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A letter from Michael Weller in Ethiopia

June 3, 2008

Hospitality and companionship: Part 2

Dear Friends,

In Part 1 of newsletter I promised to continue the tale of my journey from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, to Malakal Sudan. But first let me say a few words about the family. Amira finished her high school in South Africa in December 2007. She has been with us in Ethiopia since then. She used her time well; she participated in one artisan’s bazaar while serving as an art and English teacher in a private school. In June she returns to the United States to consider her options for school or work.

We have another high school graduate as well. Thomas graduated June 1 from the International Community School in Addis Ababa. He plays the piano in a jazz group, so he and another member of the group put together a musical piece that they performed for graduation. I will miss hearing Thomas’ music when he returns to the States with Amira.

We were happy that Brian could come back to attend Thomas’ graduation. Brian has only a night flight to complete to get his private license as a pilot. But the most prominent feature in his life at the moment is his pending marriage to Ms. Sheila DeJong on June 21. I will be going with Thomas and Amira to perform the ceremony in Kansas City, Missouri.

Rachel and Lydia are already in the States. Lydia had traumatic experience about a year ago. Rachel and I thought it best that she have the opportunity to work with a trained counselor to help her deal with the situation. Lydia is doing very well and we look forward to a reunion at the wedding.

In Part 1, I left off just as I reached the place where the boat would take the Rev. Stephen Tung and me to Nasir. The boat was a big one, and it was the usual experience — packed full of people, goats and baggage; the first hour was simply a relief from walking. The second hour was a little more painful as the angle iron of the boat was not a comfortable place to sit. After the fourth hour we arrived in Nasir.

The market at Nasir is mostly a tarp-covered square with generators that run some freezers, foul beans cooking in big pots and merchants selling flip flops, clothing, salt, soap, spices and grilled fish. My coming was anticipated, so we were met by the pastor of the Nasir congregation, the Rev. James Tut, principle of the Mobile Bible School now located in Loki. With him were the Rev. John Choul, and many elders.

We walked through the town to the church compound where to my surprise was a guest room waiting for Steven and me. They welcomed us with water and food and a shared fellowship that embraced us fully. During our time in Nasir, we worshipped and shared stories while I met more people than I can remember.

I saw the old American Mission hospital and the buildings that still stand that were built by Presbyterian missionaries. These days, MSF is using the facilities as a base for their operations, and there is a government hospital on the other side of the town. Thanks to the fact that my mother-in-law, Martha Vandevort (Maxwell) was born in Nasir, I was adopted as a son-in-law of Nasir.

The Nasir congregation is in the process of building a very large building for their congregation near the old hospital. Fifteen years ago, the congregation put together some money and asked a friend living in Khartoum to invest it. The time came for the investment to mature, and so they were able to start the collection of sand and bricks with a substantial amount of money. They will probably need another $5,000 to complete the work. The building is more than a structure. It is a symbol of life for its members, a symbol of what they all hope will be a beginning for stability and peace. Even though they are well aware of the fact that peace in Sudan is rare, they hope that this time will be different along the river. Pray with them and for them that this peace might be sustained because as hard as everything is in Sudan, peace is like a fragile clay pot, always on the verge of becoming so many shards.

I met many people in the two days I spent in Nasir. I look forward to returning to worship with them and renewing the fellowship that lit in my heart a deep appreciation for God’s amazing love, the shear tenacity of God’s people to continue to lay down roots for living and the communion that all Christians share through faith in the one Lord, Jesus Christ.

The final leg of the trip to Malakal was a two-day bus ride with members of the Nasir congregation. While I could tell many stories about this part of the trip (I finally looked into the face of a fish I couldn’t eat), it really is the story of traveling with brothers and sisters in Christ and a continuation of the hospitality and fellowship of people and partners walking together in a journey of faith, hope and expectation for God’s plan in the Sudan.

To be continued …

Peace and Grace to all,

Michael Weller

The 2008 Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, p.12

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