Saturday, May 25, 2013
I am sitting writing by “flickering candlelight” because the power has just gone off for the third time today. It’s a new experience for me to not be able to trust your water or electrical supply! Today we arrived in Addis Ababa at 6 a.m. after what seemed like a never-ending journey. The sky was overcast in keeping with the rainy season Ethiopia is going through and the weather surprisingly cool for Africa. We were met by my grandpa, Burt Asbill, and two Ethiopian contacts, Brother Jemal and Brother Fikre. I was so surprised when Brother Jemal greeted me with flowers and welcomed me to their country; these people have so little, yet they give to others. We traveled by taxi to the rented home we are staying at. It’s in a small neighborhood right outside the city of Addis and relatively quiet. After breakfast and a warm shower followed by an ice-cold rinse (that was the second time the power had gone off) I laid on my bed and slept for four solid hours! That afternoon we were off for a meeting at Brother Fikre’s home. He has two small children who are adorable and made me miss my siblings (You know you’re a big sister when you go places without siblings, yet hear them in the other aisle, or hear them call you by name and you turn around and look for them!). Brother Fikre’s four year old daughter was shy, but by the end of the meeting she was sitting next to me. 🙂 The message shared spoke of the need for us as Christians to make our calling and election sure. The word “calling” in Greek is “klesis” which means “invitation.” In other words, we are to make sure that once the Lord has given us an invitation to be a partaker in His kingdom we are not only to “attend” as it were, but be an active participant.
That evening we ran to the store buy a few items. Driving though Addis Ababa gives you a chance to see what some people’s lives are like and how they make a living. A woman sat roasting field corn over a tiny grill and selling the roasted ears. Another man had a scale and people would pay him to weigh themselves! We also passed the “meat market” where there is a whole row of stalls selling meat. Each shop/shack has a cow completely opened up and stretched on a rack where they cut off pieces to sell. No refrigeration, no sellers wearing gloves and no screens to keep flies out. There are so many meat stalls that I wonder how they can keep in business!
Sunday, May 26, 2013
Oh the joy of time zone changes! I fell asleep promptly at 9 p.m. last night, but was up a 3 a.m. and have not slept a wink since! We had electricity this morning, but it’s gone now, as is our water. It seems to be a community-wide problem.
This morning we went to a church that had about 160 people in attendance. The church “building” was made out of tarps and had a dirt floor. The little children all sat in the front and they kept waving at me, so I (of course!) waved back. The minister surprised me by having my dad and I come up to the platform to introduce us. He seemed to be asking the congregation a question and some would raise their hands and give answers – all in Amharic, the Ethiopian language, so we had not a clue what was going on. It’s a bit disconcerting for people to be talking about you without you being able to understand what’s going on! We learned later that the minister asked the congregation what they thought our family connection was and some people thought we were brother and sister! Finally someone guessed the right combo – father and daughter! They then invited us to share something and the microphone was handed to me. It felt very heavy in my hand. I didn’t have much to say, but I told them it was my first time in Ethiopia, how excited I was about it and “God bless you all.” Whew, that’s over! 🙂
Looking back, I can see how God has really changed me. There used to be a time when the thought of speaking in front of my own congregation, people I love and have grown up with, scared me. Now I was able to get up and speak in front of 160 complete strangers without *too much* nervousness. 🙂 God is truly amazing! “Next time,” Brother Jemal told me, “You will preach and I will translate for you!”
After the meeting, a sheet of stickers was brought out and as soon as I gave one to a child we had a whole crowd of kids, each holding out their hand for us to put a sticker on. I kept peeling and sticking until I realized that I was giving stickers to kids who already had one! They would hold out one hand, then the other to get more than one sticker! The children were absolutely precious, waving, wanting to hold your hand and telling you “hi” and “bye-bye.” One little boy must’ve waved at me ten times!
Monday, May 27, 2013
Praise the Lord! We have water! As the water came pouring in our tank Grandma clapped her hands excitedly and exclaimed, “Water! We have water!” Not having such a basic essential gives you a huge appreciation for it.
Today is a “rest day,” which means we have no “programs,” as Brothers Jemal and Fikre call meetings. Instead, since we have water, we are concentrating on doing laundry, which is no small feat without a washer or dryer! I found that it takes enormous hand strength to wring out jeans! Thank goodness I was working with Grandma or I wouldn’t have been able to do it.
Later in the afternoon Grandma and I worked on preparing Bible story lessons and crafts for the children at Salem Village School/Orphanage.
Tuesday, May 28, 2013
Today we went to Salem Village. Salem Village is an orphanage and school that was started twenty-five years ago by a Swiss couple who adopted several Ethiopian children. One of their adopted daughters came back to expand it and the school specializes in vocational training for their students, having a farm, a dairy and a restaurant where they serve the food they grow. Their school is excellent, giving the students what they need to go out and make a living. In fact, our driver, who transports us, grew up in Salem. He has a wife, two little girls, a house and runs a successful taxi business.
Today at Salem they were having a meeting to teach the young people how to evangelize and Dad and Grandpa were invited to preach. Dad began to share about the need for us to work towards perfection while here on earth instead of waiting until we die and reach eternity. God’s plan from the beginning of time was for man to have heaven inside of him while on earth. I really began to see God’s desire for a people who would be willing to lay down everything to become a part of Him. Grandpa then spoke on how having a personal relationship with God and working towards perfection is key to evangelism. The more you taste of Christ, the more you will want, the more excited you will become and so the more likely you will share the Gospel with those around you.
Afterwards, a boy came running up to Grandma. She has done several classes at the school, teaching the children Bible stories, songs and doing crafts with them. The children absolutely love her, coming to meet her and hug her. The last time she was here, several of the children each gave her a gift. This little boy gave the only thing he had – his t-shirt. So today he ran up and gave her hug, then proceeded to sing a song in English that Grandma had taught them last time!
The people had prepared a lunch for us – mostly consisting of injera and a stew of some sorts. Injera is an Ethiopian “bread” made from a very fermented batter. It looks rather like a thin, spongy pancake and they use it as silverware, picking up their stew with the wrap. I can’t say that I cared for it very much, but I ate every bite! Afterwards they served coffee, another Ethiopian tradition. Their coffee is served in tiny cups, but it’s so strong and sweet that one cupful is plenty!
This afternoon we are packing because tomorrow we leave for Gondar, a northwest part of Ethiopia. We will have to leave the house by 4 a.m. to catch our flight. That shouldn’t be a problem for me, as I’m still not quite adjusted to the time change. 🙂
Wednesday, May 29, 2013
The flight to Gondar was lovely, with the plane flying low enough that I could watch the Ethiopian countryside go by. Brother Fikre pointed out the different towns, roads and rivers, including the Blue Nile, which is the beginning of the Nile River, and Lake Tana, the largest lake in Ethiopia.
Gondar seems to be little bit “rougher” than Addis Ababa. I was told that this area has seen much conflict and bloodshed which could’ve contributed to the poverty levels. The roads seem to be in a perpetual state of repair! Not only that, but all the work is done by hand. I was surprised to see a lot of women down digging trenches and carrying dirt, even on Sunday. Gondar is a big city with several universities. It was these students that we wanted to reach and we had our first opportunity that very afternoon, in a long tin-roofed, dirt-floored building with only three working light bulbs. Despite the natural conditions, God’s spirit met us there, touching those who were crying out for a reality of Him.
Thursday, May 30, 2013
Today was a whirlwind with three meetings at three different places! In the morning we went to a small chapel where Dad shared the message. There were only a few people there, but the Lord is not a respecter of persons and the word that flowed forth was anointed and just what they needed to hear. Dad began to speak about the living water and the story of Gideon. Those who handled the water properly were chosen for God’s work while those who were sloppy and insensitive were let go. The hand speaks of the five-fold ministry of God bringing water, the living word, to our mouths that we might partake – if we handle and use it correctly. As Dad shared about the water, the heavens opened up and real rain poured down, beating on the roof of the church. It was amazing. To top that off, our taxi driver who took us to the meeting came a few minutes early to pick us up and sat in the back listening. Right after the message finished grandpa got up and shared a word with him that the Lord had spoken to him. The Lord had seen the young man’s heart cry for a touch from God in the midst of his troubles and situations and even the thoughts of ending his own life, but was that day giving to him a reality of Himself. The transformation for the better in the young man was instantaneous – his face was wreathed with smiles and he kept telling us how amazed he was at how accurate the word was.
After a quick break for lunch we were off again for a meeting in a small fellowship that we had never been to before. The room was part of a house and had tarps stapled to the walls and ceiling instead of wood or paint. A window was open and large flies freely came in – and tried to stay, most unfortunately, on me! Once the word started though, I forgot the flies and concentrated for it was truly excellent. Grandpa began to share about the seed that is planted in each one of us when we accept Jesus as our Savior and how we are given the power to overcome the darkness in our lives and the darkness around us. The people became excited, responding the spirit of God. You could sense their hunger and their excitement for the word of God. Only after the meeting did we find out that the area the house-church is in is known for its witchcraft and people were afraid to go into the home of the church because it used to be a seat of wickedness, but those in the fellowship were not discouraged and asked us to pray for them whenever we thought of them. I thought it amazing that they, being a small church, and us, “white missionaries” did not ask for money or financial help but for prayer. A sign of a spiritually prospering church is not wealth or large offerings but strong prayer.
To my surprise, we climbed in the van, drove for five minutes and got out again for an evening meeting! This meeting was with a youth group from the University of Gondar, simply out under a metal roof. They began to sing a song, which the student leading the worship told us was about God being the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. It was completely acapella and I found it to be a beautiful song, especially knowing what the gist of it was! Dad again shared, but the message this time seemed just for me and the University students, most of whom were graduating this month. Being young people, there are a lot of opportunities and careers that we could follow, but at the end of the day, what will have been our experience in God? The devil tries to make us believe that this earthly realm is the only reality and for us to do as many material things as possible, when this is not at all the case. We each have a spiritual destiny and God is looking for those who are willing to follow Him and turn the world upside down. It’s an exciting thought.
It makes me want to jump up and down, exclaiming, “I will Lord! I will follow you!”
Friday, May 31, 2013
In light of the good word yesterday the devil retaliated and tried to hurt Brother Fikre’s little daughter back in Addis Ababa. She was playing outside and fell, hitting her head and becoming unconscious. As soon as we heard word of it we prayed, and the next morning she woke up well! Praise the Lord!
There’s a marvelous view of the city from the hotel roof, with the three-hundred year old castle and mountains in the distance. With my telephoto lens I can take pictures of people passing in the street – I was told that people will either get upset with you or want money if you take their picture, so I’m very careful to be discreet! Peering down, I can see some raw snapshots of life here, including the children who live on the street. A group of little boys (younger than five) go up the street by themselves. Their clothes are in rags and one carries a piece of plastic as they hold hands and steer each other clear of oncoming traffic. My brother Sam is six and when I think of him living on the streets it chokes me up. The street children are tough by necessity and it saddens me. “Miss, miss, miss!” they called me. “Where are you from?” When I told them “America,” they said, “Oh, the beautiful states!” These poor children, working day to day to simply exist, without hope for a change in their future! I saw some squeezing through the gate and digging in the hotel garbage for the plastic water bottles.
We went to an afternoon meeting in the same metal-roofed, dirt-floored building as before and the word shared was excellent, showing us God’s plan for humanity from the beginning when He created time that He might accomplish something in man. Another thought was – speaking to the students who’ll soon begin exams – “Tribulation to a Christian is an exam to see if He is walking and trusting in God.” This really made me stop and think, in light of the many times I am surrounded by pressing situations and don’t take the advantage God is giving me to rise up and overcome.
Saturday, June 1, 2013
After breakfast (injera anyone?), we went to another meeting. We were told that many of the students were preparing for exams and weren’t coming, but nevertheless, the Lord had a particular word that he wanted to share with those who were there. It was in depth and covered many things including God’s plan for man, the path through the tabernacle, man as a three part being and the dimensions of the spirit. A student at the meeting spoke with Bro. Jemal and told him that the word so excited him that he wants us to come to his hometown, near Addis Ababa and share there.
Later that afternoon we met with three University students, who are youth leaders. They told us that all together there are over 1,000 University students in the youth groups and that they all get together once a year to have meetings. They were so blessed by this word that they invited Grandpa and Grandma to come back at the end of this month to speak at their graduation ceremony! “What can we do to help spread this word?” they asked. One young man told us how a fellowship was started in his hometown and at first it was very good, but now the meetings don’t have any life. The situation saddened him, so he was very encouraged to hear this message and he wants to take it to his people! So many doors are opening up – Bro. Jemal told us that he has a contact in the city called “Hosanna,” and the next day, one of the youth leaders who is graduating and desiring to spread the gospel is going home to Hosanna!
Sunday, June 2, 2013
Our Sunday morning meeting was packed with University students, all there to hear the gospel. For people who have never heard this message of Sonship it’s a revelation. In the world they teach that no one can be perfect until heaven, that this life is all the reality there is and that there’s nothing you can do about your personal problems, when in reality, God’s heart is aching for a people who will rise up in His strength and light to overcome their humanity. I keep hearing the song,
There’s a mighty river flowing, sent from the throne of God
Crystal waters clear and flowing, healing everything they touch
Swim into this mighty river, do not stay upon its shore
Let its mighty force propel you, deep into the life of God
Take no thought for saving your life, but unto the rushing river give
For everywhere this river will go, everything will live.
We each have a personal choice to make – we alone decide where we end up in eternity.
Monday, June 3, 2013
Today we leave back to Addis Ababa. I have enjoyed my time here in Gondar, not just because it’s a foreign place, but because I can see the hand of God moving, touching and spreading the word. I believe my being on this mission trip is not so much for those I meet, but for myself. It’s like God is lifting me up and showing me the whole world, opening my eyes to a greater reality of Who and What He is and how He works in the earth. It’s a marvelous time for me, even though I do miss my siblings already!
When we arrived in Addis I got a pleasant surprise – this next weekend we are flying to Kampala, Uganda for some meetings there! How exciting – two countries at once! I am looking forward to the rest of my stay here in Ethiopia and our trip to Uganda and can’t wait to see what’s in store!