I can’t describe how wonderful it is to be back in the civilized world! We’ve been traveling since Monday. We’ve been over 1000 miles on dirty, dusty roads winding through mountains. The roads were mostly gravel in the Omo Valley, gravel and holes that is! We shared the road with pedestrians, cattle, sheep, goats, horses, donkeys, trucks, cars, and anything else you can think of.
I’m posting below an entry from my personal journal that I wrote this morning when I first awakened. I’ll post again soon! Here’s the entry It’s longer than normal.:
It’s 5 am and I’m in a hotel room just a bit over an hour from Addis. I didn’t sleep very well. The mosquito net made it hot in this small room. And then the mosquito that made me the use the net was laughing out loud while I roasted under the net~ Today is my Dad’s 78th Birthday. I plan to call him from Addis this morning. If I could summarize this trip, it would be long, arduous, and fruitful! We now have 10 churches in Ethiopia, and they are all doing very well. Meberatu is doing a great job in overseeing the churches and helping the pastors. These 10 churches touch a cumulative total of over 1000 people. All of them continue to grow. The 3 church dedication services were exuberant and Spirit charged! The people sang with abandon. They were so glad to have a place to meet. The BIM graduation was a great too. We need this college here to help train leaders. They love all of the courses. Their favorite teacher is Dr. Cottle. I need to send leadership courses in the next batch of courses there. We have a goal of starting 10 church within the next year, and to do that, we need leaders who are equipped and ready. Going to the Omo churches was both challenging and inspiring. This is rugged country, hundreds of years back in time. These folk live in thatch roofed huts with stick and dirt walls and dirt floors. They live close to their animals and the land. They rarely bathe due I assume to the scarcity of water. They travel long distances to haul it to their home. You can see people bathing in mud puddles along the road. The women wear no tops to cover themselves. Children often play naked in the yard in front of their huts. I was challenged staying in Weyto. The bug infested room provided a dry place to sleep, that’s about it. There was no bathroom or shower in the room. There was a crude see-through building with two non-working toilets, and one eastern toilet, the kind you squat to use. I was not thrilled! And taking a bath in a place with large opening in the walls wasn’t fun either. But we endured just fine. I did get sick from the food we ate on Friday night. Thank God for the healing stripes of Jesus. The Weyto churches are doing well. The pastor is a real sweet young man who looks to be in his early 20’s. He’s from this tribe. He’s been to school and knows the Word. Most of the people are illiterate. They come to church in their tribal outfits along with the traditional tribal paintings on their bodies. Some wear animal skins and come cloth clothing. All are very dirty. None are aware of it. They are kind to visitors, and were very happy to see us. The men sat on one side, and the women on the other side of the church. They worshipped with abandon, thanking God for being their creator and provider, for giving them another day, for His provision of food and life essentials. They had an unusual dance; the men would jump straight up as high as they could. The room quickly filled with dust. They sat attentively listening when I got up to preach, and frequently clapped and made a sound indicating pleasure when they heard something that blessed them. I spoke about God being just like a shepherd. I had to speak on a level that uneducated people could understand, so a story about how a shepherd takes care of his sheep was both Biblical and understandable to them. Their faith in God was strengthened. Ministry was short to aid their attention span. Prayer was engaging and fervent. I taught them to lift their hands to pray, showing them what the Bible means when it tells us to lift our hands in prayer; the lifting of hands being both an act of submission and trust in the Heavenly Father. We dedicated the building and prayed over the pastor and the people. It was hot and dusty. But life was there. After a cold beverage break back at the compound where we stayed, we headed towards Jinka and stopped a short distance away at another church that has started in Weyto. We found the people in a large open field in a valley overlooked by mountains all around. It’s a beautiful place. It’s also dusty and hot! About 60 or 70 people were gathered under a clump of small trees. They have no building. They were so glad to see us, and welcomed us warmly. Bruce greeted them, and Larry preached a short message of encouragement to them. This is another place where we need to build a building, so they can meet in a place protected from the elements. I wimped out on this meeting. The effects of my bad food the night before caught up with me, and I headed back to the Land Rover, almost passing out on the way. I recovered by pouring a bottle of water over my head and laying down. The Father healed me on the way to Jinka! Jinka is a small town in the middle of nowhere, cuddled by mountains all around. We stayed at the only place there available, a tourist hotel just inside this quaint town. The next day we traveled to seethe Mursi tribe. They live about 2 ½ hours away in a real small village dotted with huts made of simple straw. They huts are not much taller than me. The Mursi are the most rustic people I’ve ever seen in my life! The children are naked, and the women are topless. They wear animal skins or cloth clothing that is scant. Their tribal decorations are interesting, covering their head, torso, and arms. They paint their bodies with what looks like ash. And they look as though they haven’t bathed in weeks or more. This is the second contact we’ve made with them. Meberatu stayed in their village with them a couple of months ago. Bruce and Meberatu are planning to go back in a few months and set up a tent and evangelize them. Our contact was simple and was basically just so they could see us again, and hopefully let us into their lives. We began traveling back to Addis on Monday. It’s a long way back to the civilized world. We’re all road weary, and are ready for some respite from the travel. Tonight we leave for home. We’ll be back in Addis in a few hours, and there we will clean up, repack, and prepare for the 26 hours trip home. I can’t wait to see Susan and my children. And I’m thrilled to be able to be back with Victory Fellowship. My shepherd’s heart aches to see my church family.