Thriving in the Rain

Emily and I were told by numerous expats, far more experienced in Addis Ababa, that the summer (rainy) season undesirable, especially with kids. Common expressions used in our conversations were “blah,” “miserable,” and “See you in 2 months—suckers.” As a new school year approaches, however,  we must say that it has been anything but miserable. For the duration, I have taken on the job as compound manager, which I have since retitled “deputy sheriff.” It has given me an opportunity to continue Amharic language learning as I struggle to communicate with our workers. For our girls– blanket forts, Lego litter, picture books, and beaded paraphernalia have transformed our attic into a veritable fantasy land.

The best gift of this rainy season, however, has been the opportunity to serve with my family during several Young Life camp sessions. For three days 250-280 kids are treated like royalty and shown the time of their lives. Cabin competitions, swimming, field games, and restaurant quality food fill their day. The highlight, though, are the action-packed clubs where both rural and urban students mix from a variety of tribes and religious backgrounds. They laugh, sing, dance, and hear about the love and power of Jesus Christ. It is nothing less than a privilege to serve food, pick up trash, and facilitate games while the Lord moves in the hearts of young people. And to serve alongside Emily and the girls– well, it does not get much better than that!
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Invest In Books

An empty suitcase and willing traveler is a wonderful gift. Last month a friend offered to bring 50lbs worth of books to benefit our budding youth ministry program and lacking library. So I purchased 45 books, including 12 copies each of three titles for the classroom. The only dilemma is that the $421 bill has overextended our monthly ministry budget.

If you would like to help us subsidize this purchase and plan for another in December please consider making a contribution to our ministry account. Click HERE: SIM Giving Link.

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Do you know any gifted individuals who might like to come to Ethiopia to teach a modular course in youth ministry?

If so let me know. We are working on a God-sized vision over here. ETC is launching a Youth Ministry major in their Bachelors of Theology program.This is a brand new concept for Africa. Over the past several months, I have been working with ETC’s Academic Dean to draft the outcome profile (which you have seen), the curriculum and preliminary course descriptions.

The time is right—the evangelical churches in Ethiopia have recognized the need for better youth ministry training; the school administration and students are excited and have been anticipating this launch. The long-term vision is that a faculty of Ethiopians will drive this program, however our most significant obstacle is the lack of gifted teachers and practitioners in the field of youth ministry.

Prayerfully consider coming to Ethiopia to share your expertise in youth ministry by teaching a modular course. Modular courses run for about 2 weeks and are currently offered in January and during the summer months.

Here is what makes this opportunity unique:

  • 75% of the Ethiopian population is under 25 years old. The need is HUGE.
  • We are the only internationally accredited theological college in Ethiopia.
  • We are the only college offering a Youth Ministry major in East Africa—we believe 1 of 2 on the continent.
  • Students at ETC are not preparing for ministry; they are already deeply entrenched in their local church and para-church organizations. What they learn often goes directly into practice.
  • Prior teaching experience is preferred, but not required. (This has been my first experience teaching in an academic environment).
  • All teaching will be in English.
  • There is a significant level of flexibility in the start dates for the modular courses.

This is indeed a “big ask” but also a phenomenal opportunity to serve the church in Ethiopia. Youth ministry expertise is sorely needed in this context.
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by Emily:
I must warn you, for those who are faint of heart, this story does not end well. It began when I saw a streak of black on my kitchen floor.  I wanted to ignore it, dismiss it as part of my imagination, but it was confirmed next day when my neighbor spotted it running into our bathroom.  An experienced missionary, she followed it into the bathroom and reported back to me, “Yep, there’s the hole.”  Behind a cabinet, next to the toilet was a little wiggle room in the cement around a water pipe leading out of the house.

After a few more sightings, my girls named the mouse, “Baby Blue.” At first they intended to catch him and keep him for a pet. Soon after though, the oldest two decided they didn’t really want a rodent for a pet– afraid of stepping on him when nature called in the middle of the night.  My youngest, however, insisted that if she found him in the middle of the night, she would take him into her bed for a good cuddle.  Every time she said his name in a high-pitched voice, she became more and more attached to our resident vermin.

Finally, one night, I was awoken multiple times to the crinkling of plastic in my closet.  I also saw Baby Blue peaking at me on the counter while I mixed cookie dough the next afternoon.  That was the last straw.

Unfortunately, the day I decided to launch the attack, Jason was away at Young Life camp for an overnight.  It was me against the mouse.  I remembered discovering two dusty, rusty, ancient mousetraps left by the former tenants somewhere in the vicinity of the kitchen.  As I searched the shelves and dug under the kitchen sink, I wondered how many battles had been fought in this house before we arrived.  Friends had told stories of giant rats in the compost pile.  I was glad I was dealing with a small critter.

After fiddling with the traps for a few minutes, I decided that I needed help, so I consulted the Internet.  During my first couple of attempts to set them, they snapped, causing me to let out involuntary screams.  The girls came running to check on me.  Within five minutes the traps were set with Gouda in the bathroom and pantry.  Sarah made a sign for the pantry door reading, “Do not og en.”  (Do not go in.   As I value the my toes and those of my children.)

Then, Sarah and I went for an afternoon walk and chatted about plans for watching a movie that night.  Our neighbors stopped us and handed Sarah a fragrant citrus flower from a new bush in their garden.  When I told them about our plight, the husband said, he could come and help if I had a dead mouse on hand.  I thanked him but said I thought I wanted the bragging rights.  I was tough and could handle a mousetrap while my husband was away.

Upon returning to the house, I checked the traps.  I admit I was somewhat relieved to find them as I left them.  Again, I checked them in the morning- no mouse, no cheese.  Baby Blue was a smart little mouse.  Before leaving for church, I slathered some peanut butter on the trap.  I remembered my parents using peanut butter.  I wished I had a Have-A-Heart trap for this little guy.  When we returned from church, the peanut butter was gone, still no mouse.  Mouse 2, me 0.

Jason found my circumstance amusing when he returned.  That afternoon, another neighbor brought some food to put in our deep freezer.  Her power had been out for two days and she didn’t want it to spoil.  I warned her about the trap on the floor.  I told her I couldn’t believe that the mouse feasted on cheese and peanut butter and was still roaming my house.

She said, “I have something that works.  Can you come?”  So I followed her to her house.  I waited on the porch while she produced a yellow tube of glue labeled Arrat, Made in Italy, non-poisonous.  She and her husband proceeded to squeeze the thick adhesive onto two small squares of cardboard.  It took some muscle power dislodge the thick yellowish goo.  She told me put some cheese in the middle of the glue and the mouse would stick. This time I gave the pantry a double dose- both cardboard traps, since I had seen evidence of the mouse there.

Sure enough, the next morning, there was the mouse.  But, he was alive and stuck to the floor.  Dread and disgust poured through me.  I couldn’t even look at him up close.  I close the pantry door and ran to my husband.  After pleading with him to help, he scooped the mouse off of the floor with a plastic spoon.  I couldn’t watch.  He said it was like gum.  Then, he encased the rodent into a plastic grocery bag and carried him to the trash site.  I hope Baby Blue ran out of air quickly.  I do like animals and I don’t want them to suffer.  I don’t know what I will do if we see another rodent in our house.  We’ve closed up the hole in the bathroom with rat wire and I’m hoping for the best.

When Sarah asked about Baby Blue, I told her that Daddy took him out of the house.  She was content with this explanation and skipped off to find a dress to wear.  I am also happy to say I release all “bragging rights.”  Nothing to brag about here.

Today was Wakuma’s Day!

Graduation Update

He did it!Early this morning I attended commencement at Addis Ababa University. You may recall that last year, Wakuma was one of my best students at Evangelical Theological College. In fact his English was so sharp I inquired to his background, and he explained that he already had a B.A. and was working on his M.A. in Oromo Language Study.

While pursuing a theology degree at our school, he hoped to complete his M.A. requirements at AAU. Like many young, educated Ethiopians, however, he was overextended in providing for the needs of his family.

Compelled to partner with Wakuma, I asked others like you to join me in providing a $1,230 grant for Wakuma. The response was overwhelming and wonderful! Through the generosity of many and the offering from a worship event in Lancaster, PA called “Collide”  Wakuma was fully funded. Over the next 5 months he tenaciously pursued his research and writing, and even completed his defense.

I value education and love the idea of equipping someone who is gifted and motivated. Today your investment paid off as Wakuma walked the stage. You’ll be excited to know that he even landed his first job, editing an Oromo translation of a 10-volume Bible study series.

Thank you for helping to change one man’s life!

First Year Reflections

While the East Coast of the U.S. swelters, we are in a rhythm of rain. Green grass, cool air, and cloudy skies are the hallmarks of an Addis Ababa summer.  As Emily and I close our first year in Ethiopia, we have been taking time to thank God for the subtle ways has directed us through our teaching responsibilities.  It has been a remarkable year.  Although content to live a simpler life, we have learned that being an expat in a third world country does not insulate from the iniquities of the life left behind.  Poor communication, selfishness, the love of “stuff,” and impatience with others, are easily imported—duty free. For us it is a daily choice to wake up each morning with God’s purposes on our minds.  It only takes 3 minutes in the car, dodging sheep, careless pedestrians, and diesel-belching trucks to realize that our life is a bit unusual.  The unusual can be stressful some days, but it is also affords us with unique, life-changing opportunities:

Not Soon to Forget:

  • Learning another language is as frustrating as it is exciting. I highly recommend it for anyone with struggling with pride issues. Going to language school has helped me and Emily to identify with our students’ ESL needs.
  • My brother, Matt, arrived with a Young Life work crew team 2 weeks ago. Greeting them at the airport, my daughters were surprised and overjoyed that their 10-year-old cousin Ryan was a secret member of the team.
  • Last week we saw 190 teenagers respond to the gospel at the first Young Life outreach camp in Debre Zeit. The Work Crew team was awesome- now we have several new friends!
  • Rejoicing with Wakuma who completed his Master’s Degree with the help of our church and friends in Lancaster, PA.
  • Numerous airport runs and difficult goodbyes with fast-forming friends who have returned to their home countries.

Traffic-circle donkeys and other adventures

A Few Powerful Moments

  • Recently I told one of my students, Wakuma, that a group of people from Lancaster, PA had fully funded the remainder of his requirements for a Master’s degree. He teared up and thanked me with enthusiasm.
  • Emily, working with a group of struggling readers, had a special moment last week. Her small group, so engaged in a book, literally cheered as the protagonist cat covered with banana cream pie landed on the bad guys.
  • Some of Emily’s ESL students are having breakthroughs with reading and comprehension. Boys and girls who once resisted reading are now thrilled every time they get to meet with Mrs. Craig.
  • I have had several spontaneous moments of prayer after class with students who are struggling with life-threatening health problems, dysfunctional marriages, and financial trials. I am honored these men have trusted me with such personal crises. Please pray that I would be an effective source of encouragement to them.
  • After a quiet prompting from the Lord while eating and an outdoor cafe, I attempted to give a naked, mentally ill man my jacket. Confused and surprised by my confrontation, he refused. In the street and unsure of what to do, four Ethiopian men seemingly out of nowhere appealed on my behalf and literally dressed this man in front of me. It was a poignant scene I will not soon forget.

Funny Stories

  • Lauren, Anna, and Sarah have made numerous attempts to entice the tortoises, who occasionally roam into our backyard, to take up permanent residence. Although we do not allow them to pick up or move the tortoises, once spotted, the girls waste no time creating bedrooms and a kitchen for their free-range friends.
  • Recently, during our morning exercises at language school I told my class a story about a man who gave me money. What I thought I said was that he pulled money from his pocket and handed it to me… I learned the Amharic words for “pocket” and “butt” our very closely related. My teacher’s expression was priceless.
  • For 4 days Emily was convinced a disheveled donkey in a nearby traffic circle was dead. She gave me daily reports of shock and disbelief that no one was doing anything about it. You can imagine she was unimpressed by my laughter. (I should point out the so-called “dead” donkey was standing up and in a different location each day). I laughed not at the idea of a dead donkey standing in a traffic circle, but the conspiracy theories Emily conjured up regarding (1) how this donkey could have died on it’s feet and (2) the plausible cultural explanations for ignoring the presence of a donkey in a public location. Upon closer investigation we discovered that Dominick (unofficial name), although catatonic and drooling like a 65 year-old hippie, is still very much alive.

Happy Fasika

Today many Ethiopians celebrate Easter, known as Fasika, following the ancient Coptic calendar.

Fasika climaxes after a 55 day lenten period. During this time Orthodox Christians observe a strict fast, akin to a vegan diet. On Easter eve followers go to church with candles to celebrate, which are lit during a colorful Easter mass service, beginning at midnight. The faithful prostrate themselves in church, continually bowing down and rising up.

After the service, people go home to break the fast with chicken or beef dishes, accompanied by injera and traditional drinks. Easter is a day of family reunion, an expression of good wishes with exchange of gifts like a lamb, goat or loaf of bread.

Wakuma Update!

Wakuma Update

As one of my students at Evangelical Theological College, Wakuma has a vision to serve God through translation, making discipleship materials more readily available for his own people.

Several weeks ago I appealed to our community to help raise $1230 so he could complete his research and thesis for his Master’s Degree at Addis Ababa University. The response was overwhelming and wonderful! Through your generosity and the offering from a worship event in Lancaster, PA called “Collide”  we were able to raise over $3600. Wakuma has been fully funded and he is thrilled!

But it gets better— I was able to gift $1000 to Evangelical Theological College, which provided last minute scholarships to 10 students, who otherwise would  have been unable to attend this semester. The remainder of the balance will be applied to that same scholarship fund next semester, assisting another 10-15 people. Amazing…God is good. Thank you for helping us to equip the next generation of leaders.

Our video thank you is HERE

  • I have found great joy from my job!  I love using my skills to assess children, identify their needs, and tailor lessons for them. 
  • Currently, I am working on teaching my students a variety of strategies for comprehension.  It thrills me to see them reading, understanding, and enjoying great books! 
  • In addition, I started leading a professional book group for teachers on teaching comprehension.  It is exciting to share ideas and encourage adults as well as children! 
* So far I have completed 3 sessions of Amharic language school. It is quite a challenge, but I love it. 

* Currently I am teaching an academic writing and youth ministry courses at ETC and just began a series of youth ministry workshops for enthusiastic church leaders.

* Last weekend I had the privilege of speaking to 100 youth leaders at a conference south of Addis Ababa. I spoke on practical tips for speaking to modern adolescents.

* I am in the process of restoring a lettuce green 1984 Toyota Corolla station wagon. Super ugly, but thankful for a second vehicle.

Spicy Thanksgiving

Spicy Thanksgiving

By: Emily
This time of year makes me sentimental.  I have to admit there have been some teary evenings when I start thinking of family and friends in the U.S. and all of the holiday traditions we have built with our girls over the past ten years.  Christmas music makes me so happy and can cause me to cry in an instant.  A few days ago, Jason bought me a wild and crazy two-foot Christmas tree with blinking lights, gaudy golden bows, and shiny red bells.  It made me smile.  Decorating for Christmas took less than an hour, but the girls were ecstatic as they unpacked a few favorite ornaments.

Although we miss friends and family, God has provided us with an amazing community in Addis Ababa.  We celebrated Thanksgiving twice with people from all over the world.  On Thursday, we shared a meal with Bingham Academy teachers and families, complete with paper turkeys and a football game projected on the wall. While sitting with families from the U.S., Germany, and Australia, we explained our Thanksgiving traditions.  They were perplexed by the green Jell-O salad, but were happy to share in the celebration.  During our Saturday neighborhood party, my girls ran around in shorts, playing with their friends on the field.  Jason helped to grill chickens over a coal fire pit with some veteran missionaries and I finished an apple pie and mashed potatoes just in time for an outdoor meal with over 100 new friends.

The tables were beautifully decorated with pumpkins, scarves, and Ethiopian peppers for color.  You may remember that Sarah loves sweet, red peppers. Well, just before dessert, Sarah decided to indulge in part of our centerpiece. As you can imagine this set off alarms in her mouth and eyes. She wiped her tears with her “peppery” hands and then came wailing to us:  “My eyes are spicy!  My eyes are spicy!”  After a shower to flush out her eyes and pouring some salt on her tongue, she was fine. I never considered warning my children about centerpieces.

God is so good and we are thankful.  We are grateful for our home, our jobs, our friends, and family.  We are amazed by the opportunity to serve in Ethiopia and we appreciate everyone who has helped us to get here.

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By: Jason
This weekend I had the privilege to speak to over 150 Young Life volunteers and staff at their 2011 Leadership Retreat, just outside of Addis Ababa. I spoke about self-leadership and the redemptive power of Jesus through the lens of Peter’s life. The Peter of Acts 3 is an unshakable leader who listens to the prompting of God, heals a crippled beggar, and then uses the opportunity to share the gospel with all those at the Temple. Although Peter’s life prior to this was marked with fear, selfishness, and false motives, Jesus did not abandon the one he chose. Peter was restored on the beach in John 21 and the guilt wall that separated him from Jesus was knocked down. An encouragement for us all.