Our flight from Entebbe arrived in Addis Ababa at about 5:30 AM Monday, September 21. Only nine days ago (September 12) Ethiopia celebrated their New Year for their year 2008. The day after that was the end of the seven year Shemitah and also a rare partial solar eclipse, visible only in the far southern hemisphere. This Wednesday (the 23rd) will be the Jewish feast Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement (possibly the day of the birth of Jesus) and also the Fall Equinox. The day that we leave Ethiopia to begin our travel back home, Monday September 28th, is the beginning of Tabernacles and will also be what NASA is calling a super moon eclipse that will turn the color red, the final four of the rare two year tetrad. It seems to be a season that there are many signs in the heavens.
This city is more than a mile high and there is no concern here about the possibility of malaria mosquitoes. Upon embarking, we immediately notice the cooler temperatures, ranging from about 50 F at night to the high 60’s during the day, much cooler than Uganda, but the kind of late September weather we left behind in upstate New York. Our visas here cost only half the price of Uganda’s. We soon discover that Brothers Jemal and Fikre are on their way to pick us up. They deliver us to the Dimitri Hotel, not far from the Selam Orphanage that we visited a few years ago, also close to the “office” where Jemal conducts the business for RBW’s widow’s and children’s ministry. We will spend most of the day catching up on a lot of rest, trying to pay back some sleep deficit. The brothers give us the week’s schedule, find us some water and get us oriented to our surroundings. In the early afternoon it begins to rain; it turns out to be a heavy cloudburst, complete with hail. The forecast says that we can have some rain now every day for this week.
This is Tuesday, September 22 and by 11 AM we already have the beginning of showers under way. In the early afternoon, Fikre and Jemal pick us up and take us to the “office” where the business of ministry to the widows and children takes place under the auspices of RBW Ethiopia. In this small crowded room nine widows are learning crafts and occupational skills that will help make them employable and thus able to sustain themselves with their children. It is required that RBW accept 80% of state referrals with the other 20% coming from churches or the community. 70% of the incoming funds must be spent directly on the widows and children and 30% goes for administrative expenses, such as staff salaries. These women will spend 3 months here and then start their businesses with an additional supervised on-job training. They will be replaced by another “class” next year. These women come here three days per week from 2 to 4 PM every Tuesday through Thursday. Their craft work will be sold at local markets, with the material cost returning to RBW and the remainder to the widow for her labor. There is a staff of five: Jemal is the director, plus a social worker, a secretary/cashier, an accountant and a workshop-skills-occupational trainer. Some of these “widows” are true widows who have lost their husbands (some by violence and murder), some by divorce or abandonment, and a few are simply single unmarried mothers, some of whom have been raped. These women are not at present “homeless” as living on the street, but are abiding with a relative or in a crude shelter provided by some church. Some of them have part-time low pay jobs such as housemaids.
When we returned to the hotel we were informed that the hotel receptionist, who was a born again believer, wanted prayer. So she took us to an empty room and there we prayed for her. She wanted a closer walk with the Lord and we also prayed for her sick brother. After this she could not do enough for us. We also understand that the woman who owns the hotel is going to want prayer when we have an opportunity.
On Wednesday we did not have active ministry but we were taken to meet the board of directors, two of these men who have themselves grown up in the orphanages, have experienced homelessness and have been able to rise above their circumstances. Br Fikre is the president of this 5 member board.
Thursday finally takes into the active ministry of the word to the people. Fikre takes us to the sanctuary of an off street Lutheran church which Jemal had formerly been affiliated with, allowing us to use their building any time we wish. Here were gathered about 100 parents (mostly mothers), along with the 75 children that we support for school and a few other things. Jim and Rita begin the meeting with teaching the children praises, to which they freely respond. Jim also freely added good exhortation to which there was also good response. Then Joanne spoke briefly about Peter having the faith to walk on water toward Jesus. I then spoke mainly to the mothers about the faith of Hannah and the birth of Samuel; I could clearly see that the mothers were blessed as they could identify with Hannah’s situation. Then some of the parents stood up and expressed their gratitude to us for supporting the children and for the coffee sales. Perhaps I should mention that some of our brethren in the states are selling Ethiopian coffee to help support the sending of the children to school, helping to raise a generation that will not be illiterate and able to read the Bible. After the meeting we were inundated with hugs and kisses from the grateful children and their mothers.
In the mid afternoon we are taken to Jemal’s home where his home fellowship meets weekly. We arrived a little early for tea, popcorn and roasted barley and met with his wife and two daughters. Then we had the meeting with a few other brethren who came. We sang a few songs and I brought a word, “Seek ye First the Kingdom of God”, some of my testimony of how the Lord taught me in my times of trial; it seemed to minister to the RBW’s social worker who attends the fellowship and asked for prayer. Overall again we believe it was a Spirit led meeting.
The next morning, when we did not have any plans or agenda, we discovered that God had something in mind for our time. For nearly 3 hours we met with the owner of the hotel, a mature woman who was hungry for the reality of Christ. After sharing prayer and worship songs with her in our hotel room, she invited us to a lunch feast of Ethiopian food, on-the-house, where we had more sharing and fellowship. It was a very Spirit anointed time in which the very presence of Jesus was manifested. Pray with us that God will make his way known for her own life as well as His purpose for this comfortable hotel.
So on Friday late afternoon we again ride in Fikre’s van to his own house where we will have a home meeting. Again we are treated with tea and roasted barley by Fikre’s wife. At the meeting are several new people we have not met before. The local brethren sang a song in the Amharic language and then Jim opened with a few other praises. I brought the message from the story of Gideon from Judges 6 and 7. The Gideon 300 company is a picture of the Overcomer, Firstfruits Company. Those present were listening intently and seemingly in agreement.
Saturday was a very full day, meetings for 10 hours starting at 8 AM. This time we went to a government type of compound where we had meetings with the 71 parents (90% mothers) of the 75 “orphan” children that RBW cares for. The government has required that this meeting cover the subjects of “family planning” and “hygiene”. Being a former Public Health Nurse I’m elected to the lion’s share of the task, the first three sessions. Since more than half of these mothers are illiterate, I suppose they could relate somewhat to the anatomical drawings that I made for them. Br Jim took the final session and gave a message of hope through the saving blood of Jesus Christ, to which they responded very well, including the two Muslim mothers.
Sunday was to be our final day of ministry. We met at the office with the families and fellowships of both Brothers Fikre and Jemal. It was not a large crowd but it completely filled the tiny room. I pray that God will supply RBW a larger space in which to work. After some praise and worship, Jim shared from Luke 8:40-48, the account of the woman healed by touching the hem of Jesus’ garment. The Lord showed me some things which I also shared. Afterward we prayed for some healing needs. The social worker, who attends the meetings, came with us to the hotel and we had fellowship and the sharing of a meal with her. She shared a beautiful testimony of how she came out of Orthodox bondage and into the liberty of the love of Jesus Christ.
Monday, September 28, will be our last day in Ethiopia. Last night at sunset, the Orthodox celebration of Epiphany began. We are told that the Egyptian Coptic Pope from Alexandria is visiting the Ethiopian Pope and that together they lit a giant bonfire somewhere in the center of the city after sunset. We were also able to see other small bonfires near our hotel. At 5 AM, as usual we are awakened to the mournful wailing songs of the Muslim broadcasts from some nearby mosque. But it seems to go on longer than usual today. Jim tells me that a party of chanters with the Orthodox celebration came into the hotel parking lot and burned a tree while “singing” their chants and beating a drum.
We are told that the hotel owner would like another meeting with us today so we make an appointment to meet her at 1:00 PM in our room. As it turned out, she invited us to the hotel dining room where she fed us all pizza, our last lunch, and then she shut down the dining room to outsiders and asked us to share with her in praise and worship. Br Jemal was able to join us in this meeting. She also favored us in that we were able to stay in our rooms several hours past checkout time with no extra charges.
Sometime late in the afternoon, Br Fikre came for us with the van and took us to the airport for our late flight back to Entebbe, and from there we will catch the KLM flight to Amsterdam and then on to the States, the beginning of another long journey. In summary, we believe that God has wrought wonderful things on this trip and He has kept us safely in health and from all harm. We would like to thank all of our brothers and sisters for holding up our hands in prayer for this mission trip. May God bless you as you share this with us.
Mark and Rita Jantzi, with James and Joanne Cassell