Some scintillating signage

Andrew and I are homeward bound. We board the plane tonight! We are so excited to see the friends and family we’ve missed dearly over the past 10 months. Even so, it has been much more difficult than anticipated to say goodbye to the friends we’ve made. Having shed enough tears in our goodbyes, we leave you with a lighthearted final post: a tribute to the botched English, unfortunate mix-ups, and plain hilarity of some Ethiopian signage.

Notice the slight but significant difference. This is the 11th best photo we took while in Ethiopia.

Notice the slight but significant difference. This is the 11th best photo we took while in Ethiopia. (Note: Ethiopia does not abide by international copywrite laws). 

I wonder if they'll change the name after his second term...

I wonder if they’ll change the name after his second term…

Oh, shoot! No thanks, we'll pass. That does not sound tasty.

Oh, shoot! No thanks, we’ll pass. That does not sound tasty.

A hangover from the communist regime?

A hangover from the communist regime?

That's going to take a lot of work.

That’s going to take a lot of work.

Woe is this office supply store!

Woe is this office supply store!

Posted on the wall of a photo studio. Anyone else creeped out by this?

Posted on the wall of a photo studio. Anyone else creeped out by this?

Other signs that we saw (but did not have the camera) or heard about (from multiple, veritable sources):

1) Cop-out Academy (for the promising students of tomorrow…or maybe they got that from the movie Kindergarten Cop?); 2) Decent Clinic (where Andrew and I went for all our important healthcare needs); 3) An elementary school sign with the motto “We Committed For Excellence.” Clearly.

 

 

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Update

Happy (belated) Easter! He is risen indeed! The daycare gave away 61 chickens for holiday feasts.

Happy (belated) Easter! He is risen indeed! The daycare gave away 61 chickens for holiday feasts.

Dagim is walking!

Dagim is walking!

Get comfortable – this is a longer post. I’ll start with some news from the hospice program at Strong Hearts before passing it off to Andrew.

Sirkalem passed away on Thursday evening after suffering from cervical cancer for past few years. She was 38. Her husband has been in the States for nearly one year after seeking political asylum, and their teenage daughter went to join him about 5 months ago. Their other daughter, age five, attends Strong Hearts Academy. Sirkalem had been with the hospice program for about 4 years, and was always a joy to visit, greeting us with hugs, kisses, and smiles. She worked hard to keep her small home clean and comfortable. When she had the strength, she would insist on welcoming us into her home with a coffee ceremony and would always have some sort of food to offer. Sirkalem would bless us over and over again for the services we provided. In January, she started to show signs of decline. Her pain and fatigue worsened, and she began to have an increasingly difficult time eating and drinking. She would go to the doctor, but the most they would do was prescribe Prilosec for “gastritis” and maybe give some low-dose ibuprofen for pain.

In March, we took her to the ER at Black Lion, the city’s main government-run hospital, connected with Addis Ababa University. Having never been there before and still somewhat naïve regarding the healthcare system here, I was expecting to be impressed. Instead, I was appalled. The ER had a line that extended out the door, into the outdoor waiting area, into the courtyard, and into the parking lot. Many families appeared to have been waiting there through the night, coming prepared with blankets and pillows. Many individuals looked on the verge of death (the Ethiopian nurses I was with said that many people do, indeed, die while waiting in line). We waited for approximately 2 hours (a short wait, probably hastened by my white skin) before being ushered into the emergency room. The odor in the ER was unbearable. Basins were scattered throughout the room as receptacles for human waste. To my right a family was weeping, to my left a man moaning in pain, and in front of me Sirkalem vomited into the bucket placed in front of her. It felt and looked like how I imagine a temporary war-zone clinic: crowded and chaotic. Since there weren’t nearly enough beds or stretchers, many sick people were lying on the floor on top of some collapsed cardboard boxes. Sirkalem waited another hour once in the ER to be seen by a young resident. She was seated in an uncomfortable metal chair as two bags of IV fluids were delivered over the next 3 hours. A few weeks later, she was taken to another government hospital, where she stayed for two weeks and ended up having an “exploratory” surgery done to see why she was having such difficulty eating and drinking. The incision measured from her sternum down to just below the umbilicus. The doctors did this knowing that she was in the end stage of cancer – a hospice patient! Whenever we visited the hospital, we could never find a doctor to speak to, the floor nurses were not informed enough to explain the situation, and the charts were inaccessible.

It saddens, confuses, and frustrates me to no end. This type of treatment – this experience – is accepted as completely normal here. Unless you can afford to go to a private hospital (which the vast majority of the population cannot), this is Ethiopia. Huluageresh, another cervical cancer (and AIDS) patient, is also caught in this system of hopelessness and injustice. Approximately one month ago, she started to complain of vaginal discomfort, unable to sit up in bed anymore. Upon further assessment, we found severe wounds. It might have started with radiation therapy, a bed sore, poor self-care, simply the disease process…we don’t know. We have tried taking her to two different hospitals, but the doctors refuse to treat the wounds (even to obtain a culture). The basic message we receive is that this is “just part of cancer” and that she is going to die anyway. The Ethiopian nurses aren’t surprised to hear this news; they were expecting it. I find myself outraged, knowing that if she were in the States, this wound probably would have never even started. It would be treated. It would probably heal. Here, she must just live with it, add it to the list of her discomforts. We continue to visit her at her home 3-4 times per week, monitoring the wound and providing basic supplies and education on how to care for it. I can’t tell if she understands the severity of the wound – how it might very well hasten her death. But death is not talked about in this culture. Things and people will always be OK, with the help of God. Our Ethiopian nurses pray for God to sustain life. But when I see this quality of life, I pray for release, for mercy. I fight feelings of negligence and guilt.

While these stories may sound discouraging, I know that the hospice program provides valuable care that would otherwise be absent. It would be easy to resign in the face of so many obstacles, but I am compelled to love and serve even when others might see it as futile. Let me share a more encouraging story from the daycare center:

A little over two months ago, a new family joined the family care center: parents Almaz and Abebe and their son, Brihanu. Brihanu is about 1 year and five months old. When he first arrived, we quickly noticed that he was small for his age (just 14 pounds). He is behind on some developmental milestones, with poor coordination and muscle strength, unable to sit up on his own. His father is blind. His mother walks with a cane since one leg is longer than the other. Both parents are beggars. Brihanu is carried almost everywhere, not often given the opportunity to use important muscles. We figured this was part of the problem, but one month ago learned that something else was going on.

Brihanu and his mother, Almaz

After some laboratory testing and a MRI, all evidence pointed towards TB of the spine, also known as Pott’s Disease. At the end of March, we took Brihanu to St. Peter’s, a TB hospital in Addis. He was admitted to begin 2 months of inpatient treatment with daily injections. After consulting with neurosurgeons, we have been told that he will not need spinal surgery – what a relief! Strong Hearts provided Brihanu’s mother with everything she needed in order to stay at the hospital, since 24-hour care is not included. (The hospital provides food and lodging for patients, but not their families.) Neighbors and volunteers have helped care for his father while they are away, including transportation to the hospital at least once every two weeks for the whole family to visit with one another. Last week, Brihanu was discharged one month earlier than expected! He has made good progress and is gaining weight and strength. Each weekday, I will be going to the daycare in the morning to administer his medication and monitor for any side effects.

Brihanu tucked into his hospital bed

Brihanu tucked into his hospital bed

God’s provision during this year in Ethiopia has been evident at every turn. I could easily fill an entire blog post describing the many ways our needs have been met and surpassed. Christian community is one example of this provision that has come into clear focus in the past few months. While Andrew and I have felt very welcomed by all sorts of folks throughout our time here, God has placed some wonderful friends in our lives. Relationships have been a challenge for us here, in part because no one really knows you. One thing we miss about home is simply people who know us – our past, our quirks, and so on. Living somewhere short-term involves starting from scratch in all your relationships. While this can be fun, it can also be tiring. But recently, we’ve reached a comfortable degree of familiarity with a number of friends who know us quite well. It’s been a blessing to share fellowship with some wonderful people and has been for us a reminder of the incredible gift of friendship. We’ve been so excited to reunite with family and friends back home that it’s odd now to sense the loss we will experience upon leaving. It will be wonderful to return home, but it will be painful to leave friends here in Ethiopia. One thing we’ve learned from the expatriate community in Addis is that it is a community marked by continual gain and loss. This, of course, is a pattern of life in general, but it is acutely the case for missionaries. All of that is to say we are profoundly grateful for the friends we’ve made here and can attest to the ways our work has been encouraged and our lives enriched through their friendship.

Friends at a build-your-own pizza night

Friends at a build-your-own pizza night

Enjoying a coffee ceremony with Aster and Bizunesh. They've taken great care of us.

Enjoying a coffee ceremony with Aster and Bizunesh. They’ve taken great care of us.

Some of the ladies (Emily from GA, Amanda from IN, Hannah from KS, and me!)

Some of the ladies…

...and some of the gents

…and some of the gents

Here’s Andrew…

My teaching at the seminary continues to be a source of life for me. It’s not without its bumps in the road, but I really do love it. I’ll share one unexpected snapshot of my experience teaching here:

Abdiwak was a student in my Historical Theology class last semester. He was a pleasure to have in class, always kind, thoughtful, and hard-working. Just before our week-long Easter break, he came to my office to thank me for being his teacher last semester. But his manner of thanks was a complete surprise. Before coming to seminary and before working with a rural Bible school, Abdiwak made a living as a tailor. He asked if could make me a pair of pants as a gesture of thanks! So, he took my measurements and we went to a tailor shop where I picked out some fabric I liked. And during his weeklong break from school, he sewed me a very nice pair of pants. Apart from my gratitude at such a kindness, Abdiwak reminded me of the sort of creativity that can be involved in loving our neighbor.

This story makes me smile and illustrates the blessing it is to teach here at the seminary. I recognize how spoiled I am to have students who treat me with such respect (despite being younger than most) and are quick to express their gratitude. I won’t soon forget my students here.

The future is always a mystery to all of us, but our plans for the future have gained clarity in the past few weeks. Many of you know I reapplied to PhD programs in theology for this coming fall. Sadly, that door did not open yet again. But, my journey towards teaching in higher education will continue this coming year at Duke Divinity School where I will pursue a ThM (a Master of Theology is a one year academic degree of coursework and research). God’s provision has once again been evident as I have received a substantial scholarship from Western Seminary that will cover most of the tuition at Duke. Jana and I are excited to have some definite plans for when we return to the States and look forward to making the move to Durham. I can’t say what lies beyond the ThM, but I am eager to see how it shapes my interests and adjusts the trajectory of my vocation to serve the church through teaching and discipleship. I am also eager to bring my experience of teaching here in Ethiopia to bear upon my studies and research.

Divinity School chapel at Duke

Divinity School chapel at Duke

We would so appreciate your prayers as we wrap up our service here in Addis in a month and a half. We want to continue focusing on the tasks before us and not dwell too much on what’s ahead. Still, please pray that God is preparing a place for us in Durham: a home and also a nursing job for Jana.

That’s all for now from the Meads in Addis.

There and Back Again: A Mead’s Tale

Hello, hello!

Andrew and I are safely back in Addis Ababa – and have been for the last two weeks, but we’re just getting around to posting an update. Since we last wrote, we have traveled to Washington, D.C. and back, hosted family, toured the Highlands of Ethiopia, and reentered our work here in Addis.

We flew Saudi Arabian Airlines through Riyadh to DC, with a 16-hour layover each way. Unfortunately, we were unable to acquire a transit visa to leave the airport and instead enjoyed a ‘restful’ night’s sleep on the floors of the men’s and women’s prayer rooms. We arrived in DC, welcomed by the wonderful hospitality of Andrew’s cousin Peter and his wife Emily. We stayed at their home for our 10-day hiatus in the US. Aside from the ease of acquiring a new 6-month visa at the Ethiopian Embassy (grateful!), we enjoyed some of life’s comforts we’ve missed since arriving in Ethiopia last August.  Among our favorites were anonymity (not being stared at on the street was a real treat); clean, crisp winter air (we weren’t coughing up black gunk after a morning jog); snow (though most of you are probably quite sick of it); cooking meals in a nice kitchen with familiar, delicious ingredients; Oreos (Andrew ate them at an unprecedented rate); using our cell phones (and having them work every time!); American TV and sports (Andrew soaked up basketball games, even if they were completely inconsequential or obscure); letters and surprise flowers sent from dear friends; and long, hot showers. During our time out and about the city, we observed how clean, well-planned, and efficient things were (comparatively). We found ourselves filled with amazement and gratitude for the small things we had come to take for granted before coming to Ethiopia. We were especially glad to see Andrew’s mom who visited for a couple days in DC.

Surprise flowers from friends in MI

Surprise flowers from friends in MI

Some 20 hours after we landed in Addis, we were back at the airport to welcome my sister Marlie and her boyfriend Louis (a visit we had planned long in advance of our work permit drama). It was actually nice to have others to share in the jetlag. Marlie and Louis were able to accompany us to the seminary and Strong Hearts to get a taste of the work we’ve been doing here. We also did a legendary four-day tour of northern Ethiopia with them. Starting with the 11th century rock-hewn churches of Lalibela, our tour continued in Gondar to see Africa’s Camelot (a huge complex of 17th century castles) and a Falasha village (a group of Ethiopian Jews with connections to Queen Sheba, so they claim). Finally, our tour concluded in the Simien Mountains where we marveled at the breathtaking scenery of the “green Grand Canyon.” The tour was full of incredible sights and rich history, which was difficult to absorb in such a concentrated dose.

The four adventurers at Lalibela. (Approximately 2 minutes after this picture was taken, Marlie threw up on sacred ground. Oops. She became sick early that morning, but somehow repeatedly rallied throughout the day. She started Cipro in Lalibela, and was better the next day after 12 hours of sleep.)

The four adventurers at Lalibela. (Approximately 2 minutes after this picture was taken, Marlie threw up on sacred ground. Oops. She became sick early that morning, but somehow repeatedly rallied throughout the day. She started Cipro in Lalibela, and was better the next day after 12 hours of sleep.)

During certain holidays, believers will try to walk up the wall that you see on the left of this picture, to "prove" their devotion. The rock has become smooth from all the wear, and is extremely slippery, especially during the rainy season. A true (dangerous) test of faith.

During certain holidays, believers will try to walk up the wall (“the staircase to heaven”) that you see on the left of this picture, to “prove” their devotion. The rock has become smooth from all the wear, and is extremely slippery, especially during the rainy season. A true (dangerous) test of faith.

Priest with processional cross

Priest with processional cross

Biete Amanuel (House of Emmanuel)

Biete Amanuel (House of Emmanuel)

Marlie and me with Biete Giyorgis (House of St. George) in the background. We are holding a newspaper from Petoskey News-Review, where our mom works as an editor. This picture was taken for their "PNR Around the World" contest.

Marlie and me with Biete Giyorgis (House of St. George) in the background. We are holding a newspaper from Petoskey News-Review, where our mom works as an editor. This picture was taken for their World Photo Contest.

The churches of Lalibela are still active today. In addition to weekly services, many Orthodox pilgrims from across Ethiopia come to this sacred place.

 

Catching a photo of Andrew and our guide, Abraham. "Secret" passageways connect the churches.

Catching a photo of Andrew and our guide, Abraham. “Secret” passageways connect the churches.

Gondar. The side of the road was a constant stream of people and animals making their way to the Saturday market.

Gondar. The side of the road was a constant stream of people and animals making their way to the Saturday market.

Africa's Camelot. The complex includes 4 castles, 3 churches, and a number of banquet halls, stables, libraries, bath houses, and even some lion cages.

Africa’s Camelot. The 16th/17th-century complex includes 4 castles, 3 churches, and a number of banquet halls, stables, libraries, bath houses, and even some lion cages.

Beautiful trees surrounding Fasilides' Bath

Beautiful banyan trees surrounding Fasilides’ Bath

The angels have their eyes on us (see ceiling) Inside Debre Birhan Selassie Church.

The angels have their eyes on us (see ceiling) inside Debre Birhan Selassie Church.

At Falasha with a swarm of kids trying to sell their goods to us. Marlie is just behind me.

At a Falasha village with a swarm of kids trying to sell their goods to us. Marlie is just behind me. I couldn’t tell if she was about to cry or scream.

Sucker! She ended up with a few more things than planned...

Sucker! She ended up with a few more things than planned…

A Homeward Bound shot, taken near our lodge in Kosoye (right outside of Gondar). Marlie named this cat Nigel. He followed us everywhere.

A Homeward Bound shot, taken near our lodge in Kosoye (outside of Gondar). Marlie named this cat Nigel. He followed us everywhere.

Coolest thing EVER! In the Simien mountains, we were able to walk through huge families of wild Gelada Baboons. I felt like Jane Goodall.

Coolest thing EVER! In the Simien mountains, we were able to walk through huge families of wild Gelada Baboons (getting at close as a yard away at times). I felt like Jane Goodall.

Our picnic area. Not too bad.

Our picnic area. Not too bad.

Marlie and Louis returned to Montana at the beginning of this past week. Andrew and I returned full-throttle to our regular work here in Addis. My work with the Strong Hearts daycare and hospice programs continues to bear fruit. I love those babies. While we were in D.C., all but two of the babies began crawling, and one of them took his first steps (Dagim, pictured in one of our earlier blog posts). I’m enjoying continued one-on-one English tutoring with one of my coworkers, Sisay, as well as small-group tutoring with seminary students. Tutoring is a bit less stressful this semester, as I’m working very closely with one of the professors at the seminary. She provides the instructions and most of the material, which is very helpful as I give more personal attention to the students. Andrew has liked teaching a new group of students (2nd year) while also keeping a connection to 4th year students through an upper-level elective seminar on Church and society. Missing two weeks of classes threw a wrench into the schedule; he has had to be patient and creative as he hopes to still cover all the material. On top of his teaching responsibilities, he’s grateful to be a part of ILC’s (International Lutheran Church) pastoral leadership team for the next three months.

Baskets. We took Marlie and Louis to Merkato, the largest open-air marketplace in Africa (located in Addis). It was total chaos and sensory overload, but we're glad we did it.

Baskets. We took Marlie and Louis to Merkato, the largest open-air marketplace in Africa (located in Addis). It was total chaos and sensory overload, but we’re glad we did it.

One of my patients, Yeshimebit, making injera

One of my patients, Yeshimebit, making injera

The finished product

The finished product

 A few prayer requests:

1)   For Elsabet, a 4-month old at the daycare. Born prematurely to an HIV+, single mother, she has been diagnosed with Down Syndrome and sinus/respiratory problems. She has been eating well and has gained weight since joining the daycare, but still appears very fragile and malnourished.

2)   For Huluageresh (pictured making coffee in an earlier blog post), now at the end of her battle with cervical cancer. She is 32 years old with two young children, and has been bedridden for the past month and a half. I can see her protruding hip bones and shoulder blades through clothing and two blankets.

3)   For students and certain staff members – too many to name – who have shared their struggles with us and who have asked for financial assistance. Please continue to pray for wisdom as we want to participate in God’s provision for them, but feel torn and overwhelmed as we try to discern when, where, and how much to give.

4) For Andrew’s grandfather, “Pops,” who was admitted to the hospital for what they thought was TIA (“mini stroke”). Thankfully, the MRI came back negative, but he is having an irregular heartbeat and will be on a blood thinner. Please pray for his recovery and health as he returns home.

5) For guidance and peace as we await answers about our future.

Please also pray for patience, strength, and joyful servant hearts as we enter our last three months in Addis. Living and working in another culture is exhausting! The “highs” are higher, and the “lows” are lower. As I delve further into Philippians lately, I am reminded of our need for trust in and reliance on the Lord. Philippians 1:6 reads, “…the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ.” Our actions flow from the work the Lord has been doing in our hearts. We have a lifelong commitment to respond to and participate in the work of the Lord, and Andrew and I hope that’s what we’re doing here. We know that we’re not at the center of the drama, but pray that God might be pleased to use the humble offering of our lives for the sake of the Kingdom. Abiding in Christ amidst suffering – the source of perseverance – comes as a gift from the Lord.  We won’t find that strength elsewhere. I have been praying for great endurance to finish our time here well, to press forward with confidence and to live in a way that honors Christ. Reading on to chapter 3, verse 12, Paul explains, “Not that I have already obtained this or have already reached the goal; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.”

 

I guess we should’ve seen this coming…

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.      Romans 8:28

Well, just when we thought everything was OK, we encountered yet another obstacle. A big obstacle. Yesterday morning, we heard from the EECMY head office explaining that the church license would expire in 17 days, thus the government refused to process our work permit. (What we were told is that they need at least 6 months left on the license in order to issue a new work permit. If we were simply renewing the permit, it wouldn’t be a problem.) So, from the very beginning of all this, the time and energy we’ve put into organizing all the paperwork and getting the visa extensions was never actually going to come to anything without a valid church license!

So, tomorrow afternoon, we begin 34 straight hours of travel to Washington, DC. Thankfully, the Saudi Airline deal was still available. From Addis, we will fly to Riyadh, where we have a 15-hour layover. We are looking into acquiring a transit visa so that we can leave the airport and find a hotel to catch some sleep. From Riyadh, we have a direct flight to DC. Andrew’s cousin, Peter, and his wife, Emily, have very kindly and generously offered us a place to stay in DC. We’ll be in the States for 10 days (enough time to get our new 6 month business visa) then return to Ethiopia on March 8th. My sister, Marlie, and her boyfriend arrive for a visit the next day. We’ll be one big, happy, jet-lagged family! 😉 Once we return, Andrew will be teaching “double time” – holding make-up classes – due to having to miss a couple weeks. I’ve been able to either cancel or find substitutes for my English tutoring work, and Strong Hearts has been understanding.

Please pray for us as we roll with the punches and find the humor in the midst of this ordeal. In all of this, we’re reminded that God’s will is beyond the horizon of our limited vision and we can never judge in advance what the eventual outcome of any event may be. This experience is teaching us flexibility and the hard-won ability to see the blessings buried beneath the surface of challenges. In the big picture, we have very little to complain about aside from inconvenience. And by taking the larger view, our hearts are returned to the gratitude that is always the proper posture of life in the light of God’s grace.

If you’re reading this, we almost certainly miss you and we hope you’re well.

Prayers answered

Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name. Bless the Lord, O my soul, and do not forget all his benefits…    Psalm 103:1-2

Thanks be to God – and to all of you for your prayers – that we received the visa extension we needed! And it only took 4 hours at the Immigration Office! With this 10-day extension, we should have sufficient time to finalize our work permit and resident IDs.

Our specific prayers were answered: 1) Yoseph, the church liaison officer, accompanied us and did the grunt work at the Immigration Office. 2) The immigration officer gave us no trouble. It was almost anticlimactic. 3) Everything seems to be moving along with the work permit. We should have it in hand by the end of this coming week. 4) We were able to let go of some of our frustration with the system and had more understanding for those working to process visas. 5) Andrew and I had a surprising sense of peace in the last few days leading up to Friday. We felt that if we did have to leave the country, things would work out just fine. We had a deeper sense of trust that God would provide in all possible futures. In fact, as we explored contingency plans, we found an unheard of deal for a round-trip flight to DC. We even began to feel some excitement at the possibility of returning to the US and seeing some family. But, not having to leave Ethiopia at such short notice and not having to miss some important early classes at the seminary brings us huge relief. Overall, our anxiety and stress turned to peace and even the ability to see the comedy of it all. 

At this point, we can return our attention to the work ahead and the many opportunities we have to serve. Please continue to pray for Andrew as he prepares for a Skype interview with Notre Dame this coming Tuesday.

Thanks again for being such an important part of our time here through your prayers and support. Here are a few pictures from the past month:

A view out the daycare window of a Timket parade. Timket means "baptism" in Amharic and is the Ethiopian Orthodox celebration of Epiphany (different from Epiphany in the Western Church, which remembers the visit of the 3 wise men).

A view out the daycare window of a Timket parade on January 19th. Timket means “baptism” in Amharic and is the Ethiopian Orthodox celebration of Epiphany (different from Epiphany in the Western Church, which remembers the visit of the 3 wise men).

Beautiful Timket umbrellas being sold at a Saturday market.

Beautiful Timket umbrellas being sold at a Saturday market.

We spotted this black and white colobus monkey during a hike on Mt. Menagesha. Located about an hour southwest of Addis, Menagesha is one of the few protected forests in the country.

We spotted this black and white colobus monkey during a hike on Mt. Menagesha. Located about an hour southwest of Addis, Menagesha is one of the few protected forests in the country.

Momma and baby.

Momma and baby.

Lydia, all smiles.

Lydia, all smiles.

Prayer requests

Dearest family and friends, we are in need of prayer!

We are feeling weary, frustrated, and discouraged. Over the past week and a half, we’ve spent nearly 6 hours at the Immigration Office and countless hours taxiing around town between government and church offices. We came here on a 6-month business visa, told that we could renew it easily. This was not the case. So, since early October, we have been trying to get a work permit for Andrew. This has taken much longer than expected and has been marked by many unforeseen obstacles and expenses. Just today, our necessary documents arrived in Addis from the States. Last Thursday, we went to the Immigration Office hoping to receive a 30-day visa extension, but were only granted a 10-day extension. This means our visa expires one week from today. We’ve heard many different things from many different people throughout this entire process; some people say it will take 3 days at most to process our work permit now that the documents have arrived, others say it will take 3 weeks. At this point, our greatest hope is that when we visit the Immigration Office again this Friday (before our visa expires) they will grant us another 10-day extension, allowing sufficient time to finalize the work permit. (It’s sure to be a romantic Valentine’s Day.) However, we have good reason to think that they may not grant this additional time. All of that means we may need to leave the country by Monday. We would either need to return to the U.S. for good, or stay for at least three weeks in a nearby country while our passports are sent back to D.C. and returned to us with a new 6-month business visa. Both options sound completely overwhelming to us, and the latter would be a tremendous financial burden. Just to lower our stress level, Andrew begins teaching 3 new courses this Wednesday, and he has a Skype interview scheduled with Notre Dame on the 18th.

We feel certain that God has good work for us to continue doing here, so we are praying that He will remove these barriers. Please join us in praying for these things: 1) For people from Mekane Yesus Church to stand with us and be our advocates, 2) For understanding, sympathetic immigration officers to hear our case this Friday, 3) For swift processing of the work permit now that the necessary documents are in Addis, 4) For protection from anger and bitterness in the face of this challenge, and 5) For peace and trust in the midst of such uncertainty. I’m sure you all have questions about how all of this works (so do we), but at this point in time, the best thing you can do is pray for us. Hopefully in a week or two we’ll be able to share a happier blog update. Until then, we’re grateful for all the love and support.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own insight. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.    Proverbs 3:5-6

An arrival & a getaway

We wish you all a happy 2014! Thank you for sending us your love, encouragement, and prayers throughout the Christmas season. Although we missed our family and friends terribly, we felt very cared for here in Ethiopia. Andrew and I attended a candle-light Christmas Eve service at the International Lutheran Church (ILC). During this service, each of the countries represented within the congregation sang a traditional Christmas carol from their country. Our little group sang “O’ Little Town of Bethlehem” (apparently this was written by an American). We opted against “Santa Baby.” We gathered around the Christmas tree with the Bryant family on Christmas morning, and I helped Andrea make a colossal, scrumptious breakfast. Andrew and I joined a very nice Canadian couple from church for lunch. That afternoon and into the night, we had a Skype marathon with our families.

Crossing a precarious bridge on our walk to Christmas dinner. But, hey, no snow to trudge through.

Crossing a rickety bridge on our walk to Christmas dinner. But, hey, no snow to trudge through.

Our wonderful host preparing the coffee ceremony on Ethiopian Christmas.

Our wonderful host preparing the coffee ceremony on Ethiopian Christmas. In the lower right corner, Frankincense is burning.

The freshly roasted coffee beans. Photo credit goes to Molly.

The freshly roasted coffee beans. Photo credit goes to Molly.

Traditional Christmas bread seasoned with black cumin.

Traditional Christmas bread seasoned with black cumin.

As I’ve mentioned to a few of you, there are some perks to being in a foreign land for Christmas. We’ve avoided the commercialism and consumerism, the annoying ads and repetitive jingles, the temptations and rabidity of Black Friday and Cyber Monday. This forced us to embrace a truer vision of Christmas, and gave us the freedom to make Christmas 2013 what we hoped and wanted it to be – to reclaim the holiday. Being in Ethiopia gave the season greater depth and breadth. Christmas really cannot be celebrated as a single, climactic event; the incarnation of Jesus needs and deserves so much more than a day to celebrate. As the Christmas season has come to a close and we begin a new year, we are called to live in the footsteps of the Incarnate One – to embody our faith as we follow the lead of Jesus, the Word made flesh. In a letter, my dear friend Mariah shared some wise words: “Isn’t it interesting that we start our new year out with anticipation, waiting, yearning, and hoping? Our American new year often seems to begin with us feeling overwhelmed, overspent, bedraggled from the holidays, and longing for winter to end. Our new year’s hopes are often built on faulty foundations of self-improvement or discipline, but the Christian new year is wholly different! The focus is not our ability to change, but on our hope for a savior.”

On a hike with Molly in the hills south of Addis.

On a hike with Molly in the hills south of Addis.

Eucalyptus

Eucalyptus

Our big Christmas gift this year was a 10-day visit from Andrew’s sister, Molly. It was wonderful to spend time with someone who has known us for more than four months! Due to Ethiopian Christmas falling on January 7th, Andrew and I were both off of work and therefore had lots of time to show her around the city and do some fun things. While we weren’t able to give her a particularly realistic picture of our life here in Addis without our daily routines and responsibilities, we were blessed to relax with a dear loved one. We caught up on all the juicy details of her life at seminary, dined at a few of our favorite restaurants, hiked, and attended a few cultural events (traditional dancing and singing, coffee ceremonies, and an Ethiopian Christmas feast). She’s not sold on injerra (Ethiopia’s staple food), but we can’t blame her. 🙂 Toward the end of her stay, we escaped the city for three nights at Sabana, a beach resort on Lake Langano. After living in the city, we’ve come to appreciate the small things we took for granted back home: clean air, anonymity, and hearing the birds chirp, to name a few. Thankfully, we were able to experience these precious aspects of life at Langano. Our stay was rejuvenating and life-giving, but the journey there and back was a bit of an adventure. The packed minivan we took down country flew down the precarious highway, which gave Molly some anxiety in the front seat and gave me some serious lower limb claustrophobia in the back seat. The bus we took back to Addis blew a tire, but no harm done.

A hot, dusty, longer-than-expected walk to Sabana … Molly was skeptical it even existed.

A hot, dusty, longer-than-expected walk to Sabana … Molly was skeptical it even existed.

our bungalow

Our bungalow

Bird flew above our heads in the open-air restaurant. It also had amazing food – it was nice to take a break from injera.

Birds flew above our heads in the open-air restaurant. It also had amazing food – nice to take a break from injera.

Naughty bird

Naughty bird

Franklin?

Franklin?

The beach was our favorite hang-out

The beach was our favorite hang-out.

The outdoor patio on the cliffs above the lake.

The outdoor patio on the cliffs above the lake

Replacing a blown tire on our bus ride home

Replacing a blown tire on our bus ride home

Now that Molly’s back in the States, we’re back to work. Andrew is gearing up for a new semester – he’ll be teaching 3 classes: Christian Worship, Christian Leadership, and Church & Society. He’s excited for the diversity of material and refreshing his own knowledge in these areas. He’s also looking forward to being part of a preaching rotation at ILC for the remainder of our time here. ILC is going through some needed changes and we’re eager to be a part of the renewal that’s taking place.

I continue to lead English tutorials and serve in the hospice and daycare programs at Strong Hearts. I’ve been working with another nurse, Hannah, at introducing the idea of individualized care plans and nursing diagnoses for each patient. I’d really like the home visits to be more goal-oriented. It will allow us to better understand our patient’s perceived needs, measure progress, and motivate both the nurses and patients with achieved outcomes. We are also in the process of organizing the patients’ paper charts and updating their profiles and medication histories. These are big, slow-moving projects, as we must first educate on the purpose and value of these initiatives while being patient and sensitive as our Ethiopian staff adjusts. If you think bureaucracy is bad in America, come to Ethiopia.

Strong Hearts gave away 100 goats on Ethiopian Christmas morning to feed 200 families in the neighborhood. The man in the middle is Getinet, the director, and the woman on the right is Sirkalem, one of my patients.

Strong Hearts gave away 100 goats on Ethiopian Christmas morning to feed 200 families in the neighborhood. The man in the middle is Getinet, the director, and the woman on the right is Sirkalem, one of my patients.

Andrew has recently completed applications for PhD programs in theology at schools in the US. After not receiving any offers last year, we have tempered expectations and guarded hope, but we still have a strong conviction that this can be an important part of Andrew’s vocational journey. We would love your prayers as we wait to hear back from schools in the coming months. Please also pray for the swift processing of Andrew’s work permit, as it is not yet finalized. Since we are here on 6-month business visas, we need the work permit by February 9th (we can extend our visas for one month if necessary).

Thanks for reading!