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A letter from Michael Weller in Ethiopia

September 5, 2007

Dear Friends,

This is the first “monthly” prayer letter you’ve received from us in at least three months. I always wonder what it is that keeps me from writing our news when I need your support the most. The last three months have been busy months laced with a few stressful elements. I suppose it is at times like these that I don’t want to tell you what’s going on because I don’t want you to feel sorry for us. It doesn’t occur to me till later that I really was denying you the opportunity to offer your support and prayers while at the same time denying myself and our family the benefit of that support. So, next time I miss a month, feel free to write and remind me not to disconnect from the community that God has provided for us to support us, sustain us and help us grow in Him.

If you have written us and not received a response, it could have been because we were overwhelmed with whatever was going on at the time, or it could have been because you don’t have our current email addresses and we never received your message. We unexpectedly lost our previous email addresses and have recently switched to gmail. We now have only two email addresses: mine (Rachel’s) is wellerachel@gmail.com and Michael’s is mswelleret@gmail.com. Those are the only two addresses we have access to now, so be sure to change your records so that we have one less reason to lose touch.

Life for the past three months has just been busy for us. Michael’s job as PC(USA)’s regional liaison for the Horn of Africa has taken him on several trips in and out of the country. I have been at home trying to manage the kids’ various educational endeavors and continue to stay in touch with the Gambella health work. Our visas and work permits expired, and we had to work through that — not a big deal, just time consuming. And every now and then we have had to take the car into the garage for repairs. (We have a miracle-working mechanic who can make any spare part we need. The company we bought the car from several years ago no longer imports the parts for the car, so he’s had to make quite a few.) So it’s been little things like that going on. Those are the things which keep me from thinking clearly enough to write a decent letter.

In June and July I helped to facilitate a seminar that was sponsored by the International Health Ministries office of PC(USA). This will eventually become part of the work of the clinics. It’s called “community health evangelism” (CHE). Leaders are trained to go into villages and help people assess their assets and abilities and make improvements in personal, family and community life. While there, the leaders take the opportunity to do Christian outreach and evangelism. Two leaders each from the Anuak, Nuer and Majangir communities are taking the training courses and will graduate as CHE trainers. This work has the potential to make the best and most permanent changes in communities. It makes a clear connection with individual responsibility in light of the goodness and mercy of God. Not only will it cause improvements in communities, it is a way of teaching the practicality of the gospel — that because of the immense love and mercy we have been shown by God, we respond by honoring Him in everything we do, including the way we manage our own lives and families. I am convinced that personal and community changes rarely happen until this idea becomes a part of individuals’ lives. So I am thrilled that we have been given the chance to participate in this program.

The next three months on my calendar are rather marked up too. I am writing this from Kijabe, Kenya, where I have come to get Lydia settled into grade 9 at Rift Valley Academy. Next week, after a few days at home, I’ll go with Amira to South Africa to take her back for her last term at Kingswood College and to talk with the school officials about helping her to cope well with the matric (senior) exams she’ll be taking in October and November. While I’m here, Michael is escorting Doug Welch, the PC(USA) area coordinator for Africa, around the west and southwest part of Ethiopia to introduce him to our partner synods for the first time. While I’m in South Africa, he will continue on a trip to Sudan (stopping in Kenya, where he’ll have a chance to see Lydia) so that Doug can introduce him to some of the leaders of Sudan partner churches. In October, he’ll be in the States to participate in PC(USA)’s “Mission Challenge ’07.” He’ll stop in to see Brian in western Pennsylvania, too. One week in November will be a bit more relaxing, though it will also involve travel. Michael and I will attend a retreat for some of the Africa mission personnel. It will be held in Kenya, so we’ll be able to see Lydia then, too. At some point, I will schedule a trip to Gambella to continue to talk about getting the clinics licensed, equipped and re-opened.

Though life is looking very busy, we both sense God’s hand guiding us through it. He has provided school situations for each of our kids that fit their needs. We can see how each of the assignments we have had has prepared us for the next one. So as we look at all the markings on our calendars for the next several months, we are confident that He will be there guiding us, nurturing our children and providing everything we need to do His work and enjoy doing it.

Before I close I ask you to consider participating in PC(USA)’s Mission Challenge ’07, which I mentioned above. This is an effort by our denominational mission office, which is now called World Mission, to communicate with congregations about the mission work that PC(USA) is involved in around the world and to raise funds to support mission co-workers like us. In early October your church should receive a packet of stuff that will give you some ideas on how you can be an active part of that, including a DVD and bulletin inserts for use during a Sunday in October. I realize that those of you receiving this letter are some of the most actively involved already, so I would like to encourage you to reach out to neighboring congregations to see if they would be willing to help you in some of the projects you might be working on yourselves. As I think about the reasons to stay connected in a denomination, the one I keep coming back to is to do the work of God in our lives personally, in our families, in our congregations and communities, and to support and encourage those at the “ends of the earth” as they do the same.

Michael and I feel extremely privileged to be a part of the team supporting the work in the Bethel Synods of the EECMY (our partner church here), and we pray that God will bless you as you search and pray about your role locally and in the world.

Rachel Weller

The 2007 Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, p. 329

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