A letter from Michael Weller in Ethiopia
January 9, 2007
Believe it or not, these are “missionary pictures.” I don’t suppose many missionaries actually take pictures like this — the invention of the easily deleted digital photo is responsible for these and many more that we didn’t have space to print. For the past six months, we have been on interpretation assignment — or “IA.” This is the latest term for what used to be known as furlough or home assignment. Because the term “furlough” implies a break from work and the United States is not home to all PC(USA) missionaries, those terms are no longer being used. So, according to Presbyterian wordsmiths, the work we have been engaged in since last June is “interpretation assignment.” And, like all missionaries at work, we took pictures. Using both digital and mental cameras, we documented some of the roads of America and many of the people and churches of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).
Covering more than 8,000 miles of road, we spoke in churches from Michigan to Florida and flew as far as Minnesota and California. As we told the story of the Kingdom of God in Ethiopia, we heard what God is doing in the hearts and lives of people in the States. A young pastor in Utica, Pennsylvania, leads her members in giving a full afternoon to the children of their community, so that one day a week they can get help with their homework, learn what God has to teach them from the Bible and eat a nutritious meal while their parents finish up their own duties at home and work. Members of several churches recounted experiences they had in Mississippi and Louisiana cleaning up after Katrina. One member of a Presbyterian church in Minnesota challenged the members of his congregation to get involved in helping the families of immigrants to the United States from Ethiopia.
Hearing the inspiring stories, developing new friendships and strengthening old relationships are the highlights of interpretation assignment. Another aspect of our time in the States is reconnecting with the denomination and the people on national staff in Louisville who support the work of PC(USA) mission. At missionary sharing conference we shared our stories with the Louisville staff — those who remained at work after the May cut backs. We were encouraged by their eagerness to serve God by working in the support offices in such difficult times. These are the people who do the work to support your interest in mission. Their jobs are not exotic, and they get little notice on Web sites and denominational publications, but they are vital to the continuation of PC(USA) mission. I encourage you to pray for our support staff — too many to mention here. We thank God that they have answered the call to serve Him in this under-appreciated capacity.
Now we are preparing to return to Ethiopia. We are eager to see what God will do in our lives, in the lives of the African people we work with and in the PC(USA) over the next few years. I will continue to work with the three clinics of the East and West Gambela Bethel Synods to rebuild and establish them as true beacons of hope in an area that has little to rely on. As evangelism coordinator for the five Bethel Synods of the Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus, Michael will work with the church leadership in discussing ideas and methods of strengthening their congregations. In addition, he is returning to Ethiopia in the capacity of regional liaison for the Horn of Africa. Currently PC(USA) has work only in Sudan and Ethiopia in that region, so that is where Michael will focus his attention. He will report directly to Doug Welch, the area coordinator for Africa.
As we embark on a new adventure that will take us on roads we have not yet seen, we are thankful that God has promised to be our guide and that He goes with us. We also thank God for those of you who have promised to join us.
Rachel, for the Wellers
The 2007 Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, p.329