Uncomfortable

In my office…

Lest anyone should think we are living a comfortable life, I assure you, we are not.  This life is full of experiences that are anything but comfortable.

For example:

In the building where we have an “office”, there is no toilet.  There is a squatty potty, but I don’t know how to use them.   I don’t particularly want to learn.  The nearest toilet available to us is a 5 minute walk away.  Great, unless there’s an emergency and then the walk to get there isn’t all that comfortable either.  There is lots of mud, streams of some ungodly substance (smells like raw sewage—you guess) and oil from an auto fix-it shop.  UNCOMFORTABLE.

Our desks are in an office space with two other people.  We don’t mind, but it is UNCOMFORTABLE.  Know that feeling you get when/if you ever get a pedicure at a salon and the workers don’t speak English and they all start talking, looking at you and then giggling?  Yeah we kind of have that feeling the entire time we are there, every single day, sitting across from these sweet people who speak a language we don’t know well enough to know all of what they are saying.  In my heart, I know that they are not talking about us (most of the time), but my head keeps me guessing.  No one chooses to speak English here.  I know, we’re in another country, this is expected, but it is uncomfortable, nonetheless.  When we are teaching at the Bible college, everyone speaks English.  Here, not so much.  It’s just us.  It’s not that they can’t, but they don’t have to and they shouldn’t have to, I’m not suggesting they should, but it is still UNCOMFORTABLE.

I have been asked to teach English in two different forms here.  One, to the adults that we work “with”.  The class is every M/W/F from 11:30-12:30 and I readily agreed to teach it, though teaching English is certainly not my passion.  I saw it as a “way in” to this organization.  Trying to become welcomed members has been anything but…comfortable, easy, fun, etc…  I am always well prepared and in the room by 11:25.  Though I need a white board to teach, it is never there.  I don’t know where it is stored because we have never been given a tour of the complex and no one would let me carry it in even if I did find it.  So, I have to ask for it every single day and send someone else to retrieve it and carry it in, surrendering all of my independence.  Though I need students to teach to, they are never there on time.  Around 11:35, someone will poke their head in, notice no one is there and start rounding people up.  Around 11:40, I have 2 students.  Around 11:45, another 2.  By 12:15, they’re all there.  Yep, class is done at 12:30 and I do not dare keep them a second late.  This is cultural.  By their own definition, it is still rude and inconsiderate, but they do it anyway.  UNCOMFORTABLE.

I also teach children that attend the school on the compound.  There are 16-26 kids in each of the three classrooms where I teach.  There is no teacher in any of the three classrooms during the period of time during which I teach.  The kids are unruly.  The walls are paper thin.  I have to shout the entire 45 minutes that I teach.  UNCOMFORTABLE.

Now, please understand that I am not whining and I am not asking anyone to fix this.  There is no promise in the scriptures that we will be comfortable all of our lives.  In fact, I believe the Bible is fairly clear that life will not be easy, it will be a challenge, there will be many uncomfortable moments, but what awaits us on the other side is worth the journey and the trouble.  I am simply stating what life is like here.  Sometimes, we post pictures of moments that appear comfortable.  Even those are full of lies, or rather half truths and something very uncomfortable was going on at the same moment the happy picture was being taken.  Shoot, sometimes just taking the picture feels really uncomfortable.  Sometimes, we talk about short trips we’ve taken with our family.  Those are more about survival of our mental capacities than enjoying life.  Some days, the frustrations we experience from living in a different, sooooooo very different, culture mount to nearly unbearable amounts and we have to escape to survive.  Literally.  Yes, I do mean, literally.

Still, we are doing well.  I don’t look forward to going in to the office, this is true.  I pray, daily, that it will change and turn around somehow.  We are doing all we know how to do to help make that change, but we are only a small part of the equation.  This journey is definitely stretching and growing us as individuals, a couple and a family.  Here’s hoping we are having an impact on those we come into contact with along the way!

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Meskel

Meskel…we thoroughly enjoyed celebrating this holiday with friends! Beautiful little Meskel flowers were being picked by people all day Wed and Thurs. I had two huge bundles dropped off at my house on Thurs. We were also invited to three different fires in our neighborhood by different neighbors. About 8pm on Thurs night was when all the fun started. Fires were lit, music was played, people gathered. Kids danced around a fire chanting the name of the person who started it and clapping. It was quite charming. Around the corner from our house, the neighborhood had planned quite the Meskel party. There was music booming, a large fire that remained lit for quite a few hours and food for all. It was kind of like a BBQ, but with Ethiopian food. We were treated as neighbors and eagerly invited to join in on the celebration. We had plates of food, bottles of Coca and a great time! We stayed out WAY too late, but it truly was a wonderful night spent with our neighbors. Friday was truly Meskel, but this is also a fasting day for the Orthodox, so the meal takes place on Thursday night. Friday, shops were closed. In the evening, neighbors gathered again around smaller fires and danced and listened to music. We gave up and went to bed around 10pm and the music was still going strong long after that.

The Meskel holiday is all about the cross of Jesus. Years ago, a ruler here lit a fire (this is why they still light fires) and prayed. The ashes from the fire flew up into the sky and landed in a particular spot. When they dug there, they discovered a large piece of wood, believed to be part of the cross of Jesus. Now, they light these fires with a cross on top and the direction the cross falls (north, south, east, west) predicts what the next year will bring–health, wealth, war or famine (in no particular order because I do not have any idea which direction means which prediction). Some have compared it to our groundhog day, but clearly the holiday has MUCH more meaning to Ethiopians, especially the Orthodox. Only Mslm families do not celebrate the holiday, though. It has become more about the tradition than the meaning for many Ethiopians (non-Orthodox especially), from what I am told.

I will try to attach a few pics. One of the fire with the cross on top before it was lit. One of the fire burning, which my husband and kiddos got to help light, one of the Meskel flowers. Our favorite thing about the holiday was the reception of our neighbors to us. Clearly, we don’t fit, but they don’t care and welcomed us anyway. About a half dozen wanted to make sure we knew what the holiday was about, but that was the only way we were treated any differently than anyone else. It was a wonderful night!

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My students

I have just finished teaching a 5 week, 2 part course at the Bible college.  The first part was to help incoming students pass the English exam required to attend the school.  For that part, I had help, LOTS of help.  In fact, I was more of the assistant.  I don’t remember the English rules…past participle, present perfect, etc…  So, an Ethiopian taught that part.  Talk about feeling dumb. 🙂  The second part of the class was all me.  It was just conversational English.  The point was to get the students talking.  This part of the class was fun.  Some of the assignments were writing assignments, but most were oral presentations.  I learned a lot about the incoming students through these two classes and I was reassured that teaching at a Bible college, even just teaching English, is a mission field.

A little background…the government here requires all accredited college courses to be taught in English.  Kids are instructed in English from an early age, but they are rarely encouraged to speak English.  So, they can understand most of what is read by them, some of what is spoken to them, but most are quite uncomfortable speaking themselves.  If you want a college degree, you need to understand most of what is spoken to you and be able to speak confidently.  So, the purpose of the courses I just taught was to gauge their English comprehension and understanding and to get them talking more confidently.  Over the five weeks, I believe this goal was accomplished.

Through the process, I heard some amazing stories of what these students have been through and what they hope to accomplish for the Kingdom.  Being a part of training them leaves me feeling very blessed.  They are an amazing group with loads of potential to take the Gospel further than I could ever take it myself, so I definitely see the value of teaching in the Bible college and it is an honor to be a part of their process.

Here are some of the things I learned about the incoming students.  Some of them just amaze me.

“I came to know Jesus as my Savior at the age of 14.  I started serving the Lord at age 15 because my family did not want me to serve the Lord.  They forced me to leave their home.”

This man went on to become a missionary to unreached people groups in Ethiopia and this is some of what he experienced:

“Challenges being faced in the course of my ministry:  shortages of money, being beaten by persecutors, stigmatization, going without food for days, jailed and taken to court, threatened by the authorities.  With all this, God has given me His grace and mercy.  I am victorious and happy to serve God.  I give praise to the Lord Jesus.”

Another of my students was in jail for 3 years for killing a man in a fight.  He met God in a very real way and has such a sweet spirit that it is difficult to imagine him any other way.  He will do great things for God.

Comments about the Orthodox church:

  • I had no hope.
  • I heard about the resurrection of Jesus for the first time at the age of 30.
  • I was not delivered from my evil spirit in my church.

Every day life is tough here, folks.  Ethiopians face challenges that we can only begin to imagine.  Ethiopia is called a Christian nation, but the Orthodox church is about as far from true Christianity as you can get (for the most part).  People don’t know the truth.  If we can have a small part in training up another generation of Gospel preaching, spirit filled pastors and missionaries, it is we who are blessed by this.  And, their willingness to follow wherever God leads is refreshing.  I pray for them, please join me, that God will lead and that they will follow to the ends of the Earth, going places I can’t even access to teach people who have never heard the Gospel about a God who loves them and offers hope.

To all our supporters, you have a hand in this, too.  God is using your generosity of finances and/or time spent in prayer to keep us here and sustain us.  Without you, we could not do this thing that God has called us to do.  Thank you for your support!

 

 

Emotional roller coaster?

People like to refer to events that have many ups and downs as emotional roller coasters.  I have even done this from time to time, especially in regards to our adoption.  I have been wondering if one could accurately describe missions work as an emotional roller coaster.  In my opinion, that’s a “no”.  See, the problem is, I like roller coasters.  They are fun.  I like the ups, I really like the downs.  I even like it when you go into a dark tunnel and don’t know which one is coming.  Roller coasters are fun (for me).  Now, if you don’t like them, I can see how you could equate emotionally unstable events in your life to a roller coaster, but I do like them, so the analogy just doesn’t work for my brain–at least not for an experience as long term as this one.

I would refer to this experience as something closer to a horror flick.  I do not like horror stories.  I do not watch them anymore.  When I used to, I couldn’t sleep at night.  So, I choose to avoid them.  From my younger years, I know that there are funny parts, there are parts that make you go, “awwww”, and then WHAM! there is a bad part.  Totally unexpected (in good horror films), someone/something pops up to ruin the day and the character is left running for their life in sheer terror.  Yes, I believe this is a more accurate description of missions work.  There are funny parts, there are parts that melt your heart, there are also parts that make you want to run, screaming, to your mommy for comfort.  Unfortunately, your mommy is no where to be found.  Why?  Well, because you have left everything familiar and comfortable behind.  You are in the middle of, what often feels like, another planet. Everything is strange, comfort is hard to find.  Perhaps this should be a sci-fi horror film.

So, why am I choosing to live this life when I generally avoid the types of films that I can equate it to?  Well…there are a few major differences.  For one, there is a point.  The point is that people need to know Jesus.  Someone has to tell them.  A few extra people in heaven is worth me not knowing when the next “bad guy” is going to jump out from behind the door to scare the crud out of me or just plain ruin my day.  Two, I don’t have a mommy to run to, but I do have Jesus.  Learning to rely more fully in Him is worth it.  He brings great comfort time and time again and always just when we need it most.  It’s not the comfort we are used to, surely, but it is there all the same.  Third, each day is a new day and all the bad things that happened the day before can so quickly be forgotten when God reveals to us a part of His plan for our being here.  It’s good to have those little reassurances every once in a while.  Fourth, we know it is not all about us (even though the reasons I already listed are about us).  Sure, we are learning things through this process (MAJOR things), but that’s not the over all point.  We are here to serve a purpose, we are here because God called us to be here.  Being anywhere else would surely have much more horrid consequences than serving in missions.

In case anyone wonders, I am writing this from a very good place.  There have been no recent horrors, but this almost assures me that one is right around the corner.  I am ready, I think I am ready…  Oh boy.

A Flat Tire Made My Day (& Updates)

So, today was the boys’ first day of school.  I had planned to go with them, I always go with them.  But, I am teaching a class and the way the materials lined up, I felt like I needed to be with the class.  So, I sent the boys off with Chris this morning after taking a few quick photos.  Chris headed out to go pick up a couple of other kids.  I locked up the house and headed to the Bug.  Totally flat tire.  I just smiled, called Chris and told him to stop back by the house to get me on the way to the school.  I don’t know that I’ve ever been happy about a flat tire before.  I even know how to change a tire, but the good jack was with Chris in the van and I was going to be late no matter what, so I figured I might as well just embrace it and go with the boys.  Chris picked me up, we took the kids to their school–they’ve had a 2 month break–and before I could even get out of the car, they had disappeared!  When we found them, Gavin was all situated in his class and reported that he had gotten Reily to his class, too.  Once we found Reily, I was glad I was there.  He wasn’t quite as settled as Gavin, but it didn’t take long.  I got to my class (I have a co-teacher that covered for me) eventually and wrapped it up.  It was a good morning and that flat tire made my day.  I suppose it helps that there’s a fix-it place around the corner and it only costs 50 cents for the repair.

We finally got the boys’ report cards from last year.  They both did great and had lots of complimentary remarks from their teachers.  Seems neither really excels at sports, but this doesn’t shock me as we’re not exactly an athletic family.  Where the boys excel is where Chris and I excelled in school.  Where they struggle is where we struggled, as well.  I wonder what Kayla will do well in.  I wonder what has been passed down to her, genetically, that won’t be overtaken by her upbringing.  I know that my love of two very different subjects was handed down to me–one by my birth mother and one by my birth father.  It will be interesting to watch the mystery of Kayla unfold as she begins school next year.  Especially since I’m considering homeschooling her for the first year…God help us all!

Tadesse is still visiting for English lessons.  Yesterday, he brought me his school report from grade 8.  He was so proud.  The report stated that the average score was 44%.  He received 59.2%.  He passed…he was proud.  I told him I would continue to help him and tutor him this coming school year.  I just have to believe that God has a reason for bringing us together and a plan for Tadesse’s life.  He is a great kid!  He brought each of us a picture he had drawn to celebrate the upcoming New Year (our Sept. 11 is their “January” 1, 2006).  I enjoy working with Tadesse and we are mostly able to communicate.  He helps me with my Amharic a little, too.

Oh!  While Tadesse was here, I asked for an update on his mom.  She is all better.  Her leg is completely fine!  Chris’ visits, prescribed treatment & prayer all had a hand, I’m convinced.  Thanks for your prayers for that situation.  Here’s one scenario where we have been blessed to be a blessing.

Unfortunately, my computer had major troubles yesterday.  I downloaded a recommended program and there was something unsafe to the copy of it I found that downloaded with it.  Something like 80% of my files just vanished.  There is another missionary couple here from WI, with a different organization, that lives in our neighborhood.  I knew the husband was good with computers.  We called, he agreed to take a look (well, his wife agreed for him).  A few hours later, like 90% of my files were back.  What’s gone is stuff I didn’t need or stuff I can easily replace.  All my pictures are back…and now being backed up.  Almost all my files are back–at least the crucial ones.  I’m not sure where you go to get a computer fixed in Ethiopia, so knowing this man is a HUGE blessing.  I hope to never need his skills again, but he saved me this time.  Oddly, I wasn’t really worried.  Seems this lifestyle has taught me that you can live without an awful lot.

That’s about it from the Meehan five.  Life is always an adventure here.  We don’t have time to get bored.  We love living life this way.

 

Tadesse

This is Tadesse.

Tadesse

Tadesse lives down the street.  We have crossed paths many times.  He is 14 years old.  When the idea to teach English to kids in my neighborhood popped into my head, I first thought of Tadesse as my connection to the other kids in the neighborhood.  His English is decent.  My Amharic is coming along.  We communicate pretty well together.  I prayed for encounters to happen that would lead to a conversation about my teaching English to other kids.  God provided.

Last week, Chris helped Tadesse’s mom with a medical concern.  We purchased her some meds and visited her home a few times to see if she was improving.  She has improved greatly.  We hope, and pray, her improvement continues.  While waiting for meds, Tadesse and I were able to talk about me teaching kids in the neighborhood.  He agreed, readily, to help me.  I asked him to come Monday (1), at 3 (2), with 10 friends (3).

1.  He showed up today!!!  2.  He showed up at 3:30 (African 3:00, I guess).  3.  He showed up alone.  Well, he got 2/3 of the idea.  Not bad for communicating in two different languages without fluency.  He asked if he can bring friends next time, he has two he wants to bring.  YES!  So, we shall see what Wednesday brings.  I am definitely learning to be more flexible here.

Anyway, we sat for an hour and read Bible stories together out of a children’s Bible.  This wasn’t my plan since I expected a few students and I expected them not to have much English, but the Bible was sitting there, so that’s what we did.  He read, I explained things he didn’t understand (probably about 33%, like with my original request for him to come).  The first story we read was about snow and snowmen…ha!  Try explaining that to an Ethiopian.  We talked about God, Jesus and how we can pray to them.  He attends a local church and asked to come with me to mine.  I am looking forward to that day.

While I was reading with Tadesse, Chris was waiting at the airport for our third, and final, new team family to arrive.  To state that we have been busy over the last two weeks is laughable.  We have been insanely busy, but we are loving it.  Tomorrow brings a new round of house shopping, paperwork for two of the new families, Bible college course prep work for me and maybe a decision about whether or not my Bible college course will start Wed or Thurs–this depends on the moon, seriously.  I think we will have a day off on August 23.  I think, maybe.  But really, we are loving it.  I am so happy to be here.  It is not without challenges and struggles, but regularly, I just feel God’s presence as He continues to pour out His blessings over our life.  I can’t imagine being anywhere else.

Neighbors

I love my neighborhood.  I refuse to live here for 2 years and not get to know my neighbors.  Now that we have some Amharic skills, and I do mean just SOME, we are able to communicate a bit.  This is incredibly helpful.  Tonight, I was on my way to pay a friend’s guard (because she goes home every rainy season…lucky).  While I was heading off to meet him, one of the neighbor boys approached me about his sick mother.  Her leg is swollen and her knee has lost flexibility.  He asked me if I could drive her to the hospital in the morning.  Sure, but I also have a nurse that lives with me who can check on her first.  So, tomorrow morning, Tadesse is going to come get us at 9am so Chris can examine his mom and, if need be, we will drive her to the hospital.

Tadesse is a 14 year old boy.  He has some decent English skills.  I have asked for his help in selecting some neighbor kids to teach English to from our neighborhood.  My plan is to invite them into my home two afternoons a week.  It’s not that I think English is the end-all-be-all, but Ethiopians want their children to learn English.  Whenever possible, they send their kids to private schools where they are taught in English from kindergarten on up.  So, I see teaching English to these kids as a great outreach into our neighborhood/community.

Thanks to a great friend in the US, I have some teaching materials and more on the way.  God certainly does pair together those who are willing and called to go with those who are willing and called to give.  I’m excited to get started with this little English class and see where God takes it.  I hope that we can impact our neighborhood for Christ in a meaningful way and that our neighbors will see Jesus through the way that we choose to live.

Our Ethiopian Weekend

When you live in a foreign country, you kind of have two choices for how you will spend your time.  You can either spend all your time with the other foreigners or you can spend your time with the locals.  When we left for Ethiopia, Chris and I vowed to not spend ALL of our free time with other Americans, but forming relationships with Ethiopians has not quite been as easy or as quick as we had hoped.  This past weekend, we spent nearly all of our free time with Ethiopians, however, so maybe things are starting to change.

The street we live on is pretty diverse.  There is one other American couple, whom we have yet to really meet, two families working for the African Union, and three Ethiopian families on our side of the street–all in pretty nice (at least two story) houses.  Across the street are homes built with corrugated tin, mud, tarps, etc…  We LOVE the diversity and the fact that we aren’t surrounded by ferenge (typical word used for “white” people here–means foreigner).

We’re friendly with our neighbors, but the language barrier makes it tough to have much of a conversation.  I have given some of the kids’ outgrown clothes to neighbors, we have spent hours playing in the street with neighbor kids–a couple of girls even braided my hair before I chopped it off–and I have plans to start teaching English to some of the neighborhood kids, but we hadn’t really made friends with anyone.  A few months ago, my next door neighbor stopped me in the street and introduced herself.  She said she was an Amharic teacher at a nearby language school and that she had kids about the same ages as mine who should all play together.  I didn’t see her again until I walked into my language class 5 weeks ago and she was MY teacher.  Since we spend 3.5 hours/day together, we have started a good friendship.  Our kids have played together a few times–as a side note, I have discovered that laughter has no language barrier!  This weekend, I/we spent a good portion of the weekend together as families.

On Saturday, I was invited to the kindergarten graduation of my teacher’s youngest child.  I went with her to the local kebele (town hall of sorts) and watched for nearly 3 hours as children from grades KG-6 performed various skits/songs/poems.  I took photos and video with my camera for them–as requested.  Many of the presentations were in English, since this is a private school that teaches in English, so I wasn’t completely lost.  I was the only white face in the crowd, so I just had to ignore the stares and pointing fingers from children.  People were very gracious and the pastor of our local AG church was there watching his daughter graduate, so I even got to say hello to him and meet his wife.  After graduation, our language school group had a BBQ at Bingham (the boy’s school).  Chris picked up one of our teachers and I drove my teacher and her 5 children to the BBQ.  No one would sit in the front with me, so I was the ferenge chauffeur to a family of Ethiopians.  The BBQ was fun.

On Sunday, another of the neighbor kids graduated–from 8th grade.  We weren’t invited to that ceremony as it was during church time and quite far away, but we were invited over for tea and coffee after the ceremony.  We showed up a bit late–as that truly is normal here.  We had just gone out for lunch and ice cream.  In the back of my mind I wondered if this tea and coffee would include a meal because Ethiopians are so incredibly hospitable, but she said tea and coffee, so we ate a big lunch just before arriving at their house.  As soon as we walked into their house I knew we were in trouble.  5 kinds of wat (Ethiopian stew), plates filled with injera, soda, cookies, etc… lined the table.  I shared a plate with Kayla who ate until she literally could not fit another bite.  Chris shared a plate with Reily and Gavin ate a roll.  We held our own, but definitely did not need dinner.  Buna (coffee was served) and then a thick barley type porridge was also served to help calm the stomach after spicy food is eaten.  And then, another round of buna–this time the beans were freshly roasted.  I don’t typically like coffee, but this stuff was good (I think it had quite a bit of sugar in it).  What we thought might be an hour of coffee and tea turned into about 4 hours of everything else.  We shared a scripture reading and prayer time together–led by Chris–and then headed to our home for what was left of the evening.  What a privilege to be invited to this graduation celebration of our neighbor kids.  We felt very honored to be a part of their special day.

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It was a great weekend and as awkward and strange as adjusting to new customs can be, I think we did pretty well–not that anyone would tell us if we didn’t, Ethiopians are pretty gracious about this.  The kids did great, really.  Now, it is our turn to repay the favor and invite the neighbors over for tea and coffee (aka the whole afternoon and LOTS of food).  I just have to figure out what to serve…

What is a “developing country”?

I used to think that “developing country” was just a really lame PC term to replace third-world country which became offensive to some people at some point for some reason that I am entirely unaware of.  Not any more, though.  I now completely understand why the term developing country is appropriate and fitting for places like Ethiopia.

Living in a developing country literally means that everything is still developing.  It’s hard to picture just what that means until you are living it.  Even visiting on a short-term mission trip or to complete an adoption does not give a full picture.  You have to be intimately involved with daily happenings to discover what all is still developing.  Here are just some examples of things we experience that remind us that we are in a truly developing country:

  • Scaffolding is all made of sticks.  They are nailed or bound together while someone is standing on them.  It does not look safe and it is not safe.
  • Buildings (including homes like ours) take up to 10 years to complete.  Construction began on the property next to ours, a rough foundation was laid, that was it.  Cash in hand ran out, so construction is halted.
  • Speaking loans…there are none.  I’m not saying this is a bad thing, but paying all cash for a house or a car (especially when 25 year old cars are around $11,000) would definitely keep the “classes” very separate.  Again, not necessarily a bad thing to not have loans like the US does available to anyone, but it keeps the lower class very low.
  • Trash removal is hilarious.  A few years ago, there were no huge trash bins that I can recall.  Now, they are everywhere.  But, they have to be hauled away, one at a time, for garbage removal.  They are loaded onto the back of a truck, driven off, dumped and then returned.  With this system, the job will never even be close to done.
  • More on trash…they are moving an entire trash dump.  Why???  It smells awful when the wind blows just right, but the edge of the city has expanded, so the dump must be moved.  Problem is, they’re not moving it that far and the city continues to expand.
  • Nothing is convenient.  NOTHING.  Cooking is all done from scratch (there are no frozen pizzas or hot pockets).  Shopping must be done at several different stores just to complete a short list–grocery, furniture, clothes, etc…  Items may never be stocked again once they sell out, or at least not for another several months.
  • Driving.  AH!  So many times I have wished I had a dashboard camera so I could give you all a glimpse of what driving is like here, but it is unsafe to record with my iPhone while driving, so you’ll just have to imagine it.  When traffic slows to a stop, people just turn around in the road and go the opposite direction–into oncoming traffic.  People cross the street wherever they like, even the highway.  People attend driving school, but I’ve been told they never leave the compound, so they “graduate” with next to no knowledge of how to handle actual traffic and/or roundabouts, which are everywhere.
  • Speaking of road crossings…can you think of any city of millions in the US (a non-developing country) where you have to constantly swerve or stop to miss herds of goats, cows or a random donkey?  Yeah, me either.  It’s like country and city collide here–quite literally sometimes.
  • Nearly everything costs an arm and a leg but almost no one can afford it.  I still don’t fully understand this one, so I won’t try to explain it, but it is part of living in a developing country.
  • There are tons of traffic laws, but almost no way to enforce them.  The police are everywhere, but they have no way to monitor speed and no transportation, so unless you make eye contact with them and choose to pull over if the wave you down, there is little that they can do.
  • Helmets required,  but a construction hard hat with a strap totally counts as a motorcycle helmet.
  • There are different prices for everything–white people pay a different price than the locals, almost nothing has a price sticker on it, so you never know if you’re getting a good deal or now.  Haggling is expected–I loathe this.
  • There is cell service everywhere, but in order to build more towers, too many SIM cards are sold.  Rather than building a tower and THEN selling the SIM cards, they sell the cards then use the $ for towers.  Sometimes I can make a phone call, sometimes I can’t.  Well, most of the time I can’t.  Good thing I really dislike talking on the phone!
  • Internet…ugh.  It’s almost 7 am.  Let’s just say I’d better hurry up and get this posted before 7 hits or it’s a lost cause.  We have internet, yea!  It’s really slow at normal times of the day to be awake and using it, boo.
  • Cars still run from 1969.  Uh huh, I should know, I drive one daily.  They can make cars run forever here (as long as they’re manual and Toyota or VW).  If your engine fails, there’s no replacing it.  It is removed and rebuilt with a few new parts, but mostly old.  That’s a bit cheaper than trying to find a new one!  And, it works.  New cars are a rare sight.
  • People are content with what they have.  There is no keeping up with the Jones’.  The Jones’ don’t have much either.  But, the people genuinely seem happy and content anyway.  What a blessing to be surrounded by that, rather than greedy commercialism and the world of “I want, I want, I want”.  It is refreshing.
  • God is needed.  People need God here.  You can feel it.  They embrace His love and they long for their heavenly home.  Spiritual matters are much more prevalent here because people are seeking God and the Holy Spirit.  Daily people need God and they depend on Him for provision.  Worship is a sight to behold, it is not reserved, people want to praise the God that provides for them.  Too often, in already developed countries, people don’t “need” God.  They can provide for themselves and the church (not the building, the body of people that make it up) just approach the idea of God differently, definitely with less passion and less spirituality.

This experience has definitely taught me a lot about living in a developing country and just what that term means.  Some parts of it, I love.  Some parts just make me laugh.  Other parts, I could live without.  But, no place is perfect.  The grass is literally greener here than in WI, so we’ll stay for now. 🙂

 

***For the record, 7 minutes left to spare until the dreaded 7am internet slow down.  Here’s hoping this post publishes today.

UPDATE TIME!!!!!!!

I’ve just sent out our latest newsletter.  I am committed to keeping our newsletter to one page, but there has been so much good news over the past two weeks, that I wanted to expand on the newsletter somewhere.  So, here goes…

What a difference two months makes!  The beginning of May was rough, to say the least.  We were feeling very attacked at every angle and begged for your prayers.  The last two weeks of May just brought blessing after blessing and we are feeling so encouraged.  Thank you for your prayers in response to our special request a few weeks ago.  We were under a huge spiritual attack and really felt that dissipate as so many of you lifted us up in prayer. God has answered and heaped blessings upon us recently.

*We have our paperwork!  Everything is in order and fell into place when we had just one day left on our visas.  Nothing like cutting it close, huh?  We will have to renew everything in January, but have been informed that renewal is much easier than the initial acquisition of these documents.  We are so relieved to have this step behind us and it *only* took 4 months…  Now, we are clear to work as much as we want and no one has wasted any time in helping us find things to do.

*We are really finding our fit in ministry and are almost so busy that it’s hard to find time to breathe, but we refuse to complain about that, as we’ve been begging for more to do for months.  Betsy just completed teaching a course at the Bible college and graded 50 essay papers, written in English by non-native English speakers.  We’ll let you go ahead and figure out how fun that was. 🙂  No, really, it was an honor to serve the students and a privilege to read about their lives.  They all passed the class.

*Last weekend, there was a graduation ceremony for 36 students from the Bible college who graduated with their bachelor degrees.  Betsy was dressed in full graduation gown and hood and sat on stage.  She also played violin for the offering.  A new friend offered to loan her violin for the next two years, which has been a blessing because Betsy really missed playing, but couldn’t afford to take up a valuable carry-on for just that one item.

abc graduation

*In a few days, we will start language school.  Thanks to a generous donation from North Ridge Church, Marshfield (where Betsy served on staff), we will finally be able to have conversations with our Ethiopian neighbors.  We are so excited for this development.  Typically, missionary associates, do not have the benefit of taking language courses, but NRC offered to pay for a 6-week session for us.  We are so grateful for the opportunity and cannot wait to be able to do more than order food and say hello.

*Chris is working hard with the Aid and Development Association (ADA), which is a branch of the Assemblies of God here that provides aid to the poorest of the poor throughout Addis.  He is doing some health training and education along side a feeding program that is running for 800 children near our home.  Most of Chris’ time will be spent helping the ADA and leading personal hygiene training for children around Addis.  You would think that in 2013, washing your hands after using the bathroom and before eating would be common sense, but if you are never taught to do this, you don’t know.  So, Chris is hoping to help improve the health of children and families around Addis by teaching simple techniques.  In addition, we hope to be able to welcome some medical teams to Ethiopia, but pray for that.  The government has not made it easy for teams to come into Ethiopia.

*Betsy has just completed a TESOL training course and is now certified to Teach English to Speakers of Other Languages.  She will be teaching English to the employees of the ADA after completing Amharic language school.  Please pray for other opportunities to come together, as well.  Teaching English is a great way to connect with people and then sharing the Gospel can be a component of that teaching.

*We have both been asked to teach a course at the Bible school this coming academic year and are really looking forward to that, as well as other involvements there.  The Bible school is a great training ground for the future and current leaders of Ethiopia.  If we can teach a few students, imagine the possibilities for future ministry and how much further the Gospel can spread than we could spread it ourselves.  Students are willing to go to unreached people groups and even into countries that are highly unsafe for Christians.  We just want to empower them to share the truth about Jesus’ love with the world and they are so passionate about going.

Our Family

I can honestly state that we are doing great!  Health has returned, our car is running well, and we were even able to purchase a new one with our missions dollars at long last.  It is more reliable than the ‘69 Bug and a bit more spacious.  We are feeling rather spoiled to have conveniences like a radio and air conditioning, not to mention seat belts.  We are keeping the Bug as a quick run around town vehicle, but this van will allow us to go out of town on some new adventures and more comfortably take others with us–especially visitors (hint, hint).  The fact that my kids can all sit in separate seats and not touch each other constantly is one HUGE added bonus.

DSCN1163

Betsy decided it was time to chop off almost all of her hair.  As soon as she discovered there were one or two stylists here that could cut ferenge (foreigner) hair decently, off it went.  She feels more like herself and hasn’t regretted the decision for even one second.

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The kids are doing very well.  The boys have just two weeks left of school.  They will have two months off for summer break, though summer here is technically their winter and the rainy season.  Lots of playing indoors will take place…help!  Kayla is still loving life.  I don’t know if I’ve ever met a happier person.

We are losing one missionary family this month, but gaining three more through the summer.  We are excited to be able to welcome them as they arrive and help them get settled.  We will be the only AG family in Addis when they arrive, so it will be up to us to help get them settled, help find housing, cars, etc…  Good thing we’ve just completed doing this ourselves.  We are looking forward to having our team grow and having some of our friends that we met during missionary training join us on the field especially.

Interesting Story

While walking to church one Sunday morning, some of the neighborhood kids attached themselves to Gavin.  They just wanted to hold his hand and practice a little English with him.  He was happy to oblige–it has become normal to be paid a lot of attention to.  I think our kids will be in a bit of shock when we return to the US and they’re just normal again.  Anyway, he started handing out some crosses he had made for just this purpose before we moved here.  The kids asked what they were, he told them and they were thrilled.  It is fun to see his little missionary heart developing and some days, I think he’s more into the actual mission of it all than we are!  He doesn’t let the language barrier stop him from sharing with anyone who will pay attention.

Gavin