Tackling the Overwhelming Need

By: Jason

imagesEvery day we are presented with opportunities to give. The need is so tremendous, and at times our gifts seem to be one collective drop in a deep, dark well of poverty. Some days our hearts break, but other moments they are hardened toward the poor. Sometimes ignoring is a lame way to cope.

Navigating the tension between gushing generosity and wise stewardship is a regular challenge. We want to “give to everyone who asks” (Matt 5 and Luke 6), but inevitably these questions arise: Are we meeting a need or helping to finance organized begging, a form of human trafficking? Should we give to the same person milling around the same grocery store every time? Is that child being kept out of school so he can beg? Does that infant even belong to woman or is she a prop being passed around to elicit greater donations? Tough stuff.

Slowly realizing that we are not obligated to judge the condition of another, Emily and I move through our days with greater ease. Our only obligation is to train our eyes and ears to God’s prompting. As stewards of His resources, we aim to be generous, wise, and creative. Below are a few ways we have been giving these days. Maybe you will connect with one of these ideas and decide to give in your context.

Gifts of Fun

  • This year we helped to sponsor a local U16 boys soccer club. For a couple of hundred bucks we made graphic tees at a local shop and bought 2 practice balls. It was a fun project that went above and beyond the kids’ expectations.

Gift of Time

  • This past week, Emily stayed an extra afternoon at school to help a home-schooling mom.  She assessed the little girl’s reading skills and comprehension and provided the mother with an action plan to improve her literacy lessons. They had a wonderful time together.
  • Conversations with students, whether they be at my office or the cafe are often the most rewarding parts of my day. The trick for me is to be generous and focused, not be overly concerned with the next thing on my to-do list.

Gift of Education

  • Many of you helped us to help Wakuma to complete his final course for his Master’s Degree. Now he is a high school English teacher.
  • At Bingham Academy, Emily was presented with the opportunity to cover the school expenses of a child of one of the workers at her school.  For less than $150, we covered her school fees and monthly tuition.
  • About 1/3 of the students at Evangelical Theological College receive in-house scholarships. Contributing to this fund became a line item on our October budget.

Gift of Money and Possessions

  • We tithe to our local church. A portion of our giving supports the church’s People In Need ministry, which meets the most basic needs of the surrounding neighborhoods.
  • We provide a generous salary and help with basic medical expenses for our house workers and their immediate families.
  • We keep small bills in the ashtray of our cars and give when we believe it is most appropriate.
  • Books are a hot commodity in Ethiopia. This week one of my ETC Youth Ministry students was forced to withdraw (hopefully temporarily) in order to help provide for his extended family. He is sharp and I hate to see him go. I gave him two of my YM books so he can continue learning on his own.

Giving is changing our children.

  • Emily usually takes one of the girls with her when she walks to the corner grocery.  Recently she encouraged them to take five or ten 1-birr notes from the jar on our bookshelf.  As they walk, they keep an eye out for beggars and leave them a couple of birr.  As they give, she instructs them look into their eyes, smile, and greet them with respect.  A few days ago, after giving to a beggar, Lauren turned to Emily and said, “She (a lady who sits at our gate) was very happy!”  Just today, Sarah announced, “Mommy, we should do this on a Saturday.  We should take some money and give it to people all day!”
  • A couple of weeks ago, Anna decided to put all of her own one-birr notes into a change purse.  Now she wants to carry it everywhere, so she can give if she sees someone in need.
  • Two nights ago, Sarah dressed herself in a pair of ducky pajamas, a gift from her grandparents two years ago, and we noticed that the pant legs and sleeves were very short.  Even though she loves these pjs, she declared, “We should give them to Derebe for her little girl!”  Our friend, Derebe adopted her 5 year-old niece six months ago and Sarah remembered giving some of her clothes away last spring.

We realize that the chance to live in Ethiopia is a gift as well. Many of you have partnered with us and join in our work in Addis Ababa. We think about this nearly every day. We are so thankful for you.

We pray that God will keep our hearts soft and guide our giving this week.

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I Miss Fallgirly pumpkin
By Emily:

I long to hike trails surrounded by golden, crimson, and orange leaves. This time of year I would love to load my girls on a wagon and explore a Lancaster County apple orchard. In the absence of these little luxuries, though, I have created an autumn environment in our home. Our table is decorated with faux leaves from Michaels, one doorway is trimmed with a felt leaf garland, and the scent of Macintosh, Vanilla, or Pumpkin Spice Yankee Candles waft through the air.

Two weeks ago, I spotted my first pumpkin of the season in front of a local grocery store.  “Pull over!  Pull over!  They have a pumpkin!”  I called out.  At first, Jason interpreted my enthusiasm as an attempt at humor.  He tilted his head, glanced at me, and asked, “Oh, are you serious?”  The girls cheered in the back seat, mirroring my excitement.  For weeks, I have researched new recipes– gingerbread pumpkin biscotti, pumpkin syrup for coffee and pancakes, and pumpkin donuts!  Lauren did her own research and found a recipe for pumpkin bars with icing. Now the key ingredient was in our sights.

Finally, we had a pumpkin! Saturday morning, we cooked and mashed and roasted seeds.  Within 48hrs, we had tested four recipes. Our friends and neighbors benefited from our baking extravaganza.  Pumpkin bars made their way home with fellow teachers and donuts went to Lauren and Anna’s breakfast Bible study group.

This weekend, we took a break from pumpkin and collected another key October ingredient–apples!  The apple cider donuts with maple frosting disappeared in minutes. The rains continue; there is a chill in the air. We’ll keep pretending it is autumn in Ethiopia.

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Ten Beds in Ten Weeks

Top 10 Things
We Love About America
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10. Driving on roads with rules and linesDSC_0395
9. Tostitos and cheddar cheese
8. Consistent power, water, and blazing-fast internet
7. Duck Dynasty and Downton Abbey
6. Familiar places like the library, Stauffers Grocery, and Catoctin Park
5. Ice Cream and story-time with Nana and Pop-Pop
4. Swimming and art projects with Grandma and Granddad
3. Hearing updates and sharing stories with CFC small groups and friends
2. Community Fellowship Church
1. Loving on our family

Top 10 Reasons
We Look Forward to Ethiopia
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10. Return to routine.
9. Sleeping in one location for more than a week at a time.
8. Reading in the hammock in our backyard.
7. I love the smell of diesel in the morning (Jason)
6. Injera! Awe Yeah.
5. Sending the girls back to school
4. Working with Bingham teachers and kids from all over the world (Em)
3. Jumping back into the classroom and meeting new students (Jason)
2. Preparing for our December visitors from CFC.
1. Enjoying the rest of rainy season with our neighbors.

A Hug, A Handshake, A Tip of the Hat

Please Choose One of the Above–

Cognizant that we all have different comfort levels when it comes to physical expressions of gratitude, we invite you to receive our love. Thank you for your hospitality and for making us feel like we never left. And thanks to our team of new donors and to those who are continuing to partner with us in our third year. We feel honored to have your support! You make it possible for us to be here, and we are proud to an extension of your ministry.

Consider Joining Us!

Our budget has increased this year due to an increase in our housing costs and in country taxes. Additionally we are planning to help several students with school fees. If you are not already on our team, please consider joining us!

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A 20hr Plane Ride Never Sounded So Fun…

It has been about two years since we have seen the good ole’ USA. During these many months we were thrilled to keep-up over Skype, FB and emails. Delectable treats tucked inside care packages were like gifts from heaven. But nothing can quite duplicate a warm embrace from a family member, laughter with friends over a meal, or a crabcake from Phillips- haha. We leave June 1st and will set up camp with our family in Maryland. During our 10-week stay we will make frequent trips to PA. We even have people offering to host us. They have no idea what they are in for…

We have 4 significant goals during our time in the States:

1. Rest and refill. This has been an action-packed two years of ministry. None of us have been bored. Our jobs are awesome but exhausting. It will be wonderful to get away and “refill” the tanks.

2. Reunite ourselves with family and friends. As you may have heard– a recent study noted that 100% of overseas missionaries are crazy weirdos. We are so excited to get away and spend time with normal weirdos like you.

3. Relay our best stories. Whenever you do something awesome or receive a great gift your natural inclination is to tell someone else. We cannot wait (including our girls) to share the best of what we have learned.

4. Reaffirm our partnerships.  For the past two years Emily and I have been honored to serve as an extension of your ministry in Ethiopia. We thank God for the way he has provided for our family through many of you. As we prepare for continued success in our third and final year we hope you will continue to support us both financially and through prayer. Joining you all for meals, small group meetings, and other gatherings we are look forward to sharing our vision for this amazing nation. 

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Second Easter
ethiopian-largeBecause Ethiopia follows the ancient Gregorian calendar we have the privilege to celebrate Easter twice. Although devoid of Easter egg rolls and marshmallow peeps, the holiday is a treasured time for numerous Ethiopians. In preparation, some fast for 40 days, others attend special prayer meetings, and every Christian readies their home for the Easter Sunday feast.

Celebrating the resurrection, so many homes in Addis were packed with smiling guests and amazing food last Sunday. We were honored to share a meal with our houseworker, Emawash. From her home, smaller than most kitchens, she served us the BEST– spicy doro wot, beg tibs, gomen, shiro, aeyb, and freshly roasted coffee.  It was easily worth more than a week’s salary and one of the best meals I have had in Ethiopia.

As we enjoyed the evening, huddled together and eating from a common plate, we were reminded of the love that the Lord lavishes on us.

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yaneta academy training
This week Jason and his friend Tillahun co-taught a seminar for 50 high school students at Yeneta Academy. The topics were peer-pressure, dating and sex. Although our cultures are quite distinct their honest questions mirrored those American kids.

Epic Water Battle

One of the best things about living in Ethiopia is the weather.  It never gets too cold or too hot.  Even during rainy season, the sun comes out every day and I am comfortable in a sweatshirt and jeans. The month of February is in the middle of dry season.  Every day begins with cool air that gradually warms up during the day, perfect weather for a water fight.

One hot, Saturday afternoon, Lauren, Anna and Sarah asked to use their new water guns, Christmas presents from their father.  I had put off allowing them get out these new toys, because I had a feeling I would end up getting wet, too.watergun

Jason, supplied the girls with buckets, which they filled to the brim with cold spigot water from the backyard.  Letting him take over, I continued cutting up vegetables and shredding cheese for our dinner.

Jason appeared in the kitchen and whispered, “Come on.  Let’s get ‘em.” Hearing happy screams from the yard, I told him, “They’re fine.  They’re having a blast.  I’m going to finish making dinner.”

Unsatisfied with my answer, Jason insisted, “Come on.  We need to get in on this!  I’m going to fill a bucket with water and I’ll meet you in the front of the house.”

I finished shredding the cheese, popped the pizza dough in the oven, and hurried to my room to change into shorts.  Jason and I made a pact that we would not spray each other.  This agreement benefited me the most, because my husband is extremely competitive.

In silence, we filled our sprayers.  I turned left and tiptoed around the house.  Jason sprinted to the right and we surprised the girls, spraying each of them, catching them off guard.

After the initial shock of being sprayed by her parents, Anna announced, “That’s warm water.  Hey, where did you get warm water!”

Jason and I met back at our water supply.

“I accidently filled it with warm water,” he told me. We refilled and launched another attack, spraying Lauren and Anna, while Sarah kept her distance.

“Hey!  Where did you get water!”  Lauren demanded, following us back to the front yard.  Jason held her off and I refilled once again.  Sarah, not wanting to be left out, pushed her way past her sisters.  While I sprayed Sarah, Anna ducked behind me and filled her water sprayer with warm water.  I turned around and she hosed me down, completely soaking me.  I let out an involuntary scream, which drew some children from our neighborhood.

I dipped my water sprayer back in the bucket, filling it again.  I retaliated, spraying Anna. “I don’t mind!” she giggled, making her way back to the bucket.

Lauren and Sarah engaged in another battle with their father, chasing him to the backyard, where he was searching for more water, cold this time.  He too was drenched and laughing.

“I’ve never seen someone spray their mom before!” a neighbor girl chuckled.

“Me neither,” exclaimed her brother.

“Where’s Daddy?”  Anna asked.

“I think he went to the backyard,” I told her.

She ran around the back of the house in search of water and her father.  That gave me the perfect chance to escape back into the house.  I changed into dry clothes and finished up dinner, smiling at the sounds of a happy family.

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I love my job! 

DSCN2497This school year I had the opportunity to teach the Ethiopian assistant teachers how to lead guided reading small groups.  Each elementary classroom has an assistant teacher who helps to keep things organized.  For ten weeks, I joined them for their weekly staff meetings, covering topics such as how to prompt children when they make errors, decoding strategies, how to ask good questions, and comprehension strategies.  At the beginning, the assistant teachers were rather shy and did not want to share their ideas.  However, after a couple of sessions they felt more comfortable and everyone shared their thoughts.

I also learned that it was helpful to give them a chance to work in small groups or with a partner before reporting back to the large group.  Near the end of our sessions, I went into classrooms and observed each assistant teacher lead a reading group.  I was ecstatic to see them using the techniques we had covered in our sessions and they had wonderful rapport with students.  I enjoyed meeting with them later in the day to share the great things I observed and offer a few bits of constructive feedback.

The benefits of this training are two fold:  the assistant teachers are equipped to teach children at a higher level and classroom teachers have even more help available to them.  The turnover rate of our classroom teachers varies from year to year, but our Ethiopian staff tends to stay much longer.  I am confident that our assistant teachers are experienced and a great asset to Bingham Academy.  I feel privileged to have had the time to get to know them better and to lead them in professional development.

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Me Too!!! 
By: Jason
This semester I am teaching Intro. to Preaching and Intro. to Youth Ministry. (I bet you can guess which one I like better). My students are a lively bunch; our classroom discussions typically spill over into conversations over tea. Since my courses are in the evenings I have been able to continue my studies at Amharic language school. I have this amazing teacher, who is part drill sergeant and part grandmother. She’s likely 137 years old but has more energy than anyone else at that school, including me. I am thankful that she is teaching me how to read, write, speak and dream in this crazy language.

Crazy, Big News

DSC_0533So Here It Is…

After months of prayer and seeking the counsel of wise people on both sides of the ocean, we have decided to extend our stay in Addis Ababa for one more year. Although it is difficult to be away from friends, family and the familiar elements of our home, we still have work to complete. Our three girls are thriving, we are better acquainted with the rhythm of Ethiopian culture and our teaching jobs are in full-stride. We believe by extending for an additional 12 months, Emily and I will be able to increase our reach. Here’s what we mean–

For Jason: Evangelical Theological College (ETC) just launched a Youth Ministry major, making it one of two schools in Africa with this offering. I am involved in a 4-fold project: teachingyouth ministry courses, creating program awareness among churches, recruiting new teachers and providing grassroots youth ministry training in local congregations. The study of and professionalization of youth ministry is a growing concept in Ethiopia. I have several students right now with fire in their eyes, but please pray for more. I am honored to play a role in this development.

For Emily: This job consistently puts a smile on her face. From the outset Emily envisioned that her work would be primarily with small groups of elementary children. Her reading specialist position, however, has exploded into something even greater. In addition to working with young people, Emily is leading professional development seminars (how to teach effective reading and writing strategies) for the classroom teachers as well as the Ethiopian assistant teachers.  In this next year Emily plans to invest even more in the assistant teachers. International schools like Bingham Academy tend to have a transient staff, but the Ethiopian teachers maintain a steadfast presence.

We return to the States on June 2 for the summer. Speaking for our family- we cannot wait to get a decent plate of nachos— but more than that— we cannot wait to be reunited with the warm faces of our friends and family. I just purchased our plane tickets today. The implications of round-trip airfares are both thrilling and overwhelming. This is a big day in the Craig house. Please pray for us.

 

Raw Meat Ridiculous

About a month ago, during a break between classes some of my students were quizzing me on Ethiopian cuisine, wondering what I liked and disliked. On my “no way”  list were dishes such as doolet (sheep stomach) and kort (raw beef cubes). One student teased me, commenting that all foreigners’ stomachs are weak. Slightly offended, I retorted in Amharic, “Not me- my stomach is strong, I’ve eaten kitfoe! (rare, spiced ground beef)” It was true, I had eaten side-dish portions several times and felt no ill effects. My “street cred” was seemingly restored outside the classroom that night.

Yesterday I met one of those same students for lunch. He surprised me in the parking lot as he pulled up in his car, an uncommon luxury. I hopped in and we were off. He was ecstatic to take me to one of his favorite places. We chatted continuously for about 15 minutes about school, our families, and youth ministry. Pulling up to an unfamiliar 9a7e4__121018034451-elyse-pasquale-kitfo-horizontal-galleryrestaurant I sounded out the sign with my 1st grade Amharic– kih–ti–foe. Immediately I thought to myself, “No problem, I’ll  just sample a little with my meal…” When the menu arrived I read over the 25 options– 24 of which were beverages. Before long I was greeted with enough ground meat to complete an Old El Paso Taco kit. It was actually quite good, but enough for two people! I cleaned my plate like a good boy, but now I have this bowling ball of spices, butter and uncooked madness gurgling in my stomach. I am completing this post from my bed dealing with the unpleasant shock to my system. I am thankful for little things like clean water, a bathroom and no teaching obligations today.

Of course, Emily offers little sympathy– only an all-too-familiar eye roll/head shake combo.  Tonight for dinner she will be serving me de-worming medicine with a Pepto-Bismol chaser.

Setting aside my temporary discomfort, I must say our conversation about the state of youth ministry in Ethiopia was invigorating. I am thrilled for this developing friendship, but will insist on pizza next time.

AN AMAZING SUNDAY

_MG_0797This week I was invited to teach an introductory youth ministry workshop for 30 young adults. Many of them have little experience, however they are familiar with the dangerous trajectories facing teenagers in Addis Ababa. We had a blast creating a profile of an urban teenager, addressing global trends, and building a leadership approach in light of Jesus’ calling of Matthew (Matt. 9:9-11). Challenging them to take two teenagers to tea in the next 2 weeks, I look forward to our follow-up and cannot wait to hear what they have learned through their conversations.

Learning From My Children

One of my neighbors works for the CURE hospital in Addis Ababa and we often marvel at her stories of children’s lives being changed both physically and spiritually at the facility. Many children with club feet, severe burns, and cleft palates are served for free and their quality of life is drastically improved.

A couple of weeks ago, we joined my friend’s family for a visit to CURE. When Sarah heard about our impending trip, she dashed into her room, riffled through a drawer, and turned up with the ten birr she received for her most recent tooth loss. She declared that she wanted to give her birr to the children in the hospital. On the way to the hospital, we stopped at a grocery store to buy candy to give to the patients and their families. Sarah went in and bought three lollipops to give away. Our friends also brought crayons, colored pencils, coloring sheets, bubbles, and baby toys to share.

In the children’s ward, Sarah gave out her lollipops and then sidled up to a ten year-old girl named Salamawit. She diligently colored a stripped kitten picture while the girl colored a picture of a monkey. They greeted one another and occasionally looked up and smile at each other. When Samalawit groaned in pain from her healing surgery, Sarah rubbed her back. She didn’t leave her side until it was time to go. I circulated among the girls and greeted staff and patients. Anna found her niche giving out string bracelets she made herself and collecting pictures and taping to the walls. Lauren enjoyed talking to the babies and giving out teething rings. Our friends’ children blew bubbles for the little ones and Jason used his Amharic to comfort a five year-old boy. I think we were blessed just as much as the children we visited.

My friend tells me that most people who come through CURE thank God and consider it an incredible gift receive such life-changing medical care. I witnessed this first hand when I watched a grateful couple holding their healing toddler. His upper lip was covered with scabs, but he looked well on the way to recovery. They were beaming as the collected their things to leave.

I think I can learn a lot from my children. What if I responded to need with the same enthusiasm as Sarah? What if I patiently stayed with people who were hurting? What if I slowed down and noticed who needed me with more diligence?
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Story #2 = Newest Embarrassment

A few weeks ago, I was driving to the market to pick up some fruit and vegetables when I received a frantic phone call.  I pulled over and answered.  It was Jason.

“Emily, I have an emergency!”  he announced.  My mind searched for possibilities- Did his car break down?  Was he hurt?  Was someone else hurt?

“I split my pants,” he said in a hushed tone, “Could you bring me another pair?”  I couldn’t help laughing, but I turned around, drove home, and picked out a few pairs of pants, since I wasn’t sure which ones would match.

Later, I got the whole story.  Jason was walking through the college library when one of his students slowly stood and placed his hand on Jason’s shoulder.

“Mr. Craig, there is a problem with your pants,” he whispered, “in the back part.”  Jason wondered if he had sat in some dirt, but sure enough there was a nine-inch split showing all of London and France.  He had actually split them the last time he was wearing them and had mistakenly worn them again.  Thinking on his feet, he went to his office and got some scotch tape.  After calling me, he went to the bathroom and taped the pants from the inside.  Since there is a lot of traffic in Addis, it was going to take some time for me to stop at the house and then get to his school.  He might have to start teaching with the split.  He pulled down his jacket a bit, because he said it looked like he had a wedgie.  He returned to his classroom and started moving desks around.  With every lurch, he could hear the tape stretching and crinkling.  It did not make a very good fix.

Class started at 9:00 and I arrived at 9:02.  Jason gave his class a warm up worksheet and then jogged out to meet me.  The first pair of pants he held up had a hole, too.  The second pair was a go.  He thanked me, changed the pants, and got back to class without anyone else finding out…until he told all of his colleagues at lunch.

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Story #3 = Culture Stress

Just as our lungs and legs have had to acclimate to running a mile above sea level, our emotional and spiritual selves have had to adapt to a new way of doing life. We won’t overly spiritualize it–sometimes living in Ethiopia just plain rough. We are so thankful for our fulfilling jobs, our warm home, and the our community of expat and Ethiopian friends. Some days, though, no matter how bright the sun is shining, it can still be stormy. Culture stress is the stutter-stepping of being off balance. No one likes that feeling.  For example, driving will never be relaxing as people and animals dart across the streets and diesel-belching wrecks wander from lane to lane— off-balance. Moving away from familiar scenery and a strong network of loved ones creates emotional holes, which are never quite filled in the same way–again, off balance. Not always understanding what the people are saying in the check-out line — off-balance. Living in close community with 10 other families, including our collective 35 kids– sometimes off balance.

My Top 3 Culture Stress Moments Last Week:
1.     A big man driving a small pink Toyota Yaris tried to run me off the road.
2.     Many things are hard to find and require asking numerous people for directions: i.e. 4 hours to find a wheel barrow tire and 2 days to find a piece of garden hose.
3.     The internet was so slow this week, I longed for carrier pigeons.
In the moment these were my intense dramas, but now, just a few days later they are hilarious and ridiculous.

Our Top 3 Reasons Why the Culture Stress is Worth it:
1.  This week, I met with students to discuss marriage advice and troubleshoot youth ministry strategies over coffee.
2. On Tuesday, Emily’s students were so enthralled by her story-telling they did not want to go to lunch until she was finished.
3. Yesterday, Wakuma (the student many of us helped to complete his university degree) surprised me in my office with a framed graduation photo (2 poses).

We try to laugh more than cry and pray more than cuss. The leadership axiom is true: a tea’s flavor comes out in hot water.  Emily and I are becoming aware of our own soft spots. We are no saints, but are we are trying to embrace moments of stress as a sanctifying process. We can sense God’s presence in it.