June 26, 2006-- I said goodbye to Awanno yesterday. As I got in
the car, I had maybe my two favorite people at the car door wishing
me safe travels- Abba Sanbe and Abba Diga.
Abba Sanbe was a guard for our station for years, but retired last
is probably in his late 60's, and he and his family live a stone's
away from our compound. I remember the very beginning of my Awanno
experience- being desperate to speak this language I didn't know,
Sanbe was a natural teacher. His favorite was an anatomy lesson-
ear, eye, hair, stomach, finger, fingernail- but he would explain
that was around. Mule, water, tree, rope, this is how you eat meat,
how you eat lentils, or make injera, etc. I remember multiple
Saturdays when I would walk out intentionally to find him with my
notebook, just to write things down. When Vicky came out last summer,
couldn't pronouce her name and would call her either "Zikky"
usually whiskey. He was quick to laugh and easy to entertain. He
the firenges [white people] just walk by like they are in a hurry,
sit down and talk. I loved having him around.
The first time I went to his house, his dog barked at me, ran up
to me and
bit my skirt, tearing it. I was really scared and screamed a little
His family felt so bad, and I felt quite silly and awkward, but
in the end I was glad I had come. He was sick that time, and he
to pray for him, that God would heal him.
Last fall, he was mandatorily retired by SIM because "he was
old." He was unhappy about being retired and still holds hard
against the powers that be. I felt so awkward, and was so sad that
retired, but didn't want to take a side. I didn't have time to talk
right after he was retired as I had left for Addis, but when I got
found him right away. He obviously had hard feelings, and I didn't
quite how to connect with him as my friend.
When I returned to Awanno after coming home for Christmas, he was
again. He stayed sick for a long time, and I was afraid several
he would die. I went to see him a couple times
a week. He complained of dizzyness and his "head moving."
Whenever he was
funny, we would laugh and then he would say, "Don't make me
laugh, my head
hurts worse." His illness was just what I needed- a reason
to go see him,
and show him that employee issues didn't matter to me. I wanted
to be his
friend and show him God's love. Somewhere in February, he got better
was up moving again.
Last week as my departure drew close, he invited me to his house
for a meal
and coffee. It was great,
but so hard and sad to be saying goodbye to him. He has gotten sick
frequently, is it not a matter of time before I hear the news that
sick and dying? What are the chances I will see him again? That
believe in Jesus before He dies? People have matter-of-factly stated
Awanno will not turn and hear the gospel until this generation has
away. I cannot accept that easily, as I would loose my friend Abba
Abba Diga is the evening guard. I have written about him before.
thoughtful, inquisitive, and philosophical with a strong believe
in a great
Creator God. He has commented multiple times on the fact that your
fingernail is short, but it keeps coming out, and there is not hair
head, but it keeps growing, and where does it come from? God is
My favorite place in the world, maybe, is the Awanno compound in
evening, with the sun setting across the hills, and lighting up
and the grass with such beautiful colors, with Abba Diga wandering
commenting on how the fence needs to be repaired so children don't
mangos, and then going on to talk about life in the community, Oromo
His life is not easy. He plows his field in the day, and works
on our compound as a guard. He takes two hour turns with Abba Jihad
guarding and sleeping, but doesn't have any chance to rest in the
makes about 350 birr a month, which is about $40 US.
I have explained the gospel to him more than once. He listens longer
most people, and appears to be thinking. Recently, he described
to me God
questioning him after he dies. He said, "God will ask me why
I didn't learn
the Koran, or do the right things." I asked him what his response
and he said he didn't have one. I asked, "Are you afraid of
said, "Of course I am afraid." I explained that we have
a response- someone else had
paid our way, and made us clean.
He has asked me lots of questions- why did I come to Awanno when
I have so
much money in my country? What will I do when I go home? I tried
his questions with my gospel motivations. What about getting married?
(common question) I explained I was looking for someone who feared
he understood that.
The day before I left, he greeted me saying, "Fayyaa dha?"
health?" "Of course there is not health," I said,
"I am leaving and I am only
sadness." He said, "Don't worry, you can greet us on the
radio, and if God
says, you will come back here to see us again, and we will pray
It was so hard to see those faces go, and so many others. I love
Awanno Oromo people so much.
But as we drove away, with the sun rising over the hills, I was
moved on to
something bigger and fuller and more beautiful than two years of
relationships. God, in His lavish character, that paints the hills
morning, that weaves our lives together in His perfect time, that
any one of my tears go, that is steadily building His kingdom everywhere,
Awanno and in my heart, has been perfectly faithful to me every
step of my
life and of this journey. He is bigger than whatever I lost to come
Ethiopia, and whatever I feel like I am losing now. He is worth
The Oromo people of Awanno build grass roof houses that do not
let in the
rain and are very cool in the hot sun. They use strips of sorgum
soaked in water as ties during the construction of their huts. They
cornbread incessantly, and drink their coffee boiling hot. They
describe joint stiffness as "dryness of the body" and
rheumatic pain as "coldness of the body." Most have not
seen the main cities of Ethiopia and do not speak the national language.
They cook on a big pan/slab placed over three stones. The girls
put leaves on their heads under their scarves as some sort of healing,
and the older people stuff leaves up their noses to help with colds.
They claim that all children "break" their baby teeth
when they are seven and calculate their
childrens ages accordingly. When they have a conflict, they call
mediator, ("shemagale," or "old man,") to preside.
Shoes and jackets are
signs of wealth. A woman who has delivered a baby, or who has lost
spouse, does not leave the house for 40 days afterward.
These are the people I am living among and learning about. While
spent some time in the clinic recently, the rest of my day is just
Lots of talking about silly little things, and talking also about
culture, and occasionally the important things. A couple ladies
"Can you bring us a pill to keep us from growing old?"
incident) guard told me that he thought Jesus and Mohammed were
a pair- he
thought God worked in pairs- light and dark, sun and moon, male
Jesus and Mohammed, and after Mohammed there was noone else. He
thought there was only one God, only one truth, but two books. ("Yours
Hada Moaba, whose husband Abba Milky just died, asked me, "What
will we do, Laura? God refused to hear us. We tired of praying."
Her husband's death
was fresh on her mind and she remembered that I told her I prayed
I didn't know how to answer her hard, hard question even in my own
language. In the end, after coffee and lots of talking, I asked
her and her neighbor if they knew why the white people had come
here (my new favorite question). They said, "to help people."
I am afraid that many people here assume we came only to provide
medical/health/development services. I explained that medicine is
not enough, because even people like Abba Milky, who took lots and
lots of pills from the clinic, still die, and that we are all heading
towards death, and medicine is not enough.
Our weekly children's program continues, and more and more families
permitted their children to come. They are so noisy and squirmy
only about 1/8 of them are paying attention to Esther's Bible story.
week there were about 25 kids, and only about 4 of them are Christian
They are so fun to play with- this week we played a long game of
Green Light after the story and craft, and I see the children reacting
warmly to the attention and love they are receiving.
So I have learned about their grass roofs. And I answered Hada
saying that "God is big and God is good." And I wasn't
sure how to explain
that Jesus and Mohammed were not a pair. And we played Red Light
Light. I do love the people and love talking to them, but most days
work seems almost silly and our inroads so small. We don't have
too attractive to offer this Muslim community. Church this morning
God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached
to save those who believe. (I Cor. 1:21).
I will keep working for this message. Its beauty is in its foolishness.
Foolishness that is the power of salvation to the called, Jews,
Thank you for praying for the gospel efforts here on so many fronts-
children's program, clinic services, my own visiting and language
acquistion, and loving each other.
Awanno Thoughts at Christmas, 2005
Abba Milky has come into the clinic many times in the last few
months- his friends and family bring him on a stretcher. We have
tried all kinds of treatments- malaria medicine more than once,
antibiotics, vitamin supplements, dietary advice- but he continues
to loose weight and stay vaguely "sick", even though he
is not elderly.
Christmastime is here, isn't it? I have been looking ahead to San
Jose Christmas during the last few weeks in Awanno, and enjoying
the words of the carols when I remembered to sing them. What a miracle
to remember what Christmas represents- God coming down, and saving
us from our sinful selves. The carols run through my mind as I savor
I decide to check on Abba Milky at his house. I am ushered in to
the darkness of the hut to find him sitting in front of a small
fire, staring into it. He is wrapped in a blanket, but I can see
how thin he is, with a gaunt, wasted face.
Long lay the world in sin and error pining till He appeared…
Can anybody stare into a fire without contemplating life, and its
big questions? If he is sitting by the fire all day, he certainly
has time to think about his ultimate destiny. I am offered a low
stool that I cannot even see as my eyes adjust. I greet his wife
who I know and have visited often. He doesn’t look very happy.
Does he think he will die? Is he afraid of dying?
A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices for yonder breaks
a new and glorious morn…
He is very quiet, and barely returns my greeting, and without eye
contact. His wife tells me that Gi-Hyung, the Korean evangelist,
visited yesterday. I knew he shared the gospel with Abba Milky.
Did he understand our gospel message? Does he know why white people
came to his town?
The King of Kings laid thus in lowly manger, in all our trials
born to be our friend, He knows our need, to our weakness is no
During the visit, Hada Moaba and I share small talk for a while.
I explain that I am going to my country because we have a big holiday.
They do not know Christmas. She asks how long I will be gone. I
tell her I am going to greet my mother and father and brothers and
sisters, and she nods sympathetically.
Led by the light of faith serenely beaming with glowing hearts
by His cradle we stand…
The children have gathered around the fire, and are asking their
mother for dinner. She says, can’t you see your father is
sick? The guava fruits I brought are passed around. Sultan walks
in, home from school. He attends our children’s Bible club
and knows me well, so we chat about school. Abba Milky, his father,
Truly He taught us to love one another, His law is love and
His gospel is peace…
It is dusk. I prepare to leave, and tell Abba Milky that God is
the only One that can heal him. He agrees. I give my farewell greetings
to all the children, and their parents, and I step out into the
fading light to walk home.
O Holy Night… I am truly alive because of the Holy
Night so many years ago when God visited man. The people in Awanno
do not know a God that visits humanity, but I pray that people like
Abba Milky will come to know Him. The joy of Christmas for me this
year is richer than any other year because I see it shining against
the dark backdrop of hopelessness. I love this celebration.
“…that they would seek God, if perhaps they might grope
for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us…”
“…that they would seek God, if perhaps they might
grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of
us…” Acts 17:27
I see Berkeesa’s face, smiling as she greets me while she
fills her jerry can with water at the faucet. I see Kazimee’s
face as she is handing me some oranges and saying, “Come to
my house another time, we will drink coffee.” I see Fatuma,
inviting me in for a snack, implying that she will be offended if
I do not accept. I see all these faces often in my mind, wherever
Maybe young Mabooba will grow up knowing the Jesus that spans such
a great distance and brings her near to the God she only knows as
far. Maybe Reedjad, with his quiet smile and observant eyes, will
someday be the head of a household that worships a triune, redemptive
God. Could Abba Sanbe, before he dies, have his ears opened to salvation
by means of a cross? Maybe Berkeesa, Kazimee, and Fatuma will be
strong leaders in an Awanno church. How often have I thought of
10 year old Sultan, or crippled Aleema, or tall, lanky Zelika, and
thought- if all the barriers of culture and tradition were removed,
and you saw and felt Jesus’ love, and heard His invitation,
I know you would accept and believe without a moment’s hesitation.
I see that you are human and need Him as badly as I do.
But for all I can see, things do not change in this community.
We are not discipling new believers. There are no visitors at our
little church services. People rarely ask questions about our beliefs.
We as Christians are a welcome presence in that we bring health
care and healing to their cattle and their families. Maybe, they
hope, we will teach them English, the language of the foreigner
and the elite, or maybe we will take them to our country.
I cannot point to any promise in Scripture that assures me these
people will believe and find His light. But I know He made them,
and there will be Oromo voices around the throne. And I know He
is sovereign, and it is His hand that has brought the Christian
presence to the dark community of Awanno. Surely He has plans for
So I am not yet coming home. I spend my time in Awanno partly in
the clinic, partly in my Oromo book, and as much as possible in
the community. During Ramadan I tried to ask questions about fasting-
why? And do you know why I don’t fast? Grasping the edges
of real conversation drives me on in language learning that would
otherwise be tedious. Being here in Awanno for Him is a continual
joy to me.
I am looking to follow God’s plan, even if it means the awkward
feeling of seeing very little of what lies ahead. I am coming home
for Christmas, and then back to Ethiopia for the next…months.
Thank you for your support in innumerable ways. If you are interested
in (much) more frequent email updates, please write email@example.com.
November 30, 05
She came into the clinic wearing tennis shoes and a cross around
her neck, and wanted her tooth pulled. She looked pretty much like
any other patient.
The tooth was a tough one, but nothing too unusual. But wait- a
cross around her neck? This is Awanno- nobody knows or loves or
wears the cross here. Her friend was wearing a cross, too, and proclaimed
to us, "We are Christians." They are from Raga Dake, far
from here- but not that far!
Sometimes I forget that hidden away in some of these hills are little
pockets or believers shining little lights into vast darkness.
When will my friends here in the village, who I drink coffee with,
wear a cross around their neck because they love its redemption?
We work and pray for that day.
I am back in Awanno after being in Addis for too long- the political
instability postponed my plans. Jeff and Kristine Threet with their
two children have joined our team here, for which I am so thankful.
They are adjusting well and always a joy to me.
In two weeks time I am flying home for Christmas, so I want to
connect with all the ladies I know during this time. I don't want
to be an illusive prescence here, but continue to build relationships.
When I returned from Addis, Mohammed said to me, "You were
gone so long we thought you got married!" I guess that means
Relationships can ebb and flow. I feel the difficulty these days
of keeping relationships fresh with the other foreigners here. I
so often feel the need for "space" from others because
we live so closely, but I am fighting my own attitude and flesh
more than anything. How can I love the village if I do not love
my own brothers and sisters that I am working along side of?
God will not, I don't think, bless a visit in the community just
to get away from the compound!
How great our faith must be to keep working and praying for God's
redemption here. Thank you for your faithful prayer for the sake
of His kingdom here.
November 2nd, 05
Here I am in the city again staying with Jen. The link
at the top is the BBC article about things here in the city- lots
violence, worse than back in June. We didn't really have any warning
so I drove into Addis by myself, and it was scary- lots of people
putting big stones in the road to block traffic that I had to try
weave around or drive over rocks (with my big car), fires in the
all over the place, I drove right by a burning bus (and felt the
heat!!), some people even throwing rocks at my car. I had to do
of turning around because the road was blocked in so many places-
opposition party, I think, is just trying to block roads and make
difficult for everyone. I don't really know lots of alternate routes
through the city, but I did get there. Lots of police/soldiers out
big guns and all, one truck actually escorted me a little way around
ring road. Did feel like a war zone!! I kept alternating between
window down because I was so hot and window up because what if a
bullet flew in???
Anyways, I decided not to go to HQ but to come straight to Jen's,
I'm glad I did. (It really wasn't that bad, Mom, don't get worried).
Anyways, of course, SIM then says people shouldn't go out, etc.
actually might still go with this doctor to Nazareth for surgeries,
we'll see. I am being careful, though, to respect authority and
doctor has communicated with the SIM director, etc., so we'll see.
If you're stuck anywhere, why not be stuck at your good friends
where she feeds you and gives you a glass of wine and lets you talk
about life and you have a good time?
I feel "big peace" these days. God's hand on my life.
If I came to
Addis for nothing and end up sitting around in the house all day,
is ok. I know I am in the right place.
Interesting, I left Awanno with a different feeling than usual.
I feel like, wow, nice to have a break and see some friends and
little life! I felt a little that way this time, but also, I do
get back here, and I have things I need to do- people to keep connecting
with and talking to- in Awanno. I guess that's good. One girl told
to bring Kristine to her house and she would boil coffee for us-
thought that was so sweet.
How do I end up in Addis whenever there are problems?? I don't
understand, how funny!
Jeff and Kristine fly in Monday night. I thought, if I had had
family in the car yesterday I would have been beside myself with
I do hope/pray that things are calm for them- how scary would that
for them on arrival!!
Anyways, that's that. You can write me at this address for the
OK, guys!!! Keep in touch.
Dear Family and Prayer Support,
I haven't written since Afghanistan. I am settled
back in Awanno now, and
life resumes its normal pace. How can living in the bush in Ethiopia
be normal? How can real service for Him ever be normal?
The frustrations here are so plentiful. The locals
seem only to be
interested in what the white people can give them- money, education,
ride somewhere in the car. The Christians are just working, tired
efforts, and far away from their families. All of them, everyone
side is always asking for a ride, or a picture, or clothes, or money,
But, the gospel is real and God is both sovereign
and good. I am awed
sometimes that God could send His heavenly truth that changes lives
these mud huts where people live in darkness. And the idea that
play a little teeny role keeps me here, even though I miss family
comforts of home.
We have all felt the frustrations of dry work lately.
We decided last
Sunday to commit ourselves more completely to prayer, and look for
work when we can't think of anything else to try. I have personally
committed to pray more faithfully and daily for this community than
before, and to watch with expectation. Thank you for joining in
I have so many friends in the community who bring
me joy. When I went to
the market last Friday, many ladies said, "Why haven't you
come to my
house?" I set up appointments and now I have more open doors
But more than before I am determined to make these
visits a time when I
can share some piece of gospel truth. Up until now, I have only
fun," chatting as I can in Oromo, and being their friends.
I bought an
Oromo New Testament and would like to try and use that. Please pray
the right doors would be open, as it is hard to find the right Ethiopian
Christian to visit with, and hard to share by myself without more
language. I plan to try something, though, in the next week.
I visited Fatuma today to give her a picture I developed
of her and her
husband as a gift. People love getting pictures of themselves, as
here has cameras. She said, why did you only give me one picture?
wanted more. I ate a little snack that she offered me, which I enjoyed,
along with her hospitality. Her husband is very Muslim, and has
article about Osoma Bin Ladin from Time Magazine taped to his wall
proudly showed me. As I sat in her house, I was struck with God's
to soften and open the hardest of hard, cold hearts. As I left she
me she liked my shoes, flip flops, and wanted them. So my visits
mixed... I am grateful for the open doors, but saddened by all kinds
Ah, pressing on!! That my eyes would see the day His
rain falls here on
the cracked, dry ground and causes the seeds to grow and flourish.
Thank you for your love and prayers,
Dear Family and Home Support,
No news from Awanno for a while as I am in Afghanistan right now!!
came to visit Mike and Joyce Devenny for a week as I was due to
visa for Ethiopia.
I was in Addis for a few days, and then traveled to Dubai in the
Arab Emirates for 2 days to get a visa for Afghanistan, which I
successfully procured. I've been in Kabul for about 5 days now,
will fly back to Ethiopia on Thursday, the 15th.
It has been a amazing time of seeing something new, and comparing
my situation in Ethiopia. Many of the physical and non-physical
are the same! With such a tough history, Kabul now looks, to my
eyes, like a relatively functional, on-its-way-to-rebuilding kind
I have been lucky enough to visit in a few Afghan homes, and I
patterns of being a guest and hospitality that are true in every
culture, even if the dress and surroundings vary from field dresses
mud huts to burkas and dusty carpets.
Thank you for thinking of me and lifting me up. I will return to
Ethiopia, I think, with fresh vision for what will probably be my
few months in Awanno. I have plenty of decisions to make as I think
will be wrapping up my work there and moving on... home...?...and
Love to you all,
Here's a note from Vicky right before she left Awanno:
News this time comes through the eyes of the visitor, and my observations
here have caused me much joy in several ways.
I rejoice to simply be with Laura. Throughout the week I've been
we have enjoyed long conversations, full of laughter and depth.
great that way... of the same mind on so many things.
I rejoice to watch Laura's interaction with the community. She is
intentional in greeting every person on the road, even if it means
through their gate and calling out a friendly "Ashama!"
smiles, laughter and Orommo conversations ensue, and without speaking
lanuguage, I still clearly understand the love on both sides.
I rejoice most deeply as I see the power of God working through
things in her life here. Things are not always easy, whether it's
things like limited electricity, hot water or functioning email,
things like working with the other believers, dealing with the huge
socioeconomic gap, or being so far away from family and friends.
watched the little battles of every day, I saw 2 Corinthians 4 expressed
a beautiful and tangible way. "For we who live are constantly
delivered over to death for Jesus' sake, so that the like of Jesus
be manifested in our mortal flesh... for we look not at the things
seen, but the things which are unseen, for the things which are
temporal, but the things which are seen are eternal." Rejoice
with me- the
immortal life of Jesus is being manifested here in Awanno, and pray
unseen, eternal things would continue to drive Laura's life.
As for a little news, this week we had an evangelistic children's
and invited the neighboring families, many of who are Muslims. We
15-20 kids every day, but found that some of the Muslim children
forbidden to come, showing that, although usually friendly to the
missionaries, these families are hostile to the gospel. Laura and
hope to continue with a weekly program, so pray for God's blessing
Sunday we went to a field planting, where we picniced with some
families, including coffee with salt (yikes) and butter (even more
Misha and I choked down one cup, but Laura, being somewhat acclamated
to the salted taste, polished off two, but refused more for us telling
"there is not peace with their stomachs."
Laura often mentions you and your prayers and support
of her and points out
ladies for whom she has asked for prayer by name... thank you!
May the grace which is spreading abound to more and
more people cause the
giving of thanks to abound to the glory and praise of God,
(from Laura's blue couch in Awanno)
Dear Family and Prayer Support,
I am often thankful for the supportive team I have at home to lifting
my community here up to the Lord. Thank you for your service for
I find so much joy in experiencing another culture, like this one,
hand- fresh and real, right in front of my eyes. My visit
with Indie on Tuesday was rich just so. I walked home with her after
sewing class here on our compound, and she invited me in. I am always
to be a guest, but don't want to be a burden or interrupt their
asked me if I liked corn and seemed genuinely happy to have me stay,
agreed (and said yes, I liked corn).
Typical Oromo culture- she says to me, "Dubbadha!!" ("Chat!"
leaves the room to prepare something for me. A man walks in, greets,
sits down with me in the "salon"- front room- of her house,
and he is
carrying a small burlap sack. He asks me for money and says he is
poor. My trained reaction- oh, no, I can't give. I don't give things
He explains that he has many children and his cows have died so
work his land (something along those lines.... my language skills
carry me further than a vague idea...) I again refuse, but we continue
in friendly conversation about his family, my work, the community,
yes, I am
learning your language, and the like.
Indie returns and serves me fire roasted corn on the cob- a popular
these days. It is very good, and I start eating. She serves her
guest, as well. She leaves the room and returns again, handing the
ears of corn, which he adds to his bag. Her contribution to his
continue to eat and chat.
Another woman wanders in carrying what looked like a little bundle
We greet each other, she smiles, is friendly, and asks if I am learning
their language. I say yes. I asked her, what is this you are holding?
you eat it? She says no, I came because I want fire. She disappears
the back room where Indie is cooking, and returns and leaves the
her twigs now smoldering. We had a little talk about this- I said,
country, if you want a fire, you use a match. (I acted out "match").
said, yes, a few people have matches, but we just go to each others
and borrow and take our fire whenever we need it.
We ate corn for a bit longer, and then I headed home. Indie gave
me 2 ears
of corn as a gift, and told me to come by if I ever wanted to just
agreed to, "now that I know the road to your house."
Awanno culture- a tight community that always shares their snacks
whoever is in the room, lends a burning coal to their neighbor all
and pools resources to share with a poor man even when the rich
says she "can't." I am impressed and enriched by seeing
these traits in the
people here, but also frustrated as I see it is this strong sense
community that they fear loosing if they accept our gospel message.
they probably don't have a "doctrinal" reason for rejecting
the gospel, they
are afraid of what will happen if they accept.
Pray for us here as we seek to move ahead with sharing the gospel.
family, a Korean family, has just moved here to Awanno to work as
church planters. Ki-Yung is looking to find the right place to concentrate
the evangelistic effort, and the right Ethiopian Christians to work
with. The Christians living here are all working full-time for our
projects, and many are seemingly weary of gospel efforts and new
do we know how to give them new energy and passion for our main
here? While we are thankful for a spirit of unity with the church
and us, we would love to see more enthusiasm for the glorious task
And I continue playing my little role of building relationships,
about these people and their culture, roaming the trails
here, and entertaining people with my linguistic efforts.
My one year committment is ending, but I have decided to stay on
end of the year, around Christmas. Between feeling too unsettled
back to San Jose yet, and finding a (somewhat) natural fit for myself
I have decided not to leave (yet). After December, I don't know!
only small segments of the road ahead of me without much indication
way it will turn....
Thank you for praying- for me and for this community. I feel very
supported out here, and I love thinking that the people I see everyday
the water tap and on the roads are being prayed for by my loved
Love to all,
|August 05 Prayer Letter
I’ve been here in Awanno for over nine months now. As time
goes on and I see more and more of this place, various pieces come
The community comes into focus. It is a Muslim community not interested
in hearing our gospel message. It is a close knit community that
is slow to accept new ideas, especially ideas that would estrange
them. Their Muslim ways are more cultural than doctrinal, and under
these beliefs lie old animistic traditions. But this community is
made up of families- of men and women who love their children and
grandchildren, laugh with each other, work hard in their fields
and homes, do a fantastic job of supporting one another during a
crisis, and show amazing kindness and hospitality to the outsider.
I wonder often, can I be so different from these people?
The little church here comes into focus. It is not a local Awanno
church. The members of the church are Ethiopians who have moved
to Awanno from other parts of the country to staff the SIM development
projects. They are hearty people who have worked on the projects,
worked in the community, and watched for years to see fruit- community
change- and have seen slow, if any, progress. There is one Awanno
Oromo believer here, Biyya. And the church continues to work here,
and pray and look for God’s Spirit, and praise Him for small
changes they see.
I, myself, have come into focus. Living closely with so few other
white people around (there are 3 of us now) is an excellent way
to learn about myself, and the conclusions aren’t particularly
appealing, usually. But I am learning lessons that will make future
placement in missions much easier. I now know how much I love to
learn new languages, even more than I love being a nurse. I have
learned that I love working in this “pre-church” environment
and loving the very people who don’t want to hear our message.
And I have learned how much I love, every day, the message of the
gospel, both for myself and those around me.
Finally, the person of Jesus comes into focus. This person is the
stumbling block to this community, and yet He remains of utmost
precious value to me (I Peter 2:7). This one that is the essential
difference between Islam and Christianity is the One who saved me
and walks with me every day here in Awanno. Without His example,
no doubt I would grow weary and lose heart (Heb. 12:3). And He comes
into focus here in the middle of the bush in Ethiopia as my perfect
Savior, taking away any claim I have to my own righteousness. And
it is this person, this Jesus, and His work, that I want to people
here to see and be changed by.
So life continues, we work in the clinic and try to use our health
care as a bridge into people’s lives, and I am very much enjoying
my time here. I was fortunate enough to have a visit from my dad
in February and March, and even to summit Kilimanjaro with him!
It was wonderful to show him around Ethiopia and have him understand
my life and work here. I also managed to surprise my whole family
by coming home to join in celebrating my grandparents 60th wedding
anniversary in May.
Thank you all for your faithful prayers and support. I am fortunate
to be supported by such a noble group of kingdom seekers!
For more news and stories, see www.niblack.org, follow the links
to Laura in Ethiopia. Read about Solomon’s wedding, the OB
patient I transported, and other details of daily life.
July 05 See
Thank you to all of you for praying for the Muslim
ladies. I see them with a new expectancy now, wondering how God
is going to work. I may need to send more names home!
Life lately has felt fairly busy in a good way. Seems
like the afternoons
are full of nice things like little visits, cooking for guests,
up at the clinic. Arbo is on vacation so we are seeing all the patients,
and some days there are quite a few! We had an laboring woman in
clinic yesterday that we sent home in the afternoon, but I kept
night I was going to get a knock at my door...
Having various new people and visitors here makes
me feel like a long term
missionary. To think that I know a thing or two about this community,
the culture, or the language that I can actually translate sometimes!!
Interesting feeling. I am so thankful for the Ethiopians here that
become my friends. While I may wish I had more white friends and
here in Awanno, the fact that there aren't more of us ex-pats is
driven me so much closer to this culture, and I love that.
It is teff planting season now. I went down to the
field today where they
were planting and had a ball. During planting season, the whole
heads out to the field, the men plowing, a few people throwing teff
and the girls walking around to pack the soil down. As they walk,
some sort of cultural song. I jumped in with the girls and we all
around the field for a while, and they thought it was a real hoot
white girl was walking along with them. The women bring food down
everyone eats lunch picnic-style, and they were so welcoming to
me, got me
some branches with leaves to sit on, and got me a tray of injera
Sometimes I wonder if I am barging in on something and obligating
accomodate me as a white person, but they seemed genuinly happy
to see me
and include me.
Abba Sanbe, our day guard, got sick a couple weeks
ago. I bought a
watermelon in Addis and took some to him as I decided it would be
fluid and vitamin C intake. He told me to pray for him when I visited.
went back a few days later with more watermelon, I walked out of
thinking about him (he's older, maybe 65) and thought, Lord, I am
this man is going to die, and I really don't want him to die! Help
And when I got to his house, he asked me, "Did you pray for
hadn't, except on the way over there, so I could say yes!! He is
better now and
back to work, and he saved his watermelon seeds out of the pieces
to try and plant.
I better go see Fatuma tomorrow as I haven't seen
her in a while. Since I
ave started visiting her, she and her husband have both asked me
times about getting a ride with us into town when we go so they
supplies for their store. The car issue here seems so awkward- there
no other cars in Awanno, and walking anywhere takes hours! Understandable
that people would ask, but we feel like a taxi service sometimes,
and how do
you comply with 30 requests? Who do you prioritize? How full do
you pack the
car? I don't want friendships based on what we as white people might
these people. But I do want friendships so much!!
Vicky comes in less than a week! It will be so neat
to show her around.
I have been saying in Oromo when visiting, "My sister is coming.
bring her here." Everyone likes that idea. I hope her time
is benefial both
for her and for the community. Of course I know I'll benefit!!
Thank you all so much for praying. I do think God
is giving me extra joy
in being here lately, and a sense of expectancy to see how He works
Dear Family and Prayer Support,
It has been a while, so let me back up. After Solomon's wedding,
I traveled back up to Addis for a week. I went up because the other
option was to stay here in Awanno alone, and with very little work
in the clinic due to rain,
I decided I might go crazy here! It was a nice week- I ran some
like picking up anti-rabies post exposure medicine from the Pasteur
spent some time looking at/helping with the HIV project in Addis,
helped orient our new short termer who had just arrived- a girl
from New Zealand named Heather.
Back in Awanno now, life continues. The clinic is slow because
season- the farmers are working very hard in their fields. We finish
usually before lunch. The countryside is absolutely gorgeous, especially
when the sun comes out- patches over every hill of varying shades
green. Most of the corn is about as tall as I am now, and is still
Some sides of life here seem heavy and discouraging. The clinic
evangelist left town, is involved in the political situation, and
is wanted by the
police. The compound manager of our SIM compound is now facing
responsibility for the missing person, or payment of a large sum
This also means that the patients are not having any spiritual teaching
the morning before they are treated.
Other sides are brighter. I went to the Awanno market- 20 minute
last Friday, and had such a nice time seeing lots of ladies I recognized.
are all buying and selling veggies, spices for their food, bananas,
and such. I decided it would be worth it to go every week. Fatuma
me to come visit her, so I said, "ok, when?" (I'm getting
better at this)-
so she said, "come tomorrow." And I saw two other ladies
that I have visited
before, and we arranged that they would come to my house on Wednesday.
I visited Fatuma, and she is so sweet. She kept handing me my drink
saying, "Dhuga!" (Drink!) and then handing me little bit
of bread and
whole bananas and saying "Nyata!" (Eat), so I stayed pretty
busy just doing
that. She invited me back and even set a day and a time, so Heather
and I went back today and had another lovely time- this time she
served us a whole
plate of injera and eggs that were delicious! And we decided we'd
together to the market tomorrow. The other ladies, Hada Jafare and
Hada Moaba, came to visit Wednesday, along with a few of their children.
We had a very nice time- I showed them family pictures and we talked
about those for a long time. Their first guess was that Gina was
my mother (?), then that I was David's daughter (??!) but once I
pointed people out, they understood. The brownies were a hit, especially
with the children. I asked the ladies, how do you like your coffee?
With sugar, with salt, or empty (black?) Everyone wanted it with
salt, so I put a little salt in, and asked them how much (as I have
absolutely no idea!!) I added a TEENY bit of salt to mine as I didn't
to act like a I didn't like it!!
We had another meeting with the traditional birth attendants today.
Without Sandy, I felt a little nervous about filling so much time
I felt like it went very well- we started later that I thought we'd
but the timing ended up perfect. Again, as before, I feel the most
things to communicate are about God and His love, more than reproductive
health. Today we "reviewed" about God's love and I read
then we talked about the basic reproductive anatomy and early pregnancy.
the end, I brought up God's love again and we talked about how people
do bad things, and actually all of us do bad things. I used a patchwork
to show them that after someone makes something, they love it even
if it is a
little dirty. In that way, God loves us even though we do bad things.
The women kept turning their palms up and saying things like, "aaa,
("Oh, God.") like they were agreeing, and the translator
said, "oh, they
are surprised at that." I want them to know these truths. When
questions, even simple ones, about what I just taught, they often
know the answer, so I hope somehow they understand these things
despite all the culture and language barriers the words and ideas
are traveling through.
Tensions between us as white people always vary. It takes much more
energy to keep a relationship healthy when you see them all day
every day, and they are not your family. After coming home from
visiting Fatuma today and
having a little minor disagreement back here on the compound, I
what I have thought many times before: there is too much at stake
community- namely, the need for the gospel to penetrate into people's
hearts- for us to be not loving each other! We absolutely must do
whatever we can, make the sacrifices we need to make, to love each
other and show Jesus to this community!! I'm working on that.
With the clinic slow, I struggle a bit with lack of structure. I
work on mapping out some sort of schedule- go to the market this
teach the clinic staff some inservices on this day, spend some time
learning this day, etc. I don't know how to turn the desire to love
community and share the gospel into an every day schedule.
Thank you very much for praying for all these things. I am looking
forward to God moving in this community, for sure!!
Well, it's been forever since I've written, and it seems like a
lot has happened. Maybe that's true, let's see. First, a couple
weeks ago, we had our first teaching session for the traditional
birth attendants in the area.
There were about 20 ladies that came and they are all very friendly
and warm. Sandy talked some about community health in general, and
I was going to make some initial comments about obstetrics tied
into community health.
As I started thinking about it, I wanted to explain the value of
people, and women, in God's eyes. So I found some verses from Psalm
139 (1-5, 13-17) that talk about how well God knows us. As we got
a little short on time, I thought if I had time for nothing else,
I at least wanted to read those verses to the ladies. So I did.
I ended up reading out of the Oromo Bible, which is Latin script,
but I didn't really know what I was reading. I think the ladies
really understood, as they were all making inhaled "st"
noises like people do when they hear something touching. I did go
on to talk a little bit about how important women are in any community,
and how important it is to keep them healthy and bring them to the
clinic when they're sick.
That's pretty much all we covered, but I think we're on the right
The ladies are eager to come back monthly, so we can take our time
laying the foundations of health, physical and spiritual. I realize
that most of all I want to teach them about God, more than about
obstetrics or other physical health issues.
Then, I got to have a nice little adventure. Carolyn and I went
out to work with the vet team in Bidiru, which is about 1 1/2 hours
away, even further from civilization than we are here. We got there
about 6 pm, and stayed through the next afternoon. Staying in Abba
Mecha's house was such a neat experience, and eye opening, too!
Carolyn had stayed out before, so she warned me about the animals
and the fleas. At night, all the animals come into the house with
the family. This family had 4 cows, 10 goats, a sheep, and about
5 chickens. The cows are sort of in a stall, but the others are
mostly wandering around. We were sleeping, I think, in the family's
bed, which was just a straw area. The animals were actually pretty
quiet, except one little goat who had a cough. It was such a cute
cough, though, and sounded like a little baby coughing. The chickens
were relatively quiet until about 4:30 when they started crowing,
which is actually really loud when they're just 3 feet away. Hada
Mooedine, our hostess, was working alot of the night, I think grinding
grain or something, as we kept hearing this noise of stones grinding
Believe it or not, I slept pretty well, and got virtually no flea
bites even without repellant, as Carolyn was very surprised to find
out. And our host and hostess were so kind, asking us if we needed
anything and making sure we sprayed our "straw area" for
fleas before lying down in it. I fet like I saw sort of a universal
hospitality in their warmness and kindness to us, something that
crossed all language barriers. It was a really neat experience,
and I'd love to have a reason to do it again!
The clinic goes on. It does have a very good reputation in the
community, and I think often opens the door for a chance to share
the gospel. For example, if we agree to treat a patient for TB,
they have to come in every morning to our clinic for 2 months. Obvioulsy,
that provides a chance for a relationship beyond just a one-time
message. One man being treated now, Shay Abduraman, (sp?) is very
pleasant and obviously happy that we are treating him for obvious
spine TB. He just told me last week that he lived in Sudan for 6
years studying the Koran, and he showed me his photo ID, in Arabic,
in which he looked like a real terrorist. He does look educated,
wearing a long white robe and Muslim cap with sharp little glasses,
But he is so warm and friendly and seems thoughtful. I asked Abeba,
our clinic evangelist, if he was open (as in, to the gospel), and
Abeba said, (and I'm sure I got the language right here), "He's
open, but he's not open." Not sure how to interpret that....
But, if I understood correctly, Abeba said the sheik had agreed
to teach him Arabic in exchange for Abeba teaching him about the
Bible! That sounded exciting.
Last week, we had a woman come in in obstructed labor. The baby
was so close, and she was on her 6th baby, so we knew something
was wrong. Plus, her abdomen was very tender, so we started suspecting
uterine rupture, which is a serious threat to her life. We started
an IV and did a few things, but really decided she needed to go
to Jimma. So I drove, Zenebitch came to translate and help, and
we put the lady on a mattress in the back of the Land Cruiser. Her
husband, another relative, and the birth attendant she came in with
were also in the back.
The road is bumpy for the first hour on the way to Jimma. She kept
moaning and "yelping" on all the bumps and wanted to be
repositioned, and the birth attendant really couldn't help because
she had her head out the window most of the time throwing up. (Most
people out here aren't used to riding in
cars). We did laugh a little at the comic nature of the situation,
just kept driving. When we got her to the hospital, the doctor felt
her stomach (without any diagnostics like ultrasound) and pronounced
that she did have uterine rupture and needed surgery. He then told
me I needed to go the pharmacy and buy her some more IV fluids and
antibiotics. I did buy them because I figured if I didn't buy them,
would she get them? I left her as they wheeled her off to the OR.
I heard yesterday from Bekele that she was ok, and had had a hysterectomy.
Zenebitch and I made it back to Awanno just as it was getting dark,
so overall, it was a simple trip that wasn't that bad.
The Hammils left yesterday. The church put on a program for them
which all the staff people came to, with singing, a little sermon,
and a meal. That was so nice, and we had our own little dinner at
Claire's- Claire made Egyptian food and I made crepes with almond
creme filling and a jelly roll for dessert.
This morning I agreed to take pictures of Biyya's running team.
Biyya is the only local (Awanno) Christian here, and he has gotten
a group of boys together for running in the morning. Somehow he
also got them all matching uniforms, so they looked sharp. We took
a few standard group pictures of the 10 boys in Biyya's yard, and
then went out to a big field. I took some pictures of them running,
a few more group shots, and then decided 10 was a perfect number
for a pyramid picture. I don't have much language to start with,
especially explaining something like a people pyramid to people
who haven't the slightest idea what you're talking about. Also hard
to demonstrate in a skirt. But these 10 little brains understood
before long, and they pulled it off and I got a great picture with
lots of laughing, of course. A local farmer had wandered over to
watch, and he laughed the whole time. So fun. Biyya's running team
seems like a neat ministry, as it's just Biyya- local Christians
reaching their own people. After running each morning, he has a
little devotional time with them, and sometimes on Saturdays he
plays Bible tapes and has a longer teaching time. That's something
I'm willing to support!!
The hardest part for me of living out here, by far, is loving the
other white people here. Not that they are so difficult at all,
but we are all living in such close proximity, and we have different
ways of doing things, and so little privacy, and different approaches
to the community. I feel like things have gotten better as I pray
for the right kind of love every day. I realize that I cannot think
I am loving the community if I cannot love the firenges. It is the
secret arena of little attitudes and unselfishnesses that is the
hardest part, the most noble part, and maybe
(probably) the way that I can glorify God the most.
It's not the beginning anymore, and it's not really the end, or
even something distinct like the half way point of my year here
in Ethiopia. I am really enjoying life in Awanno now, lots more
little ways that I know and have experienced the community.
Jami and I went to the Sunday market. Everybody in Awanno goes
to the Sunday market, it's just the thing to do, and I remember
Dan and Keith saying, if you want relationships and language, just
go to the market every week. It's a bit of a tiring thought, because
it's a good 1 1/2 hour walk there, and back, and the market isn't
relaxing because everyone stares at you and crowds around, and there's
rarely anything I'd actually want to buy.
Anyways, last time we went we had a really good time, and I am
always glad I went. You always get talking to people on the road,
that's for sure. When Jami and I went, I met two ladies on the road
who were very, very talkative, and immediately started talking about
Ramonda. (I didn't know what they were saying, just kept hearing
her name). I did pick up, then, that they were asking me when I
could come to their house. (Struggle, struggle, to understand),
and I said, when do you want me to come? They kept saying their
house was not far from the clinic. So we decided I'd come on Thursday,
the woman told me her husband's name was Abba Milky, and there is
a guard that works on the compound sometimes named Abba Milky, and
I know where his house is, and it isn't far. So I figured I had
a good match, I lost touch with them at the market, but was planning
on Thursday. I promptly forgot both of their names.
So, I decided on Tuesday that I would just walk by her house, say
hello, say I was just out for a "pleasure walk," wanted
to see where she lived, and would come back on Thursday. Itaynish,
who works in our houses, was leaving the compound at the same time
I was, and her home is along the same road Abba Milky's house was
on. So I explained the situation to her (she doesn't know any English,
only Amharic and Oromo) and told her my plan. Mind you, I was intending
to go alone, figured I had the language I needed to say that little
piece about seeing her house.
Well, she told me she'd come along to Abba Milky's with me, if
I wanted, which I agreed to. We walked into his house, just as everyone
is sitting down for coffee, she introduced me to his wife, who I
had never seen before, and I felt awkward and told her "that's
not the right woman." (And I'm wondering, who of these people
in here understands Amharic? Maybe they know I'm saying that she's
not the right woman!!) We just enjoyed the cup of coffee, the first
I'd had that was salted, really really salted, and Itaynish casually
asked if there was another Abba Milky in town, and where his house
was. So they told us (there was another one, common name).
What would I have done by myself?!?! Great of Itaynish to come
Then she said she'd come with me to the OTHER Abba Milky's and I
was getting a little nervous on the way that we would have the wrong
house again, this community is closed and a bit suspicious anyways,
what would they think of me just wandering into their houses, etc.
Itaynish told me if it was the wrong house, don't worry, I'll just
tell them the firenge wants to see the houses in Awanno.
But it was the right house, the two women live right next to each
other and are married to brothers, and I went into both houses,
sat down, we kept having to refuse coffee, but I said I'd return
on Thursday as planned, and they wanted Itaynish to come with me,
so we agreed.
And we came on Thursday, and then returned this Wednesday. It ended
up being alot of coffee, but a really great time, and so interesting
seeing their lives a little closer.
The first time, Jami was with me, and we were sitting drinking our
coffee when a big cow walked in the door, you know, it's that time
that the cows come home, so they were going into sort of "another
area" of the hut, but I squealed and Jami was getting out of
her chair, she said later, to hide behind me. How funny!!
So little doors like that are opening. I've got to be intentional
in taking every little opportunity, a little 20 day old came into
the clinic yesterday with complaints of vomiting, but I thought
it was too young to give medication too, so tomorrow Itaynish and
I are going to go see her, as Yacob told me he knows where she lives
and it's close. Things like that.
AND.....today we met with the traditional birth attendents from
all the surrounding villages that are in our "catchment"
area, there were about 20 of them, and we just wanted to hear what
they had to say. They are so, so eager for education, it's amazing!!
A very talkative group, I just sat there while Sandy was talking
and tried to memorize their faces so I could greet them at the market.
Such sweet ladies!
They told us that many of them are not only birth attendents for
women, but are also called for animal deliveries and such! After
the meeting, we all ate together in Yacob's little "sook,"
Sandy had arranged and paid for his wife to cook for them all, it
was just so nice, the ladies at my "table"
were very warm, and I felt like I wasn't getting preferential treatment,
I could just be one of them.
That's a glimpse at life here!! I'm heading out to climb Kilimanjaro
next week with Dad, absolutely can't wait. He'll be back here in
Ethiopia with me for a couple weeks to; it will be so great.
|Awanno, January 2005 See
Life moves along in the little village of Awanno.
I am mostly accustomed to the way of life out here among these beautiful
people. The clinic serves about 50-70 patients a day, patients who
present with a wide variety of complaints but often malaria, parasites,
TB, and wounds. I have gotten a little more comfortable functioning
in the role of primary health care provider and treating patients.
I incised and drained two abscesses last week, and successfully
administered local anestesia in a patient's mouth, then pulled his
rotten tooth!! Working alongside Claire is always a learning experience,
and I hope I take full advantage of all she knows and has seen.
My little house is quite comfortable, made from two shipping containers,
with indoor plumming, solar electricity, and a kerosene refridgerator.
I realize that I need a place to come home to that looks American
and feels homey. My bread making skills are ever improving, and
I have enjoyed cooking for myself and the team.
There are five of us white people here, and we have worked together
well as we blend quite a variety of gifts and skills. Together,
we are operating a vet clinic primarily serving cattle, a health
clinic, and water services to the nearby villages.
The community is a very close community, and is Muslim. The strong
community structure, I think, keeps people from being open to the
gospel message, as they can't imagine being ostracized from their
family and neighbors. The church here has few Oromos, and mostly
Ethiopians from other people groups who have come here to work on
our development projects. I pray often that this community would
be open to the gospel message.
I walked to the market yesterday, which is just over an hour walk.
People on the road are always very surprised to see a white person
walking, but very friendly. Almost everyone asked, "Do you
have a car? Where is it?"
They don't understand why a white person would want to walk to their
They are also very interested in what the white person might want
Chatting with the patients as I am learning Oromo helps. One man
is here for anti-rabies treatment after being bitten by a dog, and
he is staying in our area as the treatment lasts 15 days. Every
morning he has something to say to me which I usually don't understand,
but this morning he asked me for laundry soap as he wanted to wash
his clothes. I figured that one out!
I am always looking for little inroads into the lives of the people
Language seems key to me, and I have good and bad days for language
learning, but it slowly comes along. I trust that God will help
me show these people that they are the only thing that is really
on my schedule and I want to befriend them regardless of our cultural
differences. As humans, isn't it true we have more in common than
we have different?
Thank you for praying for me.
I'm at one of the faster connection internet cafe's today, so happy
to send and receive news. Things here are well, I'm done with 3
out of my 4 weeks of language school. I'm beginning to see a few
of the patterns in the Amharic language, and I love making those
connections. The next job is forage past the greetings and say something
else to people!!
Outside of language school, I have spent my time a variety of ways.
Some shopping and looking for supplies I'll need downcountry, eating
out, lots of stops for macchiatos, eating with Ethiopians in their
homes, and lots of time with the guitar. There is lots of traffic
at the SIM HQ so I get to meet all kinds of people, that is fun.
I now have an Ethiopian drivers licence, I felt like I was 16 all
over again. Driving here is a whole different story as there are
virtually no rules, but some intersections have sort of an unspoken
understanding, for example, that the person going downhill has the
right of way. The streets are full of pedestrians, taxis are constantly
pulling over to pick up people and then pulling back out into traffic,
and the roads are full of potholes to be avoided! Don't forget to
pray for me....
Last weekend we attended the Meskel celebration on the eve of the
Meskel holiday in Meskel square. This holiday commemorates the legendary
finding of the cross and is rooted deep in Orthodox tradition. It
was amazing, 10 white people in a sea of Ethiopians watching Orthodox
priests and lots of people wearing traditional white robes dancing
and waving things. There is a large pile of wood that is erected
and then lit on fire. Depending on the direction the pile falls,
the country is said to have prosperity, or war, or famine. I'm actually
not sure which direction it fell!
Afterward, people run through the streets carrying pieces of wood,
pretending (?) to have found the cross, so we jumped in with a group
and ran along with them on our way home! The atmosphere is very
festive, and it was an amazing window into the culture. Some say
that the strong roots of the Orthodox church have kept this country
from becoming completely Muslim.
I will leave for Awanno on October 18. All who have visited the
station say it is amazingly beautiful, and this time of year is
the best: the rains have just ended, everything is green. I am eager
to see it, although I know life will be very different there with
only a few other white people and only a 2-way radio with which
to keep in contact with the rest of the world.
God is broadening my perspective on the world and all that He is
doing. I am so fortunate to be here, I love learning about this
land and it's people.
Arrived in Ethiopia
September 19, 2004
Here I am in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia!! I arrived just over a week
ago, on September 10. September 11 is New Year's Day on the Ethiopian
calendar, so we watched a fantastic fireworks show after stepping
off the plane.
I am staying at the SIM Headquarters compound in the city, and
I've now completed one week of my language school, a one month Amharic
The sights and sounds of this city and this country are amazing
and beautiful and overwhelming at the same time. There is culture,
religion, and lifestyles rooted in thousands of years of history.
It takes a little while to adjust to the "developing world"-
everything is dirty, children asking for money, the danger of theives
and pickpockets, etc. I feel well on my way to being adjusted here,
and I have already learned to love the coffee, local food, friendlyness,
and overall variety of scenes everywhere I go.
I will head down to my clinic in Awanno in the middle of October
when my language class is over. The reality of living so far from
all connections to the outside world is setting in as I realize
that communication over only a two-way radio is minimal and laborious.
The mission station in Awanno is located in a little farming community
and everyone describes the surroundings as beautiful. I can't wait
to see it!! There is very little available as far as groceries and
supplies, so part of my job while in town is to shop for myself
for about 2 months!
Other tasks while in town include getting a drivers licence, registering
with the embassy, and working on obtaining a work permit.
God has been very faithful since I arrived, and I know that His
presence has helped me immensely during this adjustment. It is amazing
to see another area of the world that is so different, but still
under His control.
Pictures to follow! Thank you all for your prayers and correspondence,
I would have a very hard time here without so much supportive family
and friends at home.
I am excited to see what is next in this amazing journey!
September 9, 2004
The end of the beginning!!
Looking back at my stay in France since I left California on the
last day of August, I see I have been surely blessed!! Here I am
en route to Ethiopia, and I have passed through Toulouse, France,
in the Midi-Pyrenee region of the south to stay for a week and a
half with my brother Sam and his wife Rebecca.
French culture fascinates me, and I think I like pretending life
in another culture is just a matter of routine instead of being
a true tourist. I have visited Sam enough times to know some people
here, and be familiar with a lot of the culture. Sam said he thought
maybe my French was a little better this time than last; I can usually
understand and participate in simple conversations without too much
We passed our time with meals with various friends, church activities,
a few little preparations for my departure to Ethiopia, and even
a little tourisme in Toulouse.
My stay here with has privileged me with an inside glance into
Sam and Rebeccas life. They were very gracious to house me
in their studio apartment as my trunks and I fill up about half!
I saw up close Sams work as the assistant pastor at the Baptist
church here in Toulouse (http://toulouse.baptiste.free.fr),
which includes teaching sometimes on Sundays and sometimes for various
mid-week functions and some work keeping up websites and making
flyers, etc. He is also working to prepare a Bible school, Efese,
starting this fall providing formal Bible training and equipping
French Christians after Pauls model in Ephesus (www.efese.com).
Rebecca took very good care of me, thinking of my every need in
her usual thoughtful way. She cooks very well for the three of us,
a good combination of new recipes and old French favorites.
The baby can come any day now, I very much hoped I would meet my
niece or nephew before I headed to Africa, but time is fast running
out! Rebecca is very cute pregnant, and active as ever! Her tummy
doesnt stop her from doing anything. Weve had lots of
discussions about epidurals, preeclampsia, and swollen feet. Sam
starts feeling ill with any discussion remotely connected to needles,
blood, or babies deliverying, so I am quite interested in hearing
how everything goes.
So, my two trunks made it here safely, now on to the next leg!
Were hoping for the best, but the trunks are overweight as
far as European standards go and I could be charged quite a bit
in excess baggage fees*. I am flying Toulouse-Frankfurt-Addis Ababa
on September 10, and Im arriving in the evening on New Years
Eve (according to the European calendar!)
God has preserved me thus far in my journey, and I am ever thankful
for His presence that will always be with me. Where would I be without
Him? Certainly not fortunate enough to be on this adventure!! I
am so glad to be on this road with Him, my ever present Guide.
*We are praising the Lord for his grace -- the
luggage was accepted without the slightest hitch.
June 2004 (PDF Format
"There is nothing static about Him or His cause; to stand
still is to fall behind Him." So
comments F.F. Bruce in his discussion of Hebrews 13:13, "Therefore,
let us go out to Him outside the camp, bearing His reproach."
Originally written to encourage Jewish believers to leave cultic
Judaism and follow the Messiah Jesus, this verse makes me take seriously
my commitment today to this same Messiah.
I have been out of nursing school and working at Good Sam aritan
Hospital for almost two years. Alongside the night shift in Labor
and Delivery, I am finishing a one-year Graduate Studies Diploma
from Western Seminary. Needless to say, I live a dichotomized life-
New Testament Greek and newborn resuscitation, Bibleworks and biohazard
bags, Corinthians and contractions. All of it I love.
My plan for next year, however, is different! I continue to feel
a (divinely placed, I think) geographically centrifugal force, sending
me out, somewhere…
So… I'm planning to join several other nurses and work in a clinic
in a rural area of Ethiopia with the mission organization SIM (Serving
in Missions), beginning in September 2004 for a year. The SIM mission
station provides health services, veterinary services, and water
maintenance to the Oromo ethnic group, the only service of its kind
to 40,000 people covering 400 square miles. This is a Muslim group
with only a small representation of believers in Jesus. The clinic,
while offering health services, serves primarily as a bridge connecting
the Oromo people with the gospel by partnering with local Christians.
Will you pray for me? I rely heavily on and am very thankful for
a strong prayer support base here, without which I know I could
not go. Also, if you are interested, you can financially support
me while I am in Ethiopia . My monthly expenses will be about $1,300
(See enclosed card for specific instructions or visit www.sim.org
to give online). Working with
a small team of nurses in a Muslim tribe is overwhelming at times
and prayer is much coveted. I start to get scared some days as I
ask myself, how can I leave my family and everything I know?
But I am not leaving everything I know. As I finish my paper on
Hebrews 13 for seminary, I make myself very familiar with these
words of life that I will take with me. This Bible, and This God
and Savior, these I know, these will always sustain. And should
I stay comfortable if so many do not know these glorious agents
of spiritual life and heavenly truth?
Thank you for your prayers,
SIM USA P.O. Box 7900 Charlotte, NC 28241 USA
F.F.Bruce, The Epistle to
the Hebrews . Grand Rapids : W.B.Eerdmans, 1990. pg. 382. Capitalization
of pronouns with divine antecedents added.
sim.org > get involved
now > give online à sim usa , enter my name, project number
20472, select "support" or go to the "get
©Copyright 2004 Laura Niblack