A letter from Carolyn Weber in Ethiopia
Grace and peace to you in the strong name of our Lord Jesus Christ!
Thank you for joining the continuous prayer that has been lifted up to God over the past several months for:
• The residents of the Republic of South Sudan, their families worldwide, and the PC(USA) mission co-workers (MCWs) who serve them. Since mid-December everyone I know has been praying for an end to the devastating violence pervading South Sudan. We long for peace and reconciliation there and throughout the world. Circumstances recently brought together courageous church leaders Rev. Peter Lual and Rev. Tut, who stood tall and determined against violence in South Sudan with MCWs serving in Malakal and Ethiopia.
• MCWs Brenda and Rev. Steve Stelle, who recently entered the Ethiopian mission field. It was my privilege to host an evening of welcoming the Stelles and sharing stories with several mission co-workers serving in the Horn of Africa.
• The conclusion of the historic Presbyterian-funded Anyuak Bible translation project, which now is focused on Bible literacy training, worldwide Bible distribution, and future employment for the translators. Rev. Niles and Ann Reimer spent seven weeks in Ethiopia giving Anyuak Bible training in Gambella and sorting and disbursing retired mission co-worker Breezy Lusted’s materials.
• Mekane Yesus Seminary students in the 16 credit hours of courses I taught first semester (which ended the first week of February). My teaching load included these courses for the Bachelor of Theology students: daytime and also evening Intermediate English 1, Advanced English, and Spiritual Formation 1. I also taught and mentored 46 first- and second-year Master of Arts students in Personal Development, which encourages the students to open themselves to God’s transformation of their inner persons into the very likeness of Christ. Many prayers were raised and answered regarding the stacks and stacks of papers I graded for the first semester! Western Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day were regular teaching days at the seminary since Ethiopian Christmas is always celebrated January 7 and Ethiopian New Year’s is always on September 11. To provide more conversational opportunities for my daytime Intermediate English class, students were teamed with mission workers Christmas afternoon to share Christmas customs, including the Christian legend about the candy cane. [PHOTO 6] Advanced English students considered what their home community’s greatest needs were and then crafted project proposals to encourage outside organizations to partner with them. Evening Intermediate English students expanded their reading skills and knowledge with Joyce Hannam’s small Oxford Press book Christmas in Prague, which features a harpist and a violinist.
Nurturing seeds that have been planted to:
• (a) break the cycles of injustice, especially among the most vulnerable, the women and children of Ethiopia. Almaz Teka, a student of mine for the past two years at Mekane Yesus Seminary, has a passionate desire to rescue several girls and women from prostitution (read p. 134 of the 2014 Presbyterian Mission Yearbook). Recently Almaz networked with New Zealander Michelle Tiatia, a Mekane Yesus missionary, to discuss making Almaz’s dream a reality. Michelle is instrumental in establishing a safe house for women leaving prostitution, which Almaz and I will be visiting April 26 and 27. After Almaz graduates in 2015 she’ll be back in her home area to realize her dream.
• (b) share the good news of God’s love in Jesus Christ. Houseguest Rev. Debbie Blane (herself a refugee from teaching at Nile Theological College in Malakal, South Sudan) trained 17 Anyuak women here in my home to lead contextualized Bible studies a la South African Gerald West. Such Bible studies are based on four commitments: to read the Bible from the perspective of the poor, working-class, and marginalized; to read the Bible together collaboratively; to read the Bible critically using theological resources; and to read the Bible for individual and social transformation. The class’s first question was, “Who are the marginalized?” Answers given: people living in abusive situations, refugees fleeing for their lives, persons lacking most basic needs. This opened a discussion among several who have lived in refugee camps about the difficulty of introducing prayer and Bible study there where it is most needed.
• (c) encourage peace and reconciliation in cultures of violence. Yesterday I preached the Mekane Yesus lections at the Addis Ababa Bethel Mekane Yesus Anyuak Congregation, which centered on Jesus confronting the powers in the Temple as he taught the parable of the tenants and the vineyard (Luke 20:9-19). The theme of the day was Jesus the mediator and reconciler. My final invitation to the Anyuak congregation: Think of someone who has hurt you or a family member recently or many years ago. Your first thought may be, “How can I take revenge or strike back at this person?” OK, now recall the words of the Lord’s Prayer: “Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.” Every person we haven’t forgiven is like a fishhook piercing our body. The line is connected to that person. Forgiveness is the only way to remove that hook, to release that pain. Otherwise, we are doomed to trudge through life, staggering under the weight of all the unforgiven ones we are dragging with us. But Jesus longs for our healing, our reconciliation, our transformation. He is strengthening us and going to God on our behalf 24/7 (Hebrews 7:25).
• Ending my mission here in Ethiopia well and discerning God’s call for the future. I am grateful to God for calling me to this life-changing mission here in Ethiopia. I was blessed to serve my initial three-year term and then extend for another year and a half. When my official mission interpretation ends September 30, I will have served Christ here for four and three-fourths years. These dear people will always be in my heart.
I will be stateside doing mission interpretation this July to September. Please invite me to visit your congregation or presbytery to share in person about my work through the partnership between the PC(USA) and the Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus.
Thank you for your ceaseless prayer, financial gifts, encouragement, and support that have undergirded my work here and the work of many other mission co-workers around the world. Your sacrifices are bringing life, hope, and peace to people who struggle just to take the next breath. I thank and praise our Lord for you as I pray for you.
Serving Christ faithfully with you,
Carolyn Weber (Rev. Dr.)
The 2014 Presbyterian Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, p. 133
Read more about Carolyn Weber's ministry