Soon we will be “out of Africa” and back in the United States but not before we make a few more memories here. Many of you may recall the book and subsequent movie entitled “Out of Africa” made famous by the Danish author, Karen Blixen. She lived in Kenya from 1917-1931 when it was then called British East Africa. The movie version, starring Meryl Streep and Robert Redford, came out in 1985 and won an Oscar for Best Picture. Her pen name was Isak Dinesen and she is credited with helping to demystify Africa. She is also quoted as saying that “salt water is the cure for anything through sweat, tears or the sea.” As we wind down our mission here in Africa we have experienced the sweat of hard work and the tears of joy and sorrow. Now, we are looking forward to sitting on the beach in San Clemente and looking out over the salty sea. We were actually able to visit Karen Blixen’s home and farm that is now a museum in Nairobi.
As many of you know, almost all of our children and grandchildren were able to come over a couple of weeks ago and not only spend time with us in Addis Ababa but were also able to go with us to Kenya for a safari in the Maasai Mara which is the northern third of the famous Serengeti plains. This was a family trip we will remember forever and we have included many photos and videos of those memories. So, a word of caution lest you think this blog will only be about “home movies.” We are only able to transfer up to 10 seconds on any video or it takes forever to download. So, there is no video over 10 seconds. Hopefully, a perusal of the still pictures and videos will give you a feel for these beautiful animals and memories. In addition to the safari, we had some amazing experiences involving service projects here in Addis Ababa. After all, safari in Swahili means “journey” and this mission has been an incredible journey that was sweet to share with our loved ones. Our mission president was kind enough to give us permission to have this week with our family as it was fall break for many of them.
We have also had some wonderful missionary moments this past month in that we received two new missionaries and had several baptisms. We even got to attend an Ethiopian wedding since we had only witnessed a Muslim wedding up to this point. Our new missionaries are Elder Adu-Mensah from Ghana and Elder Davidson from Hayden, Idaho.
Elder Adu-Mensah comes from a big family and is the only member having been baptized in January 2016. He hopes to specialize in the field of computer science after his mission. We always ask the new elders what they feel they have learned so far on their mission or what is a particular highlight. Elder Adu-Mensah said that he has learned that the gift of agency means that even though many people may reject his message he still must show them love and compassion. He is a heads up young man who has been on his mission for six months and will continue to add much in his service here.
Elder Davidson is from Hayden, Idaho near Coeur d’ Alene. He has two sisters, one older and one younger. He will be returning home the end of January and when asked what he has learned so far, he said, “Accepting God’s will and finding peace even when His will is difficult to accept.” This is particularly poignant in that his mother died of a rare form of cancer three months ago. Fortunately, he was able to talk with her before she passed. These are great young men and we feel privileged to serve with them.
We will actually have four Ethiopian missionaries going out into the mission field over the next few months. We are waiting on calls for three of them but the fourth, Birhanu, has received his call to the Liberia Monrovia Mission in West Africa and will leave November 9th. He is very excited to go and we are trying to help him get ready. Our daughter-in-law, Cherilyn, surprised us with a suitcase full of white shirts that she brought from San Clemente, and we are assuming friends and members of our stake donated them. They have been a huge blessing! Birhanu was thrilled to be able to receive all of the shirts he will need in Liberia. And, now we should have all the needed white shirts, which by the way are very hard to come by here, for our other three missionaries. The rest will be used by members in our branches who cannot afford white shirts not only for Sundays, but for job interviews and work. Another tricky and expensive purchase is the luggage they need to go on their missions. Ali and Cherilyn left behind some much needed luggage that we think they collected from many of you in California and Arizona. SO, a huge thanks to all of you who have helped these Ethiopian missionaries and others so much. We don’t know your names but your generosity has really made a difference half way around the world.
Elder Woyesa came home from his mission to Ghana Cape Coast and had a joyful reunion with his family that was highlighted with the marriage of his older sister, Sintayehu. He is already adding a lot of strength to his home branch. The wedding reception was really fun and was held under a huge tent on the street outside of their family compound. Nancy shaking a shoulder video (click here); Wedding dancing video (click here) We still can’t get the Ethiopian “shoulder shake” down that is unique to their way of dancing, but we keep trying and just enjoy the music and the people.
We had a very special baptism of two men this past month. They did not know each other before but are now “brothers in Christ.” Their names are Yitbarek and Yilma…. the “double Y’s.” Yilma was approached the first week in August when our missionaries went out on the streets and passed out over 1,500 invitations to District Conference here in Addis. If he had been the only one who joined from those efforts it was worth it as he bore a powerful testimony of his search for meaning in his life. He said “a light went on in my darkness” when the missionaries began sharing about the restored gospel. Yitbarek said in his testimony that he had spent many years “seeking the truth” and now had found it. It was a wonderful day for them and for all of us present as they spoke.
Our children and grandchildren arrived on October 6th and flew home October 14th. This was truly “the week that was” in many ways. It began with a tour of St. Georges Cathedral which is an Ethiopian Christian Orthodox Church built in 1896. Our tour guide was Archdeacon Mebratu who taught us about the history and the religious significance surrounding this landmark in Addis.
The next day we went to two orphanages where our grandson, Garrett Jennings, completed his Eagle Scout Project by distributing over 300 soccer jerseys and over 50 soccer balls he had collected from the last day of soccer season in his hometown of Gilbert, Arizona. We also cuddled and played with over twenty babies in the same orphanage we wrote about some months ago which is run by an amazing Catholic nun, Sister Lutgarda. She is from the Franciscan Order of the Heart of Jesus and has been serving here in Addis at the Kidane Meheret Orphanage for 48 years. Truly, she has a heart like Jesus. They are doing some construction and re-modeling on the grounds so some of the grandkids were able to help move rocks and equipment around. Evan and Josh video (click here); Sara and Yeabsra video (click here); Maren and Kate video (click here); Garrett and friend video (click here); We brought some toys and books for the babies and shared some very special moments with them. Playing soccer video (click here) Then we went to the second orphanage across town called the Kolfe Orphanage which houses 200 boys from eight to eighteen. Kolfe boys video (click here); Garrett’s Eagle project video (click here); Garrett announcing his Eagle project video (click here); Boys cheering video (click here) It was a real highlight to play soccer at both places and the kids were all thrilled with their soccer shirts. Giving out shirts video (click here); Volleyball video (click here) Garrett LOVED doing this project and we all loved being a part of it with him.
We also had a unique opportunity to meet and serve some of the women who are members of the Finote Rehabilitation Center for Disabled Women. It is run by our District Relief Society President, Sister Yeweinshet, who is blind and has started an NGO to help women with disabilities. She is a humble, tiny, amazing woman who has literally rescued many women from the street and elsewhere who would have had no chance to survive had she not intervened. Probably half of the women who came were blind and they listened very intently to our daughter Alison as she gave a presentation involving feminine hygiene products made by women in the USA. “Days for Girls” video (click here) This is a wonderful world-wide effort called “Days for Girls.” Ali brought 100 kits. These are cloth re-usable feminine hygiene pads that are very much appreciated throughout third world countries where some girls will even miss school for an entire week each month since they cannot afford supplies. The women were very grateful to receive them and they sang us a song of appreciation in Amharic. Sisterhood is universal.
We were also able to visit and have meals with some of our dear friends who were very insistent and excited to have our large family come and share bread and food with them. Eating bread at Nigist’s home video (click here); Dinner at Habtu and Hana’s home video (click here) These invitations are generous and a very cultural way to express their love AND their appreciation for you coming to honor them in their home, whether it is one room or three rooms. We pretty much filled up each room as there were 16 of us.
After a really fun and meaningful weekend in Addis we headed out for the Maasai Mara in the Kenyan Serengeti. We spent a day in Nairobi being “kissed” by giraffes at the Giraffe Center Feeding the Giraffes video (click here), visiting Karen Blixen’s home and then the famous Kazuri Bead Factory near her home. This is a factory that employs over 340 single mothers who make absolutely beautiful jewelry and other ceramic products.
We finished off that day with dinner at the famous Carnivore Restaurant which boasts a potpourri of exotic meat dishes from crocodile and rabbit to ostrich meat. It also included the more traditional turkey, beef, chicken and pork all served by the slice for whatever you prefer. They also provided delicious options for some of our vegetarian family members. I have to say this would be my preferred encounter when it comes to crocodiles! Which, by the way, was really tasty. (It did not taste like chicken!)
Leaving Nairobi, we headed out for four days of fabulous game drives filled with the “Big 8” and plenty of other visual and culinary delights. We actually were incredibly lucky as we saw the “Big 8” (leopard, elephant, lion, cape buffalo, rhino, cheetah, giraffe and hippo) by the time we finished the first two game drives. We saw them all again throughout the week with the exception of a second rhino sighting since they are endangered and there are only about 40 left in the entire reserve. We hope you enjoy some of the great shots that our grandson, Luke, his Mom Ali and Uncle Darren all got with their more high-powered cameras. Every game drive was different and filled with the quiet and peace that nature nurtures punctuated occasionally, of course, with the “wild side” of predatory life on the Serengeti plains in Africa. We were even able to witness the tail end (no pun intended) of the wildebeest migration which is an annual journey of about 500 miles as they move from the Maasai Mara back to Tanzania staying there until the following June. Death can occur due to hunger, thirst, exhaustion or predation. We actually saw a kill when five cheetahs took down a wildebeest from the migrating herd!
We had some surprise visitors at our bush dinner the night before we left our first tent camp when a group of Maasai warriors came to entertain us with their unique war dance and low humming chants. Maasai bush dinner dancers video (click here) We met them again as we left the Maasai Mara Reserve and went to one of their villages. They are a nomadic and pastoral tribe who migrated from Northern Africa along the Nile Valley several hundred years ago. They have held on to their way of life amidst the western encroachment of civilization and are a symbol of Kenyan culture even though they also inhabit the northern border of Tanzania. Their lives center around their cattle. They feel that they are the guardians of all the cattle on earth and that this is a sacred responsibility. They move every seven to eight years in search of water and pasture for their large herds. The cattle are also the only real source of nutrition in that they will eat the beef for special occasions, drink the milk and even the blood which is done by piercing a vein which then heals so as not to kill the cow. The skins are used for bedding and floor covering in their mud huts which are held together and “plastered” with cow dung. The women make the houses and the men build the fences and sheds for the cattle. These are truly humble abodes consisting of a small open fire kitchen area and perhaps one or two “bedrooms” which are very small rooms in which all of the children will usually sleep in one room. The Maasai are very tall and yet their huts are probably five feet tall on average. But, they really only sleep there and are out tending the cattle or children during the day. The government has mandated education now and most Maasai children do attend school which is usually located near their villages.
They are now internationally known as many foreigners who come on safari in Kenya and Tanzania will make a stop at their village and learn about their way of life as well as participate in their unique “Jump Around Dance” which they perform clothed in their signature red “shukas” with necks draped in multiple necklaces. Maasai dance video (click here); Luke jumping video (click here) The “Dance” is performed in pursuit of a wife and the one who jumps the highest wins the bride. It is also helpful in locating stray cattle to get a better view of the wandering herd. As a young man moves on to warrior status his wealth is judged by how many children and cattle he has. Later, middle-aged men become elders of the village and perform important roles as counselors, judges and sources of wisdom. Needless to say, the women are hard-working and industrious and make many beautiful beads, necklaces, and wooden bowls which are available for purchase to augment their income. We all really had a fun time being with and learning from the Maasai.
When we returned from safari we spent our last day in Addis riding horse drawn carts in Debre Zeit Horse cart ride video (click here), which was admittedly a little different than looking a lion in the face from within 10 feet! It was an incredible trip we will never forget.
Lloyd and Nancy (aka Elder and “Seesta” Harline)