“For I know that the LORD is great, and that our Lord is above all gods. Whatever the LORD pleases, He does, in heaven and on earth, in the seas and all deeps. He it is who makes the clouds rise at the end of the earth, who makes lightnings for the rain and brings forth the wind from His storehouses.” (Psalm 135:5-7)
Selamab and I thought we (along with Betty and Jonathan) would be leaving America on Tuesday, but due to the air traffic chaos related to the fire at the FAA building in Chicago, we had to leave a day later to avoid traveling through O’hare airport. That was the first of what have been several “unexpected occurrences,” especially regarding our ministry trip to a rural town north of Addis Ababa called Mehal Meda. There were several surprises ahead.
The final stretch of road to Mehal Meda is extremely rough terrain traversing up and down and around mountains. This portion of the trip is only 100 kilometers (62 miles), and yesterday in good weather it took us 4.5 hours until we hit pavement. It’s physically exhausting and excruciatingly slow–and sometimes treacherously dangerous because of the steep cliffs that are sometimes only a foot beyond the edge of the path. And then there is the dense fog. We learned about this danger on our way. Sometimes visibility was perhaps 5 or 10 feet in front of the vehicle. Thankfully, this road is traveled very little, so the potential for a collision was minimal. The humorous part of the story is that Selamab and I were so jet-lagged, having missed a rest day due to the delay in the States, that we at times couldn’t even stay awake.
This was my third trip to Mehal Meda. Selamab has been there more than me. We both knew that this town, high up in the mountains, is cold. We experienced it in the past, and we went supposedly prepared for the weather. However, now that I’m back in Addis, I think I’m finally thawing out. It was especially cold this time! On the first night, I wore two pairs of socks, two layers of pants, a long-sleeved shirt, a thick fleece, and a jacket. Plus, I was under a sheet, a thick blanket, and a quilt, and I still woke up shivering! It may be surprising to you to think of Ethiopia this way.
By the way, I once wrote a bulletin insert titled, “An Ethiopian’s Skin and Your Sin”, (see Jeremiah 13:23) that talks about a similar kind of surprise I experienced the first time I came to Ethiopia. Actually, for those of you who are parents with younger kids, I hope you will share what I’m writing with your kids and you could then read that bulletin insert to them.
An Ethiopians Skin and Your Sin
Selamab had arranged everything well for this trip, but upon arrival to Mehal Meda, one of the church leaders told us that they didn’t think we were coming, and so no arrangements were made for us to teach the church leaders. What? No arrangements were made? We have the emails to prove that they actually were! As it turns out, it appears that a particular denominational worker made a mistake, so the church leaders from Mehal Meda were not at fault. I hesitated to tell you this because I wouldn’t want you to think negatively toward any of these brothers over here, but I felt it necessary because this situation became an opportunity for the Lord to demonstrate His sovereign plan. He knew that we would be there, so it probably won’t surprise you to hear that by Saturday morning, several eager church leaders arrived for teaching, and by Saturday afternoon the number of participants increased significantly. Selamab and I each taught on Saturday, and then Selamab preached to the church on Sunday morning. We didn’t get to teach as much as we would have liked, but we are so thankful the Lord arranged what He did.
All of Selamab’s teaching was over Jeremiah. He actually was able to survey the whole book in all of his hours of teaching. Not only is his teaching biblically sound, but his model of careful exposition is so important for these leaders who have unfortunately seen too many bad examples (especially on television). I spoke specifically to the men from Matthew 5:27-30. You might recall that in that passage Jesus is addressing the issue of a man lusting after a woman and consequently committing adultery with her in his heart. His prescription for overcoming this sin is to gouge out your eye that causes you to sin or to cut off the hand that causes you to sin–symbolic language to say a man must take the most drastic measures to fight this mental immorality, or according to Jesus he will go to hell! There seemed to be deep conviction among the men as I taught. I then handled some more practical questions related to this subject, such as what we can do to keep our boys from becoming sexually immoral men. Yes, just as in the U.S., this is a devastating sin in Ethiopia.
Death, and Usefulness
On both Saturday and Sunday morning, I was awakened by a vehicle honking, followed by a man yelling words. These men were doing this all over town. Selamab told me that this is the way that they announce the death of someone. So the honking is meant to get people’s attention, and then the yelling is the announcement of the name of the deceased, and a call to support the family. This got me thinking: Death is coming for all. Heaven or hell awaits every single person on this earth, whether you live in Kansas City or Mehal Meda. The only Savior is Jesus. As we serve here in Ethiopia, we want to be instruments God uses to bring people to Jesus, and to help them keep going with Jesus. In Mehal Meda, we sensed God’s power at work through our ministry. Perhaps that’s one more “unexpected occurrence”–that God would use Selamab and me, the weak men that we are, in places like Mehal Meda. It surprises me every time it happens! God alone deserves the glory.
We miss you all, and we can’t thank you enough for praying. Even praying for safe travels isn’t trivial.