Top Ten “Firsts”
Every week brings new experiences in our mission here in Ethiopia. These past couple of weeks have been filled with several “firsts.” But before we give you our “Top Ten Firsts”, we wanted to share another “Top Ten” we have listed on our bulletin board in the office and left by someone who has served here before us (we don’t know exactly who) which also captures our desire for a “positive” outlook in our new surroundings as well. It’s entitled:
Top Ten Ways To Be Positive in Ethiopia
- When the power goes out—you get to eat everything in the fridge.
- When the lights go out—you get to eat by candlelight.
- When dinner doesn’t agree with you—you don’t have to worry about being overweight.
- When a goat runs onto the road—you can improve your driving skills.
- When you try traditional food–goat tastes pretty good.
- If you eat all your food with injera—you don’t have to wash silverware.
- If a spider bites your foot and it goes numb—you can’t tell if your foot hurts.
- If something crazy happens—you have something interesting to write in your email home.
- If the Internet isn’t working—you don’t have to worry about writing home.
- If it feels like everything is going wrong—you will spend a lot of time on your knees.
We would add that even when everything is going right, we still spend a lot of time on our knees just trying to know what, where, and with whom we might be needed that day.
And now, for our………… Top Ten Recent “Firsts”
- First Funeral: A very beloved man, Ashebir, who was only 43 years old, passed away this week and is survived by his young wife, Hiwot, and two children, ages eleven and five. His brother died three years ago so he was also caring for his widow and their three children. He was one of the first members of the church in this area and was also widely respected in the community. His funeral was held in Debre Zeit (about 45 minutes south of Addis) and was attended not only by members of our church, but also by many from the Ethiopian Christian Orthodox Church as well. This was a first time experience not only for us but also for many Orthodox people who had not been to our church. It was a moving and spiritual experience for all of us and a testament to a good person who really lived his religion and was an influence for good for ALL in his community and neighborhood. The funeral was one day after he died and the community gathers for a “wake” at the home of the deceased to comfort the family. The Orthodox grieve deeply and there was much wailing and crying as they left the home for the services. The burial is immediately following the services and although the funeral home will dig the hole for the casket, the friends of the deceased bring shovels and fill in the hole, and mound the dirt themselves as a gesture of their love and sorrow. If you are Muslim you are buried in a Muslim cemetery and if you are Orthodox you are buried in the Orthodox cemetery. Otherwise, you are buried in a public cemetery. This has meant that some members of our church have not been allowed to be buried with their other family members who may have remained Orthodox, for example. Pictures at the services would have been inappropriate, but we were able to get a picture of the cemetery after everyone had left. We will probably never forget the mass of people from all faiths celebrating this good man’s life.
2. On a happier note, we were invited to our first school graduation party, albeit it was a graduation from kindergarten! You may have remembered our friend, Zergi, and her grandson, Solomon, whom we visited shortly after we arrived. This was a really fun invitation in that Zergi makes THE best injera we have tasted yet and Solomon and his young friends tried to teach Sister Harline how to dance in the traditional Ethiopian way (shake the shoulders, keep the hips quiet so it’s sort of like patting your head and rubbing your stomach….hard to keep it all separate!) It was great fun so hope the video captures the mood.
6-19-16 Lloyd 032 (“Dancing, Dancing” video)
3. “Goat Meat Meets Median” – THIS was not only a first but a shock to see raw goat meat being handled and stuffed into plastic bags for sale ON the median IN the middle of rush hour traffic. It is apparently sold to feed other animals. Here, for sure, the picture will be worth the thousand words that would probably never really convey THIS “first.”
4. We had a Megenagna Branch activity last Saturday afternoon to introduce FHE (Family Home Evening) and the Branch President, Jake Fairhurst (a State Department employee), modeled how this was done. This was a “first” for the families in attendance as no one had ever held FHE before. He gave a wonderful lesson and there was lots of participation and about 30 members in attendance. Then we played “Four Corners” and everyone loved it. We managed a couple dozen cupcakes before the power went out in my oven so that was lucky. Then, the little ones came out on the lawn and I played “Duck, Duck, Goose” with them. They loved it!
5. Our landlords, Samuel and Martha, run a private international school called Trillium and Samuel invited us to tour the campus on the last day of school. This was a delightful “first” that we would not have been able to do without his invitation. What a fun experience to see children from pre-school to Grade 8 learning English in an intensive immersion program. This will help ensure a much better chance not only for higher education but for a better job someday. It’s not something that everyone can afford since it is $600 USD (13,000 BIRR) a year, but it means that they will learn English from Kindergarten on rather than starting to learn in 7th Grade in the public schools. We hope you enjoy the video of them answering his morning greeting.
6-24-2016 Nancy 040 (“Greetings in English” video)
6. We don’t have a mission doctor here in Ethiopia but we do have a Russian neurosurgeon (a”first” for the mission) who is here for a year and was a former Stake President in St. Petersburg. Andri and his wife, Elena, (who speaks no English) come to church every week. They know our friends, Larry and Laurel Lawrence, who have served in Moscow. Last week Andri had to operate on a young man who was working on a construction site and fell twenty feet landing on his neck and is alive but, unfortunately, paralyzed.
7. Among the fifteen who were able to go on the annual temple trip to Ghana were two families who were sealed and ten who went for their “first” time. They all had a wonderful experience and we are hoping that next year’s temple trip will be double or triple in numbers. We may have mentioned before that the church pays the air fare, housing and costs of any African members’ “first” temple visit and asks that they make a small donation by way of some sacrifice in going. That is really the only way they can afford to go and for some it will be the “first” and the last time they can attend a temple.
8. I filled in last-minute in a Young Women’s class (three young women) for the “first” time a couple of weeks ago and it was just a WONDERFUL experience. Two of the girls were sisters who were just recently baptized…..the “unique” baptism we shared in our last blog where most had to be baptized at least two times! They are holding the YW Theme in the picture.
9. We had our “FIRST” good injera at Zergi’s house and loved it. The trick is, she says, is NOT to use all that vinegar! Who knew? Yummy! It was ALSO yummy to our tummy as we didn’t have any residual effects.
10. Last Sunday at 7am (before we went to our church at 9am) we attended our “first” Ethiopian Orthodox Church meeting. They have an approximately hour long service that begins and is repeated from 3am until 9am not only on Sundays, but on every other day of the week as well. Sacrament is offered only on Sundays, however. We went with Ruth (our sweet 14-year-old friend who has to wait until she is 18 to join our church) and her darling little sister, Yebsa, and their dear, dear mother Nigiste. Nigiste is a single mom who works six days a week at a factory making jeans and jackets. She is a very devout Orthodox and was thrilled to show us what her worship entailed. We entered the outer area of the church where several others were gathered and bowed our heads in reverence as we watched them periodically kneel down on their hands and knees bowing their heads to the ground (wet) and then standing up again for the other sections of the service. It is a set recital of prayers offered for mercy and forgiveness, and also relates miracles of Mary, the Lord’s Prayer and many other sacred events and miracles of Michael, Gabriel and other saints. It is still recited in the ancient Ge’ez language (root of their modern Amharic) and for the most part only the priest fully understands the Ge’ez. Ruth does not understand all that he says but knows when to bow her head and repeat certain phases, for example. It felt similar to a Latin Catholic Mass. Those who wish can go into the building proper and receive the sacrament but they must not eat the rest of the day if they do. On ALL Wednesdays and Fridays the devout Orthodox fast, in that they refrain from dairy and meat, from 3am until 3pm. Wednesday’s fast is to help them always remember when Jesus was persecuted and accused before he was crucified. Friday’s fast is for keeping in remembrance his triumphal entry into Jerusalem (Good Friday). We actually got caught in quite a downpour and all of us just quietly and reverently went to stand under long, three foot wide eaves huddling close together. We will never forget their spirit of devotion. I remember a good Catholic priest commenting on his “holy envy” of our belief in sealing families together forever. I have “holy envy” for the reverence and weekly devotion of our Orthodox friends here in Ethiopia.
We wish you all a very Happy 4th of July and hope you will have fun celebrating the many blessings and privileges of our citizenship.