A letter from Rachel Weller in Ethiopia
May 5, 2011
Happy Easter, Everyone! This year we celebrated Easter in the United States on the same day my friends in Ethiopia did. I love Easter Sunday. I love the reminder that every Sunday is a celebration of the new life that Jesus’ death and resurrection offers us. The service in the church I attend ended with the moving, energetic, exciting Toccata by Widor — as good a way to say Halleluiah!! as any. A few days later, driving from Pittsburgh to Atlanta, I saw creation singing Alleluia through wonderfully vibrant shades of green, white, pink, purple, blue … reminding me that Easter is all about changing us from dull, dreary decay to popping, praising people!
Anticipating upcoming transformational experiences, Michael and I eagerly embark on another journey in God’s service.
With my newly acquired bachelor’s degree in hand, I am ready to return to Ethiopia to serve as the health coordinator for the Bethel Synods of the Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus. My primary assignment will be to act as an advisor and trainer for a program called Community Health Evangelism (CHE — pronounced “chay”), which, as you can imagine, intertwines projects of community health with evangelistic or discipleship teachings. The program was started several years ago but is in need of a little prodding and perhaps some vision. Because the program focuses on community voluntary ownership, little funding or outside involvement will be needed initially. But stay tuned: I anticipate that opportunities for you to get involved will emerge in the future!
For a change, Michael and I will be working in the same place at the same time! We will both live in Gambella, fulfilling our assignments from there. Michael will continue the duties of Regional Liaison for the Horn of Africa. Gambella’s proximity to important cities in Southern Sudan and the news that roads to the border are improving make the location appropriate for his work while allowing me to be immersed full time in Gambella life to learn to understand the gifts and challenges of the area more fully.
Some old problems never seem to change. The Gambella region is home to many of the world’s saddest stories related to malaria, AIDS, high rates of infant and maternal mortality, low rate of education, etc., etc. I am excited to be a part of the CHE program, which focuses on decreasing the sadness and increasing the participation in God’s glorious life. The slow process of change intentionally prepares the community to plant roots deep so that when change comes it is meaningful and lasting.
Having been involved in mission in one way or another for the past 51 years (nearly 52), I have witnessed changes in the way the Western Church goes about it. My early childhood was immersed in the model in which missionaries were sent by a church to tell about Jesus to those who had never heard the Good News. Presbyterian mission has always included elements of social action such as health and education that were at least supervised by outsiders (missionaries) if not carried out by them. Our denomination and others slowly moved to a model of short-term mission team cross-cultural experiences in an effort to connect more personally across cultures. A current trend that I have observed is to work in partnership with God’s people across the miles to bring changes. I invite you to contact me or Michael to find out how you can partner with us and the people of Gambella in a way that will transform the lives of individuals there as well as in your own community. I imagine exciting encounters with God as such partnerships mature.
This season of change will impact our whole family. Though we have lived with all four children in different countries before, for the first time this fall we will be leaving all four of them on one continent while we return to another. Before we leave we will deposit our youngest daughter, Lydia, at Slippery Rock University in Western Pennsylvania and help Thomas and Amira settle into jobs they will acquire following their graduations from airplane mechanics school and industrial design, respectively. Brian will continue working for the U.S. Air Force; he will return from deployment to Qatar about the time we leave for Ethiopia.
Thanks for accompanying us on an adventure to find out what God will do next. Your support of Michael and me through the PC(USA) allows us to continue to be faithful to God’s mission. Please let us know what He is doing in your lives, so we can add our voices of praise with yours.
The 2011 Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, p. 57
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