Monday, March 16, 2009

Sunday, 15 March 2009

Up early, we enjoyed warm showers and checked out of our hotel to catch breakfast on our way to get the pastors and translator.  We were expected for church in the Seven Camp Church, a larger rectangular mud-and-straw building filled with benches.  We had seen this church yesterday for a few minutes, but it had been “dressed up” today - the benches had been arranged and fresh grasses had been strewn all over the dirt floor. 

A dozen children were already singing exuberantly on the raised area in the front (Dan got some precious video footage).  When they were finished, a blue-robed choir of about 20 adults sang with a keyboard (there was electricity!) and a large drum hung around someone’s neck sideways.  There were announcements, then greetings by the D.S., who then asked Janet to pray.   Dan then gave his message to the group of over 80 people. The adults seemed to be taking the message quite seriously, while the children kept stealing glances around.  They flocked around us after the service, wanting to say an English word or two, or shake our hands. We were taken to a room across the yard, the library, where we and the D.S. and the pastors were fed again after a few pastor-stories. Huge plates of spaghetti, already dressed in a light, delicious spicy sauce, with fresh bread, were brought in for all of us, along with soft drinks in bottles.  This was followed by coffee for all.  Then, we all piled in the truck for the 20-30 minutes to the afternoon’s destination, the Chabo church. 

As before, we started on the paved highway then soon turned off onto a rocky, bumpy, dusty road; then a smaller dirt road; then a grassy path barely wide enough for the truck.  When we got to a clearing, there was a large circle of mud homes, some rectangular, some circular, and the mud-walled church building. Benches were brought out from the church for us to sit on under the trees before the service started.  The children, of course, hovered and watched Dan as he moved about the clearing taking pictures, waiting to be the next subjects. They were dressed in very tattered clothing and huge smiles.  In a few minutes, a procession of choir members came across the clearing in bright green robes - at least 25, a couple of them carrying babies.  We watched as more local people arrived coming up the grassy path, then we were told when it was good to go in and be seated in wooden chairs in the back.  The place was packed with probably 120 people on benches in rows, with kids along the sides.  The choir-moms handed off the babies to other ladies as they made their way up front to start the rousing music.  Again, wow!  Even without understanding the words of the songs, we had a great time clapping and enjoying their serious faces and joyful movement and music!  Dan’s message was again delivered and translated as he explained that he’s a church member just like them and we all must serve our churches and each other for God.  More prayers and another choir moved to the front - at least 30 young people who had come from another congregation. 

The afternoon was getting on and we had hours of travel ahead.  We left the service around 3:15, later than we had hoped.  We needed to get on the road, as it’s more dangerous to drive after dark; you can’t see the people or animals well, and there’s a lot of passing other vehicles.  The D.S. and a pastor traveled back with us; we stopped just once to stretch our legs and trade seats.  It was easy to be almost “glued” to the scenery - to continue to drink in the sights!  And we saw something new on the way back - camels!

It got dark around 7:00, so the last hour of travel was slower as Getachew negotiated the vehicular and pedestrian traffic.  When we reached the edge of Addis, we dropped off the 2 gentlemen to catch taxis to the Field Office, then left Getachew off near his home.  We decided to grab a quick meal before going “home” to Sani’s, not wanting to make her feel obligated to provide a meal for us since it was so late. We finally got there around 9 p.m.

It felt like we had been gone a long time, to a different world, but it truly had been the real Ethiopia (over 80% of the population live in those rural settings). It was so good to be back with Sani and her family. They said they missed us and we surely had missed them.  Anbessu was away, having already traveled to Jimma to oversee some FIDA work there for a few days. He should be back Wednesday evening, so we’ll see him again before we fly home on Thursday.

This was our last and fullest weekend here.  We are exhausted (perhaps more than we know) but it was a interesting and rewarding set of experiences.  We are so blessed to have experienced these last two days.  We pray that in some way God was able to use us to encourage these fellow believers like they did us.

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