Truly, a picture is worth a thousand words. This blog post has quite a few pictures so we hope that you have “fun” viewing it, as our daughter Megan always says. Now that we have been here for 16 months there are daily sights and sounds that at first were quite foreign but now are all a part of our daily life. There are also the daily routines of everyday Ethiopians which serve to illustrate their creativity, challenges and triumphs each day as they work very hard to provide for themselves and their families. We have included some pictures not only of daily life but also of annual events and even some of a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence for some of our young single adults studying in the United States.
For us, our daily routine begins as we leave the house at 6:30am to wend our way to the mission office. We leave that early hoping to avoid the almost Los Angeles like traffic that will converge within an hour of then. We live a little over seven miles from the office and it takes about 20 minutes without traffic but as long as 45 minutes to an hour IN traffic. Lloyd continues to navigate some pretty tricky traffic which is largely devoid of traffic signals and therefore filled with challenging intersections. Right now, the daily drenching rains also means that many of the bridges can flood within minutes which begs the standard “solution” of diminishing your two lanes to one and sharing it with oncoming traffic from the opposite side of the median. This is really exciting when it happens at night! Suddenly there are headlights coming right at you and you realize that there is either flooding or an accident on the opposite side of the road that is responsible for our “deer in the headlights” mantra.
Here are some pictures to illustrate our daily sights and sounds as we head to work each day.
A highlight from this past month was meeting Sister Lutgarda Camilleri, a Catholic nun of the Franciscan Sisters of the Heart of Jesus. HER daily life for the past 48 YEARS has consisted of taking care of orphans who range from newborn to 16 years of age. She came here in 1969 when she was 23 years old. To us, she is the “Mother Teresa” of Addis Ababa. She is from Malta, a tiny country off of the coast of Italy which was part of the British Commonwealth. As such, she speaks fluent English and Maltese and, of course, Amharic. The home was founded in 1933 by a French community of nuns but when many of them had to leave because of the impending World War one stayed behind to keep the orphanage running. Her name was Ma Soeur Marie Joseph Tasemma. She continued her work at the orphanage for 63 years until her death on September 8, 1996 at the age of 94. There were originally 90 children from ages 4 to 18 years. The Cardinal asked the remaining sisters to keep her work alive and care for the children. Sister Lutgarda stepped up to the helm and today there are still 90 children but they have included children under 4 years old. Many of them have severe disabilities. These are children under 8 years of age who have either been abandoned or are on the street. They also take care of children whose parents are sick with HIV (AIDS). In addition to providing them with health care and nutrition they also run an elementary school for the younger ones and then find placement in the government schools for the older children who come back each day after school to the orphanage, their home.
The name of the orphanage is Kidane Meheret which means Promise of Mercy and their Mission Statement is: “To love, care, understand and educate children of different ages, tribes and religions. We base this on the words of our Lord, ‘Let the children come to me for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.’”
We had the wonderful opportunity to have Sister Lutgarda take us around the home and show us what THEIR daily life was like. She embodies the “pure love of Christ” as she and her assistants daily love, nourish, educate and provide hope for so many who would otherwise not survive. It was especially meaningful for one of our Ethiopian missionaries, Elder Chandler, in that he was at this orphanage as a child, along with his sister, when he was adopted by an LDS family over 12 years ago. He was seven years old and his little sister was two. He grew up in Pocatello, Idaho. Sister Lutgarda remembered Elder Chandler (Getabalew) and Elder Chandler remembered her, the school, where he slept and ate and especially all of his assigned daily and Saturday chores. It was a sweet reunion. And we, as a family, are looking forward to another special day at Kidane Meheret when our children and grandchildren come to visit us in October this year. Our grandson, Garrett Jennings, is doing his Eagle Project at the orphanage in that he has collected over 300 soccer shirts and 56 soccer balls to hand out not only to this orphanage but to a couple of others in Addis as well. After our family tours the orphanage we will all walk with the children down to a huge dirt soccer field and meet the children from the other orphanages where Garrett will hand out the shirts and balls and we will all spend some fun time playing soccer together.
We also had the distinct privilege of meeting Brandon and Corby Kraup, a darling LDS couple from Texas, who came to adopt little Spencer. He was in a different orphanage and has need of surgery to correct his hair-lip birth defect, something that would probably not happen here should he remain in the orphanage. But he is slated for about a dozen surgeries and heading home with them to Dallas where he will join his older sister and be surrounded with lots of love from his new parents and family. We all went out for pizza along with the missionaries.
Many of you may have also “met” another “Mother Teresa” in the news recently. Dr. Ruth Pfau from Germany passed away at the age of 87 on August 17, 2017 leaving behind a legacy of love and medical healing to the lepers in various areas in Pakistan. She arrived in 1960 and devoted her life as a doctor to helping the very poor there. These women are simply incredible and it was a great privilege to be able to spend an afternoon with Sister Lutgarda.
As for the daily life of our wonderful full-time missionaries they also diligently, day in and day out, teach those who are searching to understand the eternal truths of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. These past few weeks we have had some remarkable and memorable experiences with two of our young elders, Elder Shelton and Elder Richardson. They were approached by a young father, Ayele, who is married to Tigist and they are the parents of two darling children, Abenezer, six years old, and Birhan who is two. They live in a very humble mud hut with no running water, as do many here, but they also do not have even the customary solo light bulb. Ayele had been introduced to the Church about five years ago but recently had a series of dreams in which he saw the Joseph Smith pamphlet he had previously received. There was an admonition to “go find THAT church again.” So, he made his way to our Megenagna church compound and asked the missionaries to teach him. He wants to be baptized right now but will first need to have all of the lessons for more complete understanding. We have been especially grateful to Berhanu, a young man awaiting his mission call, who came with us to translate as Ayele and family do not speak any English. Our visit to his humble home and the Spirit that filled the room was something we will not forget. As evening approached and his wife lit a candle to light the room there was truly a “Light” filling the room as we finished sharing further “light and knowledge” under cover of a light rain.
As far as annual events here in Ethiopia, this past month we were very grateful to attend a college graduation of one of our young single adults, Jote. He was president of his class and, as we have mentioned before, was therefore responsible for raising the funds for and planning all of the events held in conjunction with the graduation. He had a committee of ten and they worked very hard. It all paid off as we attended the ceremonies. We have attended funerals, birthday parties, graduations and national holiday celebrations but we have yet to attend a wedding. We understand those are HUGE events but we are not aware of anyone planning a wedding in our circle of acquaintances so we may not get to witness that cultural event before we come home in November. Jote graduation video (click here)
Another bi-annual event is our church’s District Conferences which are held here in the Addis Ababa Ethiopia District every February and August. We had another wonderful conference on August 5th and 6th and were visited by a General Authority from Johannesburg, Elder Daniel P. Hall. He had a delightful South African accent and looked like he could have fit right in with my relatives at a Boice reunion! He spoke of the need for unity and especially to be more kind to one another. It was an uplifting weekend and afterwards we all gathered for the customary “District Picture.” We also captured some candid shots to share with you.
Finally, a “once-in-a-lifetime” event was the final reviewing of the Doctrine and Covenants manuscripts in preparation for publication this year. This was done by many of our Ethiopian young single adults who are attending school at BYU-Idaho as international students. The Church Translation Department invited a group of them to go down to Salt Lake to make sure the translations were correct for the final printing. We have an Amharic Book of Mormon but it has taken several years to get the Doctrine and Covenants translated properly. And to think that Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon from Reformed Egyptian into English in a little over two months! Of course, he had divine help as a prophet of God. I am sure these wonderful young Ethiopians approached this assignment very prayerfully asking for help and with a reverence and gratitude for the opportunity to assist in getting this into the hands of the saints here in Ethiopia. You can imagine some of the challenges this year in our Churchwide course of study of the Doctrine and Covenants when you do not have those scriptures in your native tongue.
In trying to share these pictures of daily, annual and even once- in-a-lifetime moments, it is impossible to really capture the remarkable flavor and culture that is Ethiopia. We remain deeply grateful for all that we continue to learn in another of the Lord’s vineyards here in “the Horn of Africa.”