June 06

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 year. He
is probably in his late 60's, and he and his family live a stone's throw
away from our compound. I remember the very beginning of my Awanno
experience- being desperate to speak this language I didn't know, and Abba
Sanbe was a natural teacher. His favorite was an anatomy lesson- nose, mouth,
ear, eye, hair, stomach, finger, fingernail- but he would explain anything
that was around. Mule, water, tree, rope, this is how you eat meat, this is
how you eat lentils, or make injera, etc. I remember multiple
Saturdays when I would walk out intentionally to find him with my language
notebook, just to write things down. When Vicky came out last summer, he
couldn't pronouce her name and would call her either "Zikky" or "Whiskey."
usually whiskey. He was quick to laugh and easy to entertain. He said, all
the firenges [white people] just walk by like they are in a hurry, but you
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 yelp.
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 told me
to pray for him, that God would heal him.

Last fall, he was mandatorily retired by SIM because "he was just getting
old." He was unhappy about being retired and still holds hard feelings
against the powers that be. I felt so awkward, and was so sad that he was
retired, but didn't want to take a side. I didn't have time to talk to him
right after he was retired as I had left for Addis, but when I got back I
found him right away. He obviously had hard feelings, and I didn't know
quite how to connect with him as my friend.

When I returned to Awanno after coming home for Christmas, he was sick
again. He stayed sick for a long time, and I was afraid several times that
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 and
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 so
frequently, is it not a matter of time before I hear the news that he is
sick and dying? What are the chances I will see him again? That he will
believe in Jesus before He dies? People have matter-of-factly stated that
Awanno will not turn and hear the gospel until this generation has passed
away. I cannot accept that easily, as I would loose my friend Abba Sanbe.

Abba Diga is the evening guard. I have written about him before. He is
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 in your
head, but it keeps growing, and where does it come from? God is that great.

My favorite place in the world, maybe, is the Awanno compound in the early
evening, with the sun setting across the hills, and lighting up the trees
and the grass with such beautiful colors, with Abba Diga wandering by
commenting on how the fence needs to be repaired so children don't steal
mangos, and then going on to talk about life in the community, Oromo
culture, etc.

His life is not easy. He plows his field in the day, and works most nights
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 day. He
makes about 350 birr a month, which is about $40 US.

I have explained the gospel to him more than once. He listens longer than
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 will be,
and he said he didn't have one. I asked, "Are you afraid of death?" He
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 to answer
his questions with my gospel motivations. What about getting married?
(common question) I explained I was looking for someone who feared God, and
he understood that.

The day before I left, he greeted me saying, "Fayyaa dha?" "Is there
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 that you
will."

It was so hard to see those faces go, and so many others. I love those
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 every
morning, that weaves our lives together in His perfect time, that doesn't let
any one of my tears go, that is steadily building His kingdom everywhere, in
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 to
Ethiopia, and whatever I feel like I am losing now. He is worth anything a
thousand times.

 

March 06

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 stalk
soaked in water as ties during the construction of their huts. They eat
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 an
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 a
spouse, does not leave the house for 40 days afterward.

These are the people I am living among and learning about. While I have
spent some time in the clinic recently, the rest of my day is just talking.
Lots of talking about silly little things, and talking also about their
culture, and occasionally the important things. A couple ladies asked me,
"Can you bring us a pill to keep us from growing old?" The (spider
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 and female,
Jesus and Mohammed, and after Mohammed there was noone else. He said he
thought there was only one God, only one truth, but two books. ("Yours and
ours").

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 for him.
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 have
permitted their children to come. They are so noisy and squirmy that usually
only about 1/8 of them are paying attention to Esther's Bible story. This
week there were about 25 kids, and only about 4 of them are Christian kids.
They are so fun to play with- this week we played a long game of Red Light
Green Light after the story and craft, and I see the children reacting so
warmly to the attention and love they are receiving.

So I have learned about their grass roofs. And I answered Hada Moaba by
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 Green
Light. I do love the people and love talking to them, but most days our
work seems almost silly and our inroads so small. We don't have anything
too attractive to offer this Muslim community. Church this morning was
small
and piddly.

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, Greeks, and
the Oromo.

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.

Love,
Laura

 

December 05

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 the season.

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 stranger…

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, is quiet.

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…” Acts 17:27

December 2005

Awanno, Ethiopia

“…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 I am.

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 these people.

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 janet@niblack.org.

Blessings, Laura


November 2005

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 they noticed!

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.

Love,
Laura

-------------------------

November 2nd, 05

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/africa/4398806.stm

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 of
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 out
putting big stones in the road to block traffic that I had to try and
weave around or drive over rocks (with my big car), fires in the road
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 a lot
of turning around because the road was blocked in so many places- the
opposition party, I think, is just trying to block roads and make life
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 with
big guns and all, one truck actually escorted me a little way around the
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 rock or
bullet flew in???

Anyways, I decided not to go to HQ but to come straight to Jen's, and
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. I
actually might still go with this doctor to Nazareth for surgeries,
we'll see. I am being careful, though, to respect authority and the
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 house
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, that
is ok. I know I am in the right place.

Interesting, I left Awanno with a different feeling than usual. Usually
I feel like, wow, nice to have a break and see some friends and have a
little life! I felt a little that way this time, but also, I do need to
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 me
to bring Kristine to her house and she would boil coffee for us- I
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 their
family in the car yesterday I would have been beside myself with fear.
I do hope/pray that things are calm for them- how scary would that be
for them on arrival!!

Anyways, that's that. You can write me at this address for the next
couple days.

OK, guys!!! Keep in touch.

Love,
Laura


September 2005

September 30th
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 ever
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, or a
ride somewhere in the car. The Christians are just working, tired of gospel
efforts, and far away from their families. All of them, everyone on every
side is always asking for a ride, or a picture, or clothes, or money, or
food.

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 into
these mud huts where people live in darkness. And the idea that I could
play a little teeny role keeps me here, even though I miss family and the
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 God to
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 that glorious
task!!

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 and visits
than ever.

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 visited "for
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 that
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 nobody
here has cameras. She said, why did you only give me one picture? She
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 an
article about Osoma Bin Ladin from Time Magazine taped to his wall that Fatuma
proudly showed me. As I sat in her house, I was struck with God's ability
to soften and open the hardest of hard, cold hearts. As I left she told
me she liked my shoes, flip flops, and wanted them. So my visits are thus
mixed... I am grateful for the open doors, but saddened by all kinds of
ulterior motives.

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,
Laura

 

September 14th
Dear Family and Home Support,

No news from Awanno for a while as I am in Afghanistan right now!! I
came to visit Mike and Joyce Devenny for a week as I was due to renew my
visa for Ethiopia.

I was in Addis for a few days, and then traveled to Dubai in the United
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, and I
will fly back to Ethiopia on Thursday, the 15th.

It has been a amazing time of seeing something new, and comparing it with
my situation in Ethiopia. Many of the physical and non-physical needs
are the same! With such a tough history, Kabul now looks, to my new
eyes, like a relatively functional, on-its-way-to-rebuilding kind of
city.

I have been lucky enough to visit in a few Afghan homes, and I see
patterns of being a guest and hospitality that are true in every
culture, even if the dress and surroundings vary from field dresses and
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 last
few months in Awanno. I have plenty of decisions to make as I think I
will be wrapping up my work there and moving on... home...?...and then
to where??

Love to you all,
Laura


 

August 05

Here's a note from Vicky right before she left Awanno: (See images)

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 in Awanno,
we have enjoyed long conversations, full of laughter and depth. Sisters are
great that way... of the same mind on so many things.
I rejoice to watch Laura's interaction with the community. She is so
intentional in greeting every person on the road, even if it means peeking
through their gate and calling out a friendly "Ashama!" (hello!) Returned
smiles, laughter and Orommo conversations ensue, and without speaking the
lanuguage, I still clearly understand the love on both sides.
I rejoice most deeply as I see the power of God working through the hard
things in her life here. Things are not always easy, whether it's little
things like limited electricity, hot water or functioning email, or bigger
things like working with the other believers, dealing with the huge
socioeconomic gap, or being so far away from family and friends. As I
watched the little battles of every day, I saw 2 Corinthians 4 expressed in
a beautiful and tangible way. "For we who live are constantly being
delivered over to death for Jesus' sake, so that the like of Jesus also may
be manifested in our mortal flesh... for we look not at the things which are
seen, but the things which are unseen, for the things which are seen 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 that the
unseen, eternal things would continue to drive Laura's life.
As for a little news, this week we had an evangelistic children's program,
and invited the neighboring families, many of who are Muslims. We had about
15-20 kids every day, but found that some of the Muslim children were
forbidden to come, showing that, although usually friendly to the
missionaries, these families are hostile to the gospel. Laura and Claire
hope to continue with a weekly program, so pray for God's blessing on that.
Sunday we went to a field planting, where we picniced with some local
families, including coffee with salt (yikes) and butter (even more yikes).
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 them that
"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,

Vicky
(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 me and
my community here up to the Lord. Thank you for your service for His
kingdom
work here.

I find so much joy in experiencing another culture, like this one, first
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 her
sewing class here on our compound, and she invited me in. I am always ready
to be a guest, but don't want to be a burden or interrupt their work. She
asked me if I liked corn and seemed genuinely happy to have me stay, so I
agreed (and said yes, I liked corn).

Typical Oromo culture- she says to me, "Dubbadha!!" ("Chat!" "Talk!") and
leaves the room to prepare something for me. A man walks in, greets, and
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 very
poor. My trained reaction- oh, no, I can't give. I don't give things away.
He explains that he has many children and his cows have died so he cannot
work his land (something along those lines.... my language skills didn't
carry me further than a vague idea...) I again refuse, but we continue on
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 snack
these days. It is very good, and I start eating. She serves her other
guest, as well. She leaves the room and returns again, handing the man 2
ears of corn, which he adds to his bag. Her contribution to his need. We
continue to eat and chat.

Another woman wanders in carrying what looked like a little bundle of twigs.
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? Do
you eat it? She says no, I came because I want fire. She disappears into
the back room where Indie is cooking, and returns and leaves the house with
her twigs now smoldering. We had a little talk about this- I said, in my
country, if you want a fire, you use a match. (I acted out "match"). They
said, yes, a few people have matches, but we just go to each others houses
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 chat. I
agreed to, "now that I know the road to your house."

Awanno culture- a tight community that always shares their snacks with
whoever is in the room, lends a burning coal to their neighbor all the time,
and pools resources to share with a poor man even when the rich white girl
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 of
community that they fear loosing if they accept our gospel message. While
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. The Lee
family, a Korean family, has just moved here to Awanno to work as full-time
church planters. Ki-Yung is looking to find the right place to concentrate
the evangelistic effort, and the right Ethiopian Christians to work closely
with. The Christians living here are all working full-time for our SIM
projects, and many are seemingly weary of gospel efforts and new ideas. How
do we know how to give them new energy and passion for our main objective
here? While we are thankful for a spirit of unity with the church leaders
and us, we would love to see more enthusiasm for the glorious task of gospel
transmission.

And I continue playing my little role of building relationships, learning
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 until the
end of the year, around Christmas. Between feeling too unsettled to come
back to San Jose yet, and finding a (somewhat) natural fit for myself here,
I have decided not to leave (yet). After December, I don't know! I see
only small segments of the road ahead of me without much indication of which
way it will turn....

Thank you for praying- for me and for this community. I feel very well
supported out here, and I love thinking that the people I see everyday at
the water tap and on the roads are being prayed for by my loved ones in
California!!

Love to all,
Laura

 

August 05 Prayer Letter
Dear Friends,

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 into focus.

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!


Love, Laura

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 images

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, or finishing
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 the
clinic yesterday that we sent home in the afternoon, but I kept thinking last
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, or
the culture, or the language that I can actually translate sometimes!!
Interesting feeling. I am so thankful for the Ethiopians here that have
become my friends. While I may wish I had more white friends and family around
here in Awanno, the fact that there aren't more of us ex-pats is what has
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 family
heads out to the field, the men plowing, a few people throwing teff out,
and the girls walking around to pack the soil down. As they walk, they sing
some sort of cultural song. I jumped in with the girls and we all tramped
around the field for a while, and they thought it was a real hoot that a
white girl was walking along with them. The women bring food down so
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 to eat.
Sometimes I wonder if I am barging in on something and obligating them to
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 good
fluid and vitamin C intake. He told me to pray for him when I visited. When I
went back a few days later with more watermelon, I walked out of my house
thinking about him (he's older, maybe 65) and thought, Lord, I am scared
this man is going to die, and I really don't want him to die! Help him!
And when I got to his house, he asked me, "Did you pray for me?" I
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 he ate
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 multiple
times about getting a ride with us into town when we go so they can buy
supplies for their store. The car issue here seems so awkward- there are
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 give
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. I will
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 in this
community.

Love,
Laura

____________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________

 

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 errands
like picking up anti-rabies post exposure medicine from the Pasteur Institute,
spent some time looking at/helping with the HIV project in Addis, and
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 of rainy
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 of
green. Most of the corn is about as tall as I am now, and is still growing.
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 of money.
This also means that the patients are not having any spiritual teaching in
the morning before they are treated.

Other sides are brighter. I went to the Awanno market- 20 minute walk-
last Friday, and had such a nice time seeing lots of ladies I recognized. They
are all buying and selling veggies, spices for their food, bananas, eggs,
and such. I decided it would be worth it to go every week. Fatuma asked
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 and
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 walk
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 want
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 with teaching!
I felt like it went very well- we started later that I thought we'd start,
but the timing ended up perfect. Again, as before, I feel the most urgent
things to communicate are about God and His love, more than reproductive
health. Today we "reviewed" about God's love and I read Jeremiah 31:3,
then we talked about the basic reproductive anatomy and early pregnancy. At
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 pillow
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, Rabbi,"
("Oh, God.") like they were agreeing, and the translator said, "oh, they
are surprised at that." I want them to know these truths. When I ask
questions, even simple ones, about what I just taught, they often don't
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 thought
what I have thought many times before: there is too much at stake in this
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 need to
work on mapping out some sort of schedule- go to the market this day,
teach the clinic staff some inservices on this day, spend some time on language
learning this day, etc. I don't know how to turn the desire to love the
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!!

Love,
Laura


May 2005

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 track.
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 things.

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, too.
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, and I
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.

~Laura

 

Awano....Feb. 05

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 with me.
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 images

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 market.
They are also very interested in what the white person might want to buy.

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 here.
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.

 

October 2


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 course.

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 trouble.

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 Rebecca’s 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 Sam’s 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 Paul’s 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 doesn’t stop her from doing anything. We’ve 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! We’re 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 I’m 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 )

June 2004

Dear Friends,

"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,

Laura Niblack

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 involved page"

 

©Copyright 2004 Laura Niblack