Dat 5

Today was a day of worship and rest.  We got on the bus this morning to head to Pastor Matthewos church with our typical count-off to make sure all were in tow, but we were a few short as Todd noted that “we have two soldiers down.”  (Jocelyn and Steve both had a rough night and were resting.)  As we drove off our thoughts and prayers were with our teammates behind and the rest of our tummies hoping that we wouldn’t get sick either.  (We are pleased to report that as of this evening both Steve and Jocelyn are feeling much better, but Todd and Grace aren’t doing so well.)

PictureOn our way over to church, we prepared ourselves for what we were told would be a long service, in Amharic, but which really ended up being longer than any I had been to before.  Prior to the service start, we were able to walk the grounds of the school that they have on the campus.  We learned that 975 students attend this school and that the school had just graduated its first 10th grade class.  (Each of three classes who had taken the 8th grade exam had enjoyed a 100% pass rate.  The school administrator was hopeful that the first 10th grade class would also experience 100% pass rate.)

Walking through the school gave us quite a reality check, seeing classrooms with cement walls, dirty cement floors, one chalkboard, and benches that sit three students to a seat.  As a teacher, I need to be much more thankful for the resources I am given and not complain when I don’t get that fancy new Smart board.  What a difference!

I was pleased to see a painting of the coordinate plane on a wall and, as a math teacher; I had to take my picture next to it.  The playground was colorful in the red, yellow and green of Ethiopia, but was quite dilapidated and possibly unsafe, at least by our standards.   How I wish I could just build them one with a playhouse on top.

We headed back towards the chapel and took our seats in the first three rows as the guests of honor.  Some of us made the comment of how few were in attendance.  Little did we know that the room would soon be over-flowing?  Ultimately, we guessed that there were 400 to 450 in attendance in the main chapel and adjoining rooms.

PictureThe service began with an introduction, which I did not understand at all because it was spoken completely in Amharic.  But what followed was something that was much more easily understood, not because of a common language, but because of the universal joy abounding from the praise of God.  It was so uplifting to be in a room with people praising the same God that I praise, love and serve.  We all came as we were before God with our dancing, singing, and clapping along.

A few more songs were sung; on in particular from a gentleman with a beautiful voice who explained before he began that he wrote the song himself about the first chapter of Revelation.  He even spoke in English for us, which was so sweet.  I loved it as he asked, “did you understand?” making sure we didn’t think he was still speaking in Amharic.

Once the singing was done, Todd had the chance to share about our group and introduce Kurt and Jessica who would be speaking.  Kurt was first, and read a passage from Matthew on the rich young man who asked Jesus what he was lacking and Jesus told him to sell all he had, give to the poor and follow him.  The story is familiar to many of us, and yet Kurt brought it to life as he told of how we, as Americans, strive so much for fame and wealth, but that isn’t what God calls us to.  God desires that we do His work with what we are given and not just dream of how good we are, but to follow Him with actions.

Jessica was up next, and a few of us laughed as apparently we were taking too long.  We were unaware of another service that was taking place after the current service.  But all were attentive at Jessica’s sweet words of her testimony of faith and her journey with the Lord. She spoke of wanting to be that “spiritual giant,” but didn’t know how to get there.  When really, God isn’t calling us to that, but to come as we are and follow Jesus, which means remaining in Him.  Jessica pulled from John 15 and Jesus’ statement of the vine and the branches.  Her authenticity touched us all.

PictureThe sermon that followed would best be described as passionate.  The microphone was definitely working (if you catch my drift).  The pastor took 45 minutes to speak to his congregation on what we later learned was the entire book of Job.  After all, it was all in Amharic and al I could understand was “Hallelujah” and “Amen” when they were spoken by him or by the congregation.  The service wrapped up two hours and 12 minutes and we were all eager for lunch.

Our lunch had a slight delay as we were blocked in the church parking lot by a hearse for the next service (apparently, a funeral service).   After our driver’s assistant (Amara, whom we have come to know by his smile and sweet disposition) coasted the vehicle out of the way and we were able to leave.

For this meal, we ate at the Lime Tree, which was new to all of us, including the Johnson family (which seems rare).  The restaurant seemed the place to be, as we ran into a group of girls from England we met at the Fistula Hospital a few days before and also Shawn and Sara who we met on our flight from DC to Addis who will be meeting their precious Caleb who they are adopting tomorrow!  Woohoo!  We can’t wait to see pictures of the new family.

Lunch was delicious as all our meals have been and I especially enjoyed the chocolate cake.  It was divine.  We headed back “home” to the hotel after what seemed like a long day, but were really quite short in comparison.  God knew we needed this Sabbath to rest before the big week ahead.

Once back, we checked on our sick teammates and planned for the conference.  I’m looking forward to more time with my team, who I truly feel are family!

To those back home, please continue to pray for our health and safety, and know that we miss and love you too!  Until next time, farewell.

This morning we had our earliest start to the day so we could attend Pastor Mattewos' church, but not as early as we'll need to get up for the next five days in order to attend the teachers' conference, which is our main purpose for being here. The service started at 9:45 and ended just at noon. In between a quartet of three men and one woman treated us to authentic Ethipian music which was as enthusiastic as it was long. It was accompanied by melodious ululations, sounds that are indescribable but very entertaining.

Pastor Mattewos had asked Todd if anyone on our team would like to speak, and Kurt and Jessica volunteered. After Todd introduced our team, with Pastor Mattewos translating, Kurt spoke on Mark 10:17-22, the story about the rich young man who had obeyed all Jesus' 
Commandments except one, that of giving away everything he had to the poor. Kurt mentioned the TV show, American Idol, where the winner amasses a fortune in prize money, but soon discovers (at least we hope he or she discovers) that it is a hollow victory. A church official whispered something to Pastor Mattewos, asking Kurt to shorten his talk because a funeral was to be conducted after the service, an action that caused great embarrassment to Pastor Mattewos.

Then Jessica talked about the words Jesus spoke as he walked with His disciples toward Gethsemane: "I am the true vine and my Father is the gardener . . . If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing." She ended with Galatians 5:25: "Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit."

Pastor Mattewos' church has two ministers, and today the other preacher spoke, going through the entire book of Job with great gusto and with a decibel level that reached the stratosphere. He certainly didn't need the microphone he used. Those of us in the first row (and probably in the last row too) had ringing ears and the start of a headache. Since it was all in Amharic, it was somewhat tedious, and some of us looked at our watches surreptitiously, hoping that THIS time when he marched toward the steps, he was finished. Eventually he was -- thank you, Lord! Then came the offering and announcements.

After the service, we greeted members of the congregation, then hopped on the bus, did our countdown -- Jessica! 1!____ 2! up to 20-year-old Amara, our bus driver's assistant, who was #25, and our driver, #26, to make sure everyone was present and accounted for -- only to discover that our bus was blocked by a long hearse. So the efficient and enterprising Amara got in the driver's seat of the hearse and coasted it down past our bus and out of the way, accompanied by loud cheers from everyone on the bus. It was a memorable morning.