction, removal of the uvula, unequal treatment of women and girls and others.  Each student wrote a short paper about how to discuss this subject with church leaders during the summer (rainy season) break. They will start with prayer and then Scripture: Psalm 139:13–14b: “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful.” Many will also study First Corinthians 6:19–20: “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.” They will discuss harmful practices still happening in their communities. After gaining the support of their church leaders, many plan to invite the wider community to join them in discussing the issue. In September they will share details of their discussions.

In the week between the end of the second semester—with its stacks of papers to be graded—and graduation, a 10-person mission group from Historic First Presbyterian Church in Phoenix, Arizona, visited the Mekane Yesus Seminary campus and told about their mission outreach to southern Ethiopia at Hagmariam and Yabello, close to Kenya. These new friends agreed that hands-on mission work is life-changing for participants and also for those who later hear about it. Rev. Nathan Byrd provides the dynamic leadership for the Historic First congregation. He and Rev. Asfaw led the missioners. Rev. Asfaw pastors the 150 Ethiopian congregants (representing 11 denominations) who are “nesting” at Historic First Presbyterian for worship, study, and meetings.  

On June 26, the day after our seminary’s graduation, I flew to the United States for 27 days of visiting family and friends, grandma time with my 3-month old granddaughter   and 3 other grandchildren, attending the PC(USA) Big Tent World Mission Matters gathering, preaching at Northminster Presbyterian Church in Indianapolis, Ind., and at United Presbyterian Church in Peoria, Ill., interpreting mission at First Presbyterian Church in Galesburg, Ill. and completing medical, dental, and eye check-ups.  Describing the rapid spread of Christianity here in Ethiopia, as well as the challenges many Ethiopians face, were at the center of my conversations.

Let us join hands and hearts to pray for:

  • All affected by the Horn of Africa’s severe drought
  • Students, staff, and instructors seeking to be faithful to God’s call at Mekane Yesus Seminary
  • All churches and people whose extreme generosity is touching lives for Christ through World Mission's outreach

Thank you for your prayers and financial gifts which through God’s blessing are doing more than we can imagine! God bless you!

Carolyn Weber

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  • Hi Carolyn, I loved reading the beauiful letter about your ministry in Africa. It makes me feel good to know that one our pastors is helping to do something good for these precious people. Thank you so much for your dedicated ministry. Blessings and prayers to you, JKM by Jeanette McLaughlin on 09/09/2011 at 5:28 p.m.

  • Hi, Carolyn! Love getting the newsletter. Sorry I missed your visit back here, but am thrilled to hear sounds of joy in your letter. Hope we can keep in touch. by Ann Kelson on 09/07/2011 at 4:10 p.m.

  • I was so happy to read your letter. I hope to get more of them on my email. I have tried to get in touch with you in Africa, but it didn't work. Thanks for your wonderful letter. Marcia by Marcia Duncan on 09/06/2011 at 8:38 p.m.

  • I was so happy to read your letter, my first contact with you since you left Illinois. Now I hope I will get your letters on my email. Thanks!!! by Marcia Duncan on 09/06/2011 at 8:35 p.m.

  • I was nice to read your newsletter. Keep them coming. It will help me to know how to pray for you, your mission, and the hungry children of Ethiopia. by Julie Jordan-Brandt on 08/30/2011 at 7:38 p.m.

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