September 3 – Ethiopian Diary, July-August 2013

Ethiopian Diary, July-August 2013 (some written in real time and some after the fact)

It hardly seems possible that I am back in Addis Ababa, capital of Ethiopia, population six million, for my 5th and 6th months of work (for this year) in this beautiful country.  But I am here, arriving safely after nearly three days of travel.  I left Houston via United Airlines Flt. 6225, heading for Washington Dulles.  After one hour of flying we turned back to Houston (mechanical malfunction; something that wasn’t supposed to get hot was getting really hot!).  This delayed reaching the D.C. area by nearly three hours.  I finally did get to Dulles Airport, where Tip Underwood picked me up; we were soon on our way to a nice dinner, along with Anne (wife), and two of their children, Austin and Meagan (both outstanding young people).  The Underwoods (lots of family and friends connections to this family) were gracious hosts, if even for only a few hours.  I was up early on the 27th for Tip to drop me at the airport.  This time I was flying Ethiopian Airlines (I have flown Ethiopian Air often but only within Africa and Europe) for the fifteen hour trip to Addis.  Crossing the Atlantic was bumpy; soon, though, as we crossed into airspace over Europe, things settled down.  By this time I was so tired it didn’t matter much.

I arrived one hour early on Friday the 28th—local time, 7AM (it is eight hours earlier in Texas).  Since I already have a two year visa it was smooth sailing through passport control.  My heavy bags arrived and I was soon through customs and into the lobby where I called my good friend and taxi driver Tsegaye Mathias.  We were soon heading for Gerji (NE Addis) and for Mesfin’s and Meserat’s, my home away from home for this year.  I unpacked, gathered a few things, and was soon back in the taxi, going here and there (bank, haircut, Internet) and visiting some friends.  It is always good to get here safely and begin the work that I have come to do.

I worshiped on Sunday, June 30th, with the Kotobe congregation (taught two lessons; one from Psalm 119 and one on “The Church:  Universal and Local”).  Their numbers are consistently good; and there are always some new faces.  Zerihun, one of the local preachers, was in the Sidama, Yirgelem region for a week of preaching.  Alemu Deboch, one of the local preachers, translated for me.  Both of these men have fine families; they both are capable and have worked well together for many years.  The Kotobe congregation has consistently received good Bible teaching; their continued faithfulness shows this.

Some of these first few days have been spent resting, planning, and in visits with local preachers.  The Stallings Drive congregation purchased a new computer for Tesfaye Ababe (we also provide part of his support).  Tesfaye works in the SE corner of Addis, where he has established a “house church.”  He is a capable student and translator; he is now finishing translating Basic Bible Doctrines, One/Two, by Robert Harkrider.  We hope to have this book in print by the end of the year.  Tesfaye was happy with the computer; I think in this case, this tool will be wisely used for producing Bible study materials.  Not all Ethiopian preachers are similarly capable, but Tesfaye has a good work ethic and is interested in the latest “gadgets.”  This makes him a good choice for this kind of work.

I am waiting the arrival of Brother Gerry Sandusky, Madison, Indiana, and my grandson, Tanner Warfel, Indianapolis, Indiana.  Gerry has worked here twice before; this will be Tanner’s first trip out of the USA.  They both will teach Bible lessons.  Gerry and I will work with preachers; wherever there are young people to teach, Tanner will have that duty.  He has been studying hard; his aunt, Kathy Walker, has produced some nice teaching aids for Tanner to use; and with a good translator he will do fine (that is true of all who come to teach; a good translator can cover a multitude of errors!).  This will be a great time with Gerry and especially with Tanner, who will turn 16 while he is here with me!  They will arrive Wednesday night, July 3rd.  I have called my SUV driver, Elias, who is standing by to go the airport to meet Gerry and Tanner.  And then our work will really begin!

July 2, 2013

Much of today has been spent on the “cell phone” (something I don’t have or use in the USA).  Here in Ethiopia, though, it is handy and perhaps essential in communicating with preachers who are dispersed throughout Addis and throughout the Ethiopian countryside—areas where I work. The following programs are now developing.

Gerry Sandusky, Tanner Warfel, Henry Ogutu (a preacher from Kenya who is coming), and I will depart for Hosanna on the 8th, making our way some 240k south and slightly west of Addis.  I have been here many times before.  The program this week, though, is the first one I have conducted in nearly two years in the city.  Our regular venue, the Heme Hotel has been closed because of “health” reasons (that is hard to believe!), so we will have our classes at a different meeting place.  We will stay at a new hotel, the Serkalm.  We will have nearly one hundred preachers (regardless of how many you invite there are always some “drop ins”).  Gerry and I will divide the men into two groups, and rotate teaching each group throughout the week.   I am going to teach 1st John; Gerry will teach from Colossians.  Our classes will be for four days; perhaps because of the weather (it is the rainy season) three and one-half days; cutting the final day short makes it easier for these men to get back home.

I have just learned today that Zerihun Kebede will join our group on Friday the 12th.  We will then make our way further south to Arbaminch, six hours from Hosanna.  There is a small but growing congregation in this University City of 70,000.  A few years ago, Wontella, a faithful Christian from Addis, moved to Arbaminch expressly for the purpose of trying to help a group get started.  He has been aided immensely by the efforts of a young man, Haliab, who has taught several students and has worked to provide cohesiveness for this congregation.  Haliab has now graduated (with honors and with the possibility of becoming a university lecturer); he has invited all of us to come and attend; Zerihun will speak at the graduation ceremony.  So, this longer trip south into the hot steamy banana growing region of Ethiopia will be a nice trip.  There are lots of monkeys, and you stand a greater chance of actually seeing a wild animal than in most of the others places we visit; and Arbaminch is known for good hot chili sauce!  This will be my second time to visit here.

We will return to Addis on the 15th after traveling part of the way back toward Addis during the afternoon of the 14th.  On the 16th we will begin three days of teaching at Kotobe.  This is the same type of program that I have conducted twice already this year.  I am going to teach “Great Chapters from the OT.”  I will try to cover Genesis 3, Exodus 20, Leviticus 16, Numbers 22-24, and Deuteronomy 28-30 (I know, I know, you are saying:  Why did he choose those chapters?  Well, come over and attend the classes and you will see!).

These trips and teaching opportunities will be action packed with travel, endless questions, new sights and sounds, and I pray, will be conducted without incident.  This is my 19th visit to Ethiopia.  Being here is perpetually new and exciting, with only a few “down” times.  Staying busy makes everything better, especially being away from home and loved ones for extended periods.  And there will be lots of people interested in the gospel; how can we not go and try to help.


July 3rd and 4th, 2013

Tesgaye, rather than Elias, picked me at 11:30PM for the short ride (made easier at this time of night) to Bole Airport.  Arriving early, I waited forty-five minutes for Gerry Sandusky and my grandson, Tanner Warfel, to emerge from baggage claim.  They negotiated visa, passport, luggage, and customs controls easily.  I was especially glad to see these two safe and sound after the rigors of nearly twenty-four hours of travel!  We quickly proceeded to my house in Gerji to get a few hours of sleep.

Gerry and I were up at 7AM to return to Bole Airport to pick Henry Ogutu, preacher from Kenya, who is joining us for most of our time here.  Henry and Gerry along with Gerry’s son, Matt, worked together in Kenya some twelve years ago.  These two old friends were glad to reunite.  We then spent the morning locating a guest house for Henry, getting some breakfast, and some shopping (shero, teff, blanket, knife—all purchased at the large Sholla market, located in the northern part of Addis).  We rested some, but soon departed to meet Zerihun in order to make plans for our teaching sessions next week in the countryside, Hidiya region (Too ma fa yo wa).

July 5th, 2013

We spent this day visiting with Tesfaye Abate at a local restaurant.  He was eager to meet the visitors from the US and from Kenya.  After a little shopping, Gerry, Henry, Tanner, and I visited the National Museum.  This museum houses the bones of “Lucy,” the famous archaeological discovery that is known world-wide.  Actually “Lucy” has been traveling in the US; only recently did she find her way back to Ethiopia.  I saw “Lucy” a few years ago; then, she was said to be 163 million years old.  This time, though, she was only 3.2 million years old.  I guess this means evolution is constantly evolving.  Other artifacts included clothing, crowns, thrones, etc., from emperors past, as well as relics from earlier years of Ethiopian civilization.  There is much history from the time of Haile Selassie.  This was a nice time for these visitors (I’ve been here before).

After depositing Henry back at his guest house, the three of us stopped by a local hotel where Wi-Fi was available.  We were able to Skype with folks back home and send a few emails.  It was a good day, enjoyed by all.

July 6th, 2013

Today was spent in the home of Doyomo and Almaz Donka.  A large crowd had gathered to celebrate with their oldest son, Beminet, who graduated from Addis Ababa University with a degree in accounting.  There was lots of Ethiopian food—kitfol (raw beef), tibs, spaghetti, vegetables, cheese, spinach, teff, dabo, and Ethiopian dabo (bread).  It was a great feast.  Tanner is staying well even as he enjoys sampling these foods.  There were lots of folks attending that I have known in the past.  It was a wonderful day of happiness for this young man and his family.

Tanner is preparing to teach the young people at the Kotobe congregation tomorrow.  We have been going over his lesson on Daniel in the lions den.  He had already studied hard before arriving; I am sure he will do well; I am proud of him for making this effort to teach.  I had told him all along that when he came he would have to do some teaching.  Now it is time.

July 7th, 2013

Today is Sunday.  Gerry and Henry went early this AM to Kara, located in the NE section of Addis.  They will preach and teach at the congregation here.  Wubishet, faithful gospel preacher, is especially glad for Henry to be here because some years ago, Wub attended some kind of Bible College in Nairobi. After their services Wub and his lovely wife Bercot, will host these men for a delicious lunch of shero (the best I have ever had in Ethiopia!).  Tanner and I will worship with the Kotobe congregation; they too, are located in the NE quadrant of Addis.

Now, writing after the fact, Tanner and I enjoyed being at Kotobe.  Tanner taught a class of young people, using his prepared lessons from the book of Daniel.  I taught the adult class, teaching a lesson on “Good Examples” from Philippians two (Christ, Paul, Timothy, Epaphroditus).  I preached from Philippians three, “Pressing On.”  I think the kids and Zerihun, who translated for Tanner, enjoyed and appreciated his work.  I am glad for Tanner to be with me and for him to get this kind of teaching experience.

Tanner and I enjoyed a nice lunch at a local sandwich shop.  Tanner, so far at least, has not suffered any ill effects from new and strange cuisine.   For that I am thankful.  We will spend the rest of the day getting ready to leave in the AM for Hosanna and a week of preacher training.

July 8th, 2013

The temperature is quite mild this time of year because this is the rainy season (July-August).  It rains at least every other day in Addis.  The temperature hovers around 60 degrees F.  We are up early this morning, getting ready to leave for the Ethiopian Highlands, and Hosanna town.  This begins our eight day trip to environs south of Addis, into Hidiya country.  Gerry, Henry, Tanner, and I will make the trip with Elias, my trusted friend and SUV driver.  Now (after the fact), we all left at 9AM and made our way through the crowded streets of Addis.  The government is constructing a N-S, E-W railway system.  While this will be nice when finished, logjams are everywhere.  We did finally get to the south side of Addis, where we got the oil changed in our vehicle.  We bought needed water and were finally on our way onto the Sabata road, heading toward Butajira, 100k, our first stop.

Traveling Ethiopian roads is interesting.  An alert driver has to constantly dodge people, cattle, children, dogs, horse drawn taxis, bajajs, and an occasional camel.  You can see a dead hyena sometimes, and auto wrecks dot the landscape.  Public transportation is the most common mode of travel for most Ethiopians (thankfully not everyone owns a car—the chaos would be, well, more chaos).  Buses, mini-buses, and private transport, are all loaded with wares that people are taking out of Addis.  When these vehicles return they are heavy laden with food stuffs, charcoal, teff, furniture, etc.  This makes these vehicles top heavy.  So, there are many, many wrecks.  One of the popular trucks is called an Al-Qaida, because of its suicide tendencies!  Elias, though, is a capable driver.  We made the first leg of the trip in fine fashion.  We stopped at the Redeit Hotel in Butajira for lunch and fuel.  We soon left for Hosanna, a city of some 50,000 (?). I might add that internal improvements are abundant in Ethiopia.  On my first trip here in 2001, I do not recall seeing anyone from China.  Now, Chinese are all over Ethiopia.  Here they are building roads.  I might say that the roads are already being repaired.  The thin veneer of asphalt just does not hold up to the constant heavy traffic of this expanding economy (I think the Chinese are better at building walls than they are at building roads).

Hosanna is 240k south of Addis.  We arrived after a trip of nearly seven hours.  While this is a long time for such a distance, you have read about delays, food stops, gas stops, etc.  Sometimes because of the crowded roads, you can only drive 30-40 miles per hour.  We are thankful for a safe trip.  We checked into the Serkalm.  The rooms cost 20USD per night—a nice room at bargain price!  The down side is that there is not a restaurant in this new facility.  We are able to eat most of our meals across the street at the Lemma International Hotel (International is stretching it a bit); this is a place we have stayed many times before.  Typical of Ethiopia, nearly every establishment of any kind, if it has some age to it, is in a bad state of repair.  Light blubs are not replaced; tiles are not reset; broken shower knobs remain broken.  I thought that with some competition, the Lemma might make some needed changes—but not yet!  Anyway, all is well.  We are glad to be here and we are excited to work with nearly 100 preachers in our study sessions this week.

July 9th, 2013  (we spent July 8-11 in Hosanna)

In previous teaching sessions in Hosanna, we always met in a nice, large room in the Heme Hotel.  This year the brethren in Hosanna were able to locate a room near the Heme; this meeting place is owned by a local businessman.  The price is fair, there are seats for 100 men, and refreshments are available (shia/tea, bunna/coffee, and milk, and kolo/similar to “trail mix”).

After a discussion about the bad weather (it rained every day and was quite chilly) we decided to teach three days only.  Pragmatically, this allowed these men to return home sooner than planned.  Countryside travel is difficult anyway; the men have to plan ahead of time to catch local transport back to their various towns and villages.

We began each morning at 9AM.  My grandson Tanner, gave a short devotional talk in front of these preachers each day.  I was quite proud of him (“pardonable pride?”).  He is able to speak comfortably before people; his lessons were helpful (or, so said the gracious preachers who listened intently).  I think these opportunities are so important for him in his development as a young Christian.

Changing my subjects, I taught lessons about the work of the Holy Spirit and other related issues.  There are so many Pentecostal and Full-Gospel churches throughout this area that these lessons had particular application for teaching.  Gerry taught lessons from the book of Colossians.  His inimitable style endears this humble, talented brother to all who have contact with him.

Of course we entertained many questions relating to the materials we presented; and there were many other questions “not on point.”  Most of the men in our classes were capable, seasoned preachers; a few new preachers came from the Dewaro region, which is located south of Hosanna by several hours.  This is the area where Demeke, veteran preacher, is doing lots of good work; he recently baptized 34 people in the course of his visits to this relatively new area.  Actually, the work in Dewaro began, at least in part, because of the governmental relocation of several people—in this case, several of whom are Christians.  The government relocates people for political reasons; sometimes for economic reasons.  At any rate, Demeke is tried and true for the gospel.  I have traveled with him many times; I am scheduled to return for the third time to Dewaro this next October.

As always, sandwiched between teaching sessions are countless personal conversations and visits.  It is a joy to be associated with such dedicated men.  Most of these men I have known for thirteen years now.  I have visited their congregations, been in their homes, and have seen first-hand their dedication to their work.  I only wish I had more time to spend in Hidiya.

Another highlight of this trip was July 11th, Tanner’s birthday!  He turned 16 in Ethiopia!  The gracious hotel manager and his family hosted a party for Tanner.  It was complete with cake, candles, cokes, candy, and a large Ethiopian dabo (bread) which had been baked by the manager’s wife.  It was a happy time for the many who gathered to help Tanner celebrate.  I took lots of pics so folks back home will have some idea of the festivities.

The week was a good one.  We are thankful for the opportunities to work in the kingdom; we pray our work is helpful; we are thankful for all our brethren—in Ethiopia and in the USA!

July 12th, 2013

Zerihun arrived late on the 11th.  We were all up early to begin making our way 300k south of Hosanna to Arbaminch.  The purpose of this visit (my second time there) was to attend the graduation ceremonies of six graduating students—all of whom are Christians.  The trip south took us out of the Highlands areas of Ethiopia and into the Great Rift Valley, toward Kenya.  You can notice easily the change in temperature as you journey southward.  There continued to be lots of rain and fog for much of this trip.  We stopped in Sodo at a cultural restaurant (good tibs and shero).  We were soon on the road again, traversing the roads that were full of animals, people, and pot holes (which is why you can’t drive at night).

We arrived late afternoon and got situated in our hotel.  Because this was graduation weekend the best and only viable hotel was full; we were placed in a hotel that had no water.  Buckets of water were provided to take care of necessities.  The mosquitoes were all around, but didn’t seem to bother with Tanner or me.  Mosquito nets hung over the bed, but these can prove to be rather taxing, especially in a hot hotel room with no water.  Anyway, we made it fine; it was the same for all.

We refreshed for a bit and then went to the home of Brother Wontella (mentioned earlier).  He has a fine family and has opened all of his resources to the gospel.  A young man, Halaib, who came to the university, has been quite active in teaching other young people.  He has helped provide motivation and encouragement for this young group.  We were invited to attend the graduation ceremonies; our greater purpose in response to their invitation was to come and give Bible lessons to these young people on the event of their departure from university.  How encouraging that these young Christians have the gospel as their focus.  That is why we went to Arbaminch.

We taught Friday afternoon, Saturday afternoon, and worshiped with the group on Sunday.  Gerry and I did the teaching; Gerry taught from Ecclesiastes; I taught lessons from the life of Timothy.  On Saturday we presented the graduates with a Bible and included a small $ gift as well.  All seemed pleased with our visit.  Wontella’s family (wife and girls) provided a great feast of cultural food Saturday afternoon!

After worship Sunday we made the long, arduous trip back to Addis.  This took 9 hours; Elias drove fast!  This was better, though, than spending another night on the road.

July 15th, 2013

This day was spent getting a haircut, using the Internet, going to the laundry, and eating at one of my favorite haunts.  I have continued to try to expose Tanner to as much Ethiopian culture as possible.  He continues to do well in this exciting but demanding “third world” country.  I am proud of him.

July 16th, 17th, 18th, 2013

These three days were spent teaching 25 men at the Kotobe congregation.  This group included mainly preachers, but other students came too.  Each time I have been here, I have spent 2 weeks teaching at Kotobe, 1 week the first month and 1 week the second month.  I am teaching this time “Great Chapters in the OT.”  Gerry, by request, is teaching Ecclesiastes.  These men are seasoned students and work hard in their respective congregations.

These classes went well.  As I always do, I provided 40USD to feed these men a nice lunch on the last day of class.  The workers at the Kotobe congregation fixed traditional food; all enjoyed the feast; I especially enjoyed the shero.

The 18th was somewhat sad for me because I had to say goodbye to Gerry, Henry, and Tanner.   Elias and I dropped them at the Bole Airport where they all caught late night flights back home.  I was glad to hear that they all arrived safely.  They did good work and it was great to be with Tanner!  He wants to come back; if possible, Papaw will make it happen!

July 19th and 20th

         These days were spent “regrouping.”  I had several personal items to take care of that I put aside while my visitors were here.  Internet, laundry, personal visits, some relaxation, and a visit to a favorite pizza house were items on my list.  I am making plans to leave Addis at the end of this week to work in Adama/Nazaret for a few days.  Ansake and Maru, preachers in these areas are calling to see when I am coming.  Soon!

July 21st

I worshiped with the Sefera congregation this AM.  Mesfin, Sedeka, and Tagasse all work here.  There have been 4 baptisms here in the last 2 weeks.  Sedeka especially is a hard worker in bringing others to the Lord.  One man and his wife were former 7th Day Adventists.  This young man was quite active in listening and taking notes.  I preached from Ephesians 4:11-16 and Ephesians 5:14-21.  All seemed to appreciate the lessons. (there was another baptism at Sefera on July 28th).

The sun is shining now.  What a relief from so much rain.  I will leave my house in a few hours to attend a party celebration for some folks I know “outside of the church.”  I will bring pizza and there will be lots of others goodies to sample.  The day is good!

July 22nd through the 24th

These days were spent studying and visiting with preachers and other folks here in Addis.  Zerihun (with whom I visit as often as I can) and I had a good meeting on the 22nd at my favorite coffee shop, Kaldis’s.  We discussed elements of his work and elements of my work.  I am always glad for the feedback he gives.  Zerihun is at the top of all Ethiopian preachers as far as I am concerned.  I have never seen any hint of jealousy or ambition on his part.  He is always working, harder than most, and is called on so often, that he simply cannot meet all of the demands placed on him.  His wife Martha is a wonderful lady; she is completely supportive of their mutual work; they make a great team.

One thing we discussed was the need for some good tracts to hand out to people; especially are we interested to hand out good materials to folks here in Addis.  I have tried to meet as many people as I can here in Addis.  People are friendly and almost always receptive to any overture about religion.  For example, I have made friends with a local dentist (no I am NOT going to the dentist over here!) and his family.  He has a lovely wife and one son; sadly their small daughter died a few years ago from some kind of heart disease.  Anyway, I recently visited in their home and while there, taught a Bible lesson from Luke 16.  The subject of the afterlife came up, so I used that text to present some points about the rich man, Lazarus, etc.—points all of you know well, I am sure.  We also discussed Mary, the mother of Jesus, as the mediator—a big point in the Orthodox Church.  I am just using this as an illustration of my interest in the gospel here in Ethiopia.  While there are many baptisms and much growth of congregations in the Ethiopian countryside, in Addis it is much slower. With a population of six million, Addis is becoming more and more “Westernized” (not a good thing in many respects), and the people have many other interests besides religion.  True, the Ethiopian Orthodox Church drives most of the interest in religion; still, you are fighting against tradition, ignorance, and prejudice.  I have taken a few “field trips” to Orthodox churches.  It is quite interesting to see people make the sign of the cross, bow down before graven images, and kiss anything that might be connected to the “church building” (dirty rain gutters come to mind).  So, there is a need to reach out to all who will listen.

To this end, Z and I discussed the need to keep in print the tracts he has written.  These include New Testament Christianity, the NT Church Versus Denominationalism, and the OT and the NT.  There is a need for tracts on miracles, the Bible, and the Bible contrasted with the Book of Mormon, the Koran, and the Orthodox Church.  Z thinks that rather than simply translating tracts written by Americans, it is better for someone for Ethiopians to put these materials into the language people here can understand; cultural nuances are things you need to be aware of when doing this kind of work.  With a little help from my friends, we can put these materials into usable form and in print.

Another part of this meeting was a discussion of my work in areas such as Kambatta, Hidiya, and Sidamo.  I have been to these areas often, traveling far and wide.  I have conducted preacher training classes, general meetings for large groups in a particular area, and have conducted training classes for preachers who might come to a particular countryside village.  I have stayed with people in their grass huts.  Sometimes, though, I will stay in a nearby town in a local hotel.

Most of the Americans who come here have also taught often in these areas.  The Kambatta and Hidiya areas have received more training and emphasis than any other.  This is true because when Americans first started coming here to teach, these were the areas opened to us.  You can see the fruit of such good work from men such as Bob Owen, Steve Patton, Melvin Curry, David Holder and others (I know I am leaving some out–sorry).  Two things:  these areas are still in need of teaching and support; and I am not saying that someone should not continue to go to these areas.

I am saying that because I am here for a longer time I am going to try to give more emphasis to the Oromio region, and especially work in the city of Nekempt, a city of some 250,000.  Oromio is the largest of all regions in Ethiopia, stretching from the Sudan all the way to areas located only one hour south of Addis.  Oromio is dominated, surprisingly, not by the Orthodox Church or by Islam, but by denominationalism.  For that reason, when teaching here you do not face the same obstacles as in Addis.  Rather, you are confronted with people who most of the time actually want to discuss what the Bible says, rather than what “the church” says, or what “tradition” says.  Bedassa, preacher from Birayu (on west side of Addis and in the Oromio region), is from Oromio, and has done some of the good initial work in this area; he has worked not only in Nekempt, but in surrounding areas.  Several denominational preachers have been converted and since then have been preaching and helping to establish congregations.  I made a trip to Nekempt (eight hours due west of Addis) along with Bedassa, back in February.

Zerihun has an interest in working in Oromio.  Because of this main reason, I have decided to do what little I can to help in this area.  Bedassa is a young, capable worker.  But this work can use the wisdom and guidance of someone such as “Big Z.”  So, we are planning to travel to Nekempt within the next three weeks.

Another aspect of my being here has included some work with some of the younger Christians who are scattered throughout Ethiopia in several different universities.  You might want to stay in your hometown and go to college.  But the government assigns you to the college of its choice, not yours.  There are at least twenty-one different universities (out of thirty-six) that have young Christians in them.  As mentioned earlier, we went to the graduation ceremony of six young men who graduated from Arbaminch University.  As we are able to identify other students we will try to encourage these young people in their efforts to serve the Lord.  The new but “well on its way” congregation in Arbaminch is testimony to what can be done by those who are young in years, but rich in faith.


July 28th, 2013

         This Lord’s Day I worshiped with the “house church” that meets in the home of Abebe Kelbisow.  Abebe along with his wife, six daughters and one son, host this congregation. There were about fifteen gathered this Lord’s Day.  Their number has been greater in the past.  I always enjoy being with these folks.  I must say that they sustain a good, solid work, even if the numbers are low.  There is advantage to meeting in a house; it is there; the government cannot take it away (theoretically); and there is no “church house rent” to pay.  I preached twice from Colossians.  I talked about those mentioned in chapter four (these are real people I said, just like we are); and I preached from Colossians 3:1-11 (Seek, Set, Sever, Sanctify [there is your sermon for Sunday]).  In spite of the downpours and muddy conditions it was a good day.  In the afternoon I enjoyed visiting with friends; we had good shero and tibs and Ethiopian dabo!  It was a good day!

July 29th-August 2, 2013

I do miss being away from my library and books, etc.  Finding some quite time is rather hard in the area I live in.  This is Ramadan; there is a mosque within a stone’s throw of my window; and particularly at this time, the local muezzin, the holy man, calls the faithful to prayer five times a day.  But I have done some reading and planning of lessons, as I get ready to depart for the countryside again.  It is handy to have a computer loaded with good materials.

I spent one day visiting with Tesfaye Ababte.  Tesfaye is almost finished translating Basic Bible Doctrines, One and Two, by Robert Harkrider (with permission).  Tesfaye is using the Geez program, which translates English into Amharic or some semblance thereof.   He has done lots of good work on the charts.  As I said before, this kind of work is in Tesfaye’s area of interest and expertise.  I hope to be able to bring home next time the translations to present to Brother Harkrider.

I spent one day with Wubishet, wife Bercot (sometimes spelled Berkot), and their three boys, Mekhike, Raey, and Zetset.  Wub is doing a great job with the Kara congregation.  Too, he is branching out northward from Kara to an area called Sendofa.  There is a brand new congregation here; in time I hope to help as needed.  Spending time with Wub and his family is pleasant for lots of reasons.  Wubishet is quite independent in his thinking and work; this is a holdover from time spent with the “mission” here in Ethiopia.  He works under some physical restraint (he is a severe diabetic); but continues in a good way.  We have traveled together often, and will do so again, I am sure.  Berket makes the best “shero” (a pea like, hummus like paste, mixed with oil, garlic, hot peppers!) of all that I eat here in Ethiopia.  Add the shero to good, fresh enjera, and your mouth is watering!  I am really suffering here in Ethiopia, don’t you think!

I spent a day with Temesgen, preacher for the Bole congregation here in Addis.  I spent two days in his house in the countryside last year (Ansho), where we had a large gathering of young people.  Temesgen decided to leave government work, move to Addis, and to work with the Bole congregation.  Bole has a long history, not to be repeated here.  This church was the first to welcome Americans who started coming in 1999.  The director of the Bole mission at that time was Abebe Kelbisow; I will always be grateful for the entre he provided.  Temesgen has some issues to work out; he is capable and has a beautiful family.  His brother, Johannes, preacher in countryside village of Moloto, is head and shoulders above all the rest in ability with reading and teaching the Bible.

I hope these personal visits provide some encouragement to these men.  They are doing the real gospel work here in Ethiopia.  Not surprisingly, some are better at some things than are others; they all have strengths and weaknesses; still, there is room in the kingdom for all.

August 4th, 2013

This Lord’s Day I worshiped with the Megenagna congregation this AM.  I preached/taught a lesson on what it means to be the Ecclesia, addressing a constant concern here in Ethiopia—the lack of church buildings.  This group meets in an adequate school house, sufficient for all their needs, right now anyway.  They say, “Our culture says we are not a church if we don’t have a building.”  Sound familiar?   I made the same points any of you would make about what the church is (spiritual relationship, etc).  Then I taught a lesson from Philippians 3:17-21, emphasizing each point from each verse.  This group is led by Adise Garebo.  Adise grew up at Bole, and since, has been successful in pursuing a good education; he has worked in “school work” for several years.  Their numbers are increasing slowly.  There are two other good workers in this church.  I see consistency in those who attend; the same people are showing up over and over.

I am home now packing for a long trip to Wolega/Nekempt, eight house west of Addis.  More later.

August 5-8, 2013

These days were spent in Nekempt, Oromio region.  I traveled to and fro (a trip of 8 hours) in the company of Zerihun and Bedassa (mentioned already). This is my second trip to Nekempt.  Elias drove.

We were able to stay in a brand new hotel, the Ijoo International.  The rooms were cheap—12.50 per night for each room.  We rented the hotel conference hall for two days; here we had 60 students, church members, preachers, etc., from at least 5 different congregations.  Rather than try to visit each congregation it is better to let these folks come to us.  We had all day sessions of teaching, accompanied with many questions.  I taught lessons about the church/the kingdom.  Zerihun taught about the distinction between the Old Law and the Gospel.  We answered such questions as:  If God is in control, why is there so much evil in the world; How much power does the devil have?; If Christians are in the spiritual kingdom of God, can a Christian participate in civil government?; are children born with Adamic sin?  These folks from denominational backgrounds seem to have more Bible knowledge and a little more grounding than others.

Many questions were practical in nature.  How do we establish a local church?  How do we get Bibles?  How can we get teaching materials?  Some questions related to Ethiopian culture.  “Our neighbors expect us to chip in and buy with them a local burial plot; you can’t be a church without doing this.”  “We have to have a church building.”  “We need someone to coordinate our activities.”  We tried to address all of these concerns as best we could.  All in all it was a good trip; I imagine that I will return there often.

Sunday August 11th, 2013

This Lord’s Day was spent with the Kara congregation, located in the NE section of Addis.  Wubishet, about whom I have written often, continues to do a good work with this church and in this area.  There were two baptisms last week at Kara.  And there always seems to be new faces each time I visit.  I preached twice from Colossians.  The brethren are always gracious and receiving.  I declined dinner at Wubishet and Bercot’s house; the temptation for good shero was great, but I had other appointments.

Tuesday through Thursday, August 13, 14, 15

These days found me back at Kotobe for the second round of studies from Great Chapters in the OT.  I always enjoy this group of men.  I have traveled with many of them.  They are good students.  I taught from Leviticus 16, Jeremiah 31, and from Haggai.  I hope some exposure to these OT studies will help provide background material for these teachers as they continue to grow and further instruct their respective congregations.

August 16th-18th, 2013

         These days were spent in Awassa/Sidama region.  There are lots of good churches and solid preachers in this area. Doyomo Donka is from Sidama and travels here often to work.  Preachers such as Philipos, Tesgaye, Fatimo, and many others are teaching and baptizing many people.  This area too, is nice for relaxation.  There are some nice, cheap hotels; and the food is good here too.  There is a one popular Italian restaurant that I frequent; the owner is from South America, his wife is Ethiopian.  But we both have enough interest in Italy, that we enjoy visiting with each other.

My time is winding down for this trip.  I will make personal visits and perhaps return to Nazaret for one more day of teaching.  Then there will be some personal evaluations of my recent work.  For this, I will enlist the aid of my good friend Zerihun.

August 20th-23, 2013

During these days I have enjoyed some down time.  I have used this time to get ready to preach and teach for the month I will be home back in Nacogdoches, resuming my work with the good Stallings Drive congregation.  I have also had personal visits with Tesfaye Abate regarding his continuing translation work, with Wubishet, and with some Americans who have moved to Addis for work of some kind.  It will be good to get back home to friends and family.

Bob and Scott Owen arrived early on the 20th and will stay fifteen days.  Most of their work will be in the Ethiopian Highlands.  Bob is especially appreciated here among brethren.  His first trip was in 1999 and he has visited every year since then.  Scott’s work too, is appreciated, judging from the good comments I have heard.  I made the decision not to intrude into the visits of other Americans when they come.  They have their work they need to do; I am here a lot of the time anyway.  Of course I will do anything I can to help in anyway needed.  My good friend Ken Marrs (and frequent fellow traveler—Russia, Italy, Ethiopia) will be here in November; we will work together for a week then.   In fact, as it has unfolded, my next three stints here in Ethiopia are basically planned.  Although I have done so a few times, jumping up at the last minute in order to come over here and work is not a good idea for anyone.  So, advice notice and planning is appreciated; this especially helps the Ethiopians who travel with us plan their work out of Addis.

THE END:  As I make my final entry for these past two months, I am thinking of what I thought was, at the time at least, the ultimate compliment.  Someone said the other day, “Randy, you are habesha.”  Habesha means Ethiopian.  So this person was saying that I had become like the Ethiopians.  It is true that I enjoy being here.  And I have partaken of many aspects of this unique culture (food, habits [eating with fingers], music, end less delays, days without a shower, limited electricity, etc).  I have tried to learned enough of the language that I can at least greet people (the Ethiopians appreciate this; I hope they are laughing with me and not at me)!  I have learned to count to 100 in Amharic.  I have fared well, so far; except for missing family and friends and fajitas, I am OK.

I then thought, how much better if everyone was a Christian.  Not an Ethiopian Christian or an American Christian, but simply a Christian.  Isn’t that the reason I am here?  But, isn’t that the reason you are where you are?  Let us press on.