Monday, August 3, 2015

Saying Good-Bye

One last photo before leaving!  

It has been a long time since I've posted but at long last I have a few moments to muse about the last few weeks.  June was a pivotal period in our lives as we went through the emotional process of saying good-bye to the places and people who have become so much a part of our lives.  Those good byes were difficult and there were many tears but there was laughter too, and shared memories and encouraging words and through it all the goodness of the Lord shone through.

As we transitioned out of the roles we had played in the ministry, we made the intentional decision to spend the last few weeks spending as much time as possible with the people who had touched our lives.
Our neighbours!

We arranged meals with dear friends, a 'block party' for our closest neighbours and spent many hours just sitting and chatting over cups of African tea.

 How we relished those times as we were able to express our love and appreciation for those who had welcomed us so whole-heartily into their lives.  We learned much in those conversations about how simple acts of kindness and a listening ear can have the biggest impact.

Hope Family and Treasures Class say good bye to the girls
Yes we wrote reports and balanced books, taught multiplication tables and pushed wheel-chairs, played with toddlers and prayed with people, but ultimately it's not what we did but what we learned that will have the most lasting impact.  Our children have been shaped in innumerable ways and we ourselves will never be the same.

David family who gave us a wonderful farewell party!

  So thank you to our New Hope friends and co-workers - you will forever be a part of us. Thank you too to those of you who have supported us from afar - you are a part of our story and we treasure each one of you.  And so we step out into the unknown thankful that we know the One who knows the end from the beginning.
"Give thanks to the Lord for He is good." 

Sunday, June 14, 2015

The Box of Beans

I've written before about how the spirit of generosity I've observed in the people around us has so often left me speechless.  Bounty is shared as an expression of shared community.  Last week I was humbled again when our sponsor's child's mother arrived at the door with a box of beans.  It's a long time until her main food crops will be harvested and so for the last little while they've been struggling to feed themselves as they wait for the harvest.  So when I saw her at the door with the beans I hardly knew what to do.  My Ugandan friend who was visiting me at the time quickly came to the rescue.  "She wants to bless you aunt.  She has been blessed with beans and wants to share."  Over a cup of tea we chatted about the family and then away she went unaware that she had blessed me with so much more than beans.  I hope it's a lesson I will never forget.

As a footnote we have be so thankful for the way our local church here has come along side our sponsor child's family.  It is a community based model which is so much more effective in providing long term support. 

Christmas in May?

For many years our children were involved in a program organised by Samaritan's Purse called Operation Christmas Child.  In October or November we would pack a shoebox filled with items that would be shipped to developing countries around the world.  The goal is that as children receive a gift box they will hear the story of God's greatest gift Jesus. As we celebrated Christmas together we often pictured a child opening a box we had sent and wondered what that might look like.
It came as somewhat of a shock a few weeks ago to see a truck on the road loaded down with Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes.  How funny we thought it's April!  Then a few weeks later I was asked to help with the distribution of boxes that had arrived for our church.
As we planned for the event I learned a few important lessons.
  • All that dollar store junk is still dollar store junk when it reaches its destination
  • When they tell you not to pack soft candy they really mean it.  Sticky caramels melted all over a box of crayons is not a pleasant thing
  • Those small bouncy balls in bright colours can be easily mistaken for gumball candy.  Not a good idea
  • Play dough, while a fabulous educational activity for preschoolers, is likely to be mistaken as a food item for hungry children.  
  • a clothing item (shirt, shorts, dress) is an excellent idea
  • flipflops or sandals are another very practical well received gift
  • a ball is a universal toy everyone enjoys 

For me the most moving part of the experience was listening to one of our staff members hear pray with a grateful heart for the people who had blessed 'our' children.  "Thank you for using those people to give us an opportunity to share about God's love."  The next day Uncle Bosco did indeed use the opportunity to share with over 200 children the story of God's love.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Coming Home

Part 6 of a series of posts about our trip to Ethiopia (see below for the rest of the posts)

In Mekele we were warmly welcomed by Norma and Tony, who had also served with the mission around the same time as Dad.  We were also reunited with an Ethiopian man who had worked with the mission.  So much had changed in forty years and yet we were still able to locate buildings that had been used by the mission and which now house a radio station.  Memories flooded back as old friends reminisced over copious cups of tea.
The highlight though of the whole trip for us was our trip to Sheket. That was the village where David had spent the first couple of years of his life.  As we drove along the paved mountain road we listened to stories of trips to and from Mekele in the early days.
 Many times the road had needed to be rebuilt along the way so that the land rover could carry the supplies needed to feed the thousands of people they sought to help during two years of extreme drought.   Then there was the time the land rover broke down and Tony spent a night out in the mountains trying to reach help.  As our car started the descent into Sheket the excitement mounted.

                                      My favourite picture of the whole trip is this one.

As Tony excitedly pointed out the mission buildings it was as if the years rolled away and I saw the love and commitment that had brought them here so many years ago.

We found the appropriate local officials and requested permission to visit.
 In a few minutes we arrived at the compound and saw with a flood of emotion the house that had until this point only been on one of Dad's slides. David later told me that the words of Psalm 121 flashed into his mind: "I will lift up my eyes unto the hills, Where does my help come from?  My help comes from the LORD the maker of heaven and earth."  I wonder how many times those words were read and sung all those years ago.

Dad's slide of the house over 40 years ago.

David and his Dad home again.  The house is now being used as a school as are some of the other mission buildings that were on the compound.

As we lingered in the compound surrounded by local children, a man was ushered into the group with a look of pure astonishment on his face.

The son of the local chief all those years ago could hardly believe his eyes.  There was laughter and smiles all around as he grasped who these people were.  The stories flowed.  Of the clinic, of the trips with Tony over the mountains and the army helicopter which had landed and offered to take David's Mum, about ready to give birth to David's brother, out to Mekele to avoid the bumpy roads.  I hope you can sense the excitement in the pictures.  

Then it was off to a river bed in search of the water pipes which Tony had laid in a effort to bring water to the village.  Leaving the car behind Tony quickly scrambled up the rocks accompanied by a gaggle of children who were splashing and washing clothes in the small trickle of water. We had a hard time keeping up with him as he forged ahead.
  We didn't find any evidence of the old pipes but we certainly found plenty of evidence of the adventurous spirit which brought Tony and Dad to Ethiopia in the first place.

The water tank that those pipes flowed into was still there, dwarfed today by two larger ones, but still an impressive testimony to the work that had been accomplished in Jesus' name.  We pray that the water of life will again flow into Sheket.

Following our time in Sheket we took an incredible 13 hour journey bus journey from Mekele to Addis Ababa seeing outstanding scenery.  At times are hearts were in our throats as we hurtled around hair-pin turns and glanced down huge cliffs.  Our final few days were spent in Addis reliving more history, meeting fascinating people and enjoying fabulous food.  How blessed we were to have had this incredible time.  Thanks for coming along on the journey.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

On the Road to Mekele

The following day we began an overland journey to Mekele.  We chose this route to get a better sense of the region where Dad had worked years ago.  So come along and join the road trip from Axum to Mekele via Adigrat.  Pictures don't do it justice but will hopefully give you some sense of the landscape.

Terracing along the mountain side to prevent soil erosion. 

One of the things we most enjoyed about Ethiopia were the juice bars.  Here we are in Adigrat enjoying a mango and avocado smoothie along with delicious flat bread

A local market along the road side.  Note the donkeys in the foreground; the favoured beast of burden in Ethiopia.

We stopped at a cave church hewn out of rock above ground level.  There are several in this region many of which can only be reached by a steep climb.  This particular church had suffered fire damage in an attempt to destroy it but the paintings were still remarkable to see.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Axum - Obelisks and crowns

The next day we flew to Axum a town close to Ethiopia's northern border.  Between the 1st and 8th centuries AD, the Axumite kingdom controlled most of present-day Ethiopia including territories in the southern parts of the Arabian Peninsula.  The achievements of this culture are still visible in the remarkable obelisks or stelae in Axum.  Many scholars believe the obelisks are the tallest single pieces of stone ever quarried and erected in the ancient world.  The tallest, over 33 metres tall lies fallen and broken into six massive pieces.  Some theorize that it may have fallen during the process of erection.  The tallest obelisk still standing at Azum is 23 metres tall.  Dad had visited this site before but hadn't seen one of the obelisks which had been removed and taken to Rome during the Italian occupation of Ethiopia. It was returned to Axum in 2005 and re-erected in 2008.

 Our afternoon was spent visiting a church complex featuring the old and new cathedrals of St. Mary of Zion. The two cathedrals are considered one of the holiest sites of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church.  In the new cathedral we were shown a 5th century goat-skin Bible and listened to a group of priests and deacons chanting.

 Between the two cathedrals is a small chapel known as The Chapel of the Tablet which is said to hold the original ark of the covenant. Admittance to the chapel is closed to all but a guardian monk, so we are none the wiser after visiting.

One of the most fascinating parts of the afternoon was seeing the crowns and royal robes which are housed in a 'museum.'  In old dusty cupboards, some with cracked glass, were crowns worn by emperors from long ago.  

Today they don't allow you to photograph the crowns and robes. Forty years ago women were not even allowed into the church to see them. When Dad and Mum and some other women visited over forty years ago, a priest kindly brought out the crowns for the women to see and so the photos posted are Dad's slides from years ago.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Lalibela - Chiseled Beauty

Next stop was Lalibela, famous for it's rock-hewn churches. Below is the view of our drive from the airport to the town of Lalibela at an altitude of almost 2,800 m. 

We had read about and seen pictures of these churches but it was amazing to actually see these 13th century monolithic churches carved out of rock with nothing but hammers and chisels.  The building of these churches is attributed to King Lalibela who set out to create a 'New Jerusalem.'  The churches were hewn out of rock, and then roofs, doors, windows, and columns were chiseled out.  The setting of these churches in a mountainous region in the heart of Ethiopia only accentuates their beauty.  Four of the 13 churches were completed as free-standing structures attached to rock only at their base. Here are a few pictures of these incredible structures.

 St. George's Church from above (note the depth
of the hole that was chiseled out).
                                                                                                  St. George's Church from below.

 We completed our day by having dinner in this restaurant jointly operated by a Scot and an Ethiopian.  Watching the sun set from our guest house and then feasting on shepherd's pie with Ethiopian spices made for a stunning ending to the day.

Views from our guest house.