From Hunt Valley, MD to Addis Ababa

In August, a team of 6 from my home church, Hunt Valley Presbyterian, came for a week-long vision trip to learn more about the AIDS Care and Treatment Project (ACT). We had a wonderful week together, visiting our beneficiaries in their homes, art camp for some selected kids who had shown an aptitude for art, health teaching for adults and kids, and Community Bible Study.

The latter happens weekly and when teams come, we ask them to lead the study and discussion. It always amazes me (but it shouldn’t) how God takes what is taught and uses it specifically in someone’s life. The teaching and discussion that week was from the Gospel of John, Chapter 4. Here, Jesus meets a Samaritan woman at the local well at mid-day, not the usual time to collect water because of the heat. But the woman is an outcast in her own society, because of multiple husbands, so she goes to the well at “off hours”, so she won’t have to experience the pain of being taunted. But Jesus gets to the point of her life quickly, even though she tries to change the subject. The story has all sorts of cross-cultural images””Jews vs. Samaritans, men vs. women, worshiping on the mountain vs. in Jerusalem. But ultimately she comes to realize that Jesus is the Messiah and can’t help but tell everyone around her whom she has met.

When the Bible study was over and the women came out, I was surprised to see one of them, Beza (name has been changed for privacy). I asked her how the study was, and she was effusive in her praise of it, which really surprised me, as more often than not, she is unhappy.

A few days later, someone left some papers at my door, which “just happened” to be the story of Beza’s life that one of our staff had written after conducting an interview with her. Beza was that woman at the well, and in reading her story, I realized why that particular Bible study resonated with her. She has had several husbands””the first was married to someone else but she didn’t know it when she married him. She had twins by him, but they didn’t survive; she was still a teenager. At age 20, she was married in an arranged marriage, to a man in the Communist army (Derg). When the Derg army lost the war in 1991, many of the soldiers fled from Ethiopia, including her husband, and she never heard from him again. She has one son by him. She then met a M**lim man and lived with him for 14 years and had 4 children by him. She found out she was HIV positive when she was pregnant with her youngest child, who is now 4 years old. Her husband refused to be tested, so they separated. He doesn’t live with them, but occasionally visits his children. During this time, she also raised her brother’s daughter.
After finding out she was HIV positive, she went to the local government office to seek help and was referred to the ACT project. A home visit was made and she was accepted. Beza is so thankful to the project, for it has meant that her children are able to survive and get an education, which would have been impossible otherwise. She attends a Protestant church regularly.

Such are the many stories that we hear week by week. Some have more or less happy endings, as this one does, though life is not easy for Beza, despite the relative improvement in her life because of being part of the ACT Project.

There are also difficult endings, such as the widowed mother who died at the end of July, leaving 2 daughters. The older was already being cared for by a ministry for street children and they graciously took in the younger daughter, T, until we could find a place for her. She is now living in a residential home for girls, which is sponsored by SIM, our partner mission here, and by all reports is doing well. Just as I was editing this letter, T came in to the office to greet us and said that her new living situation is “wonderful”. What a great way to end the week!

All this to say, the challenges are many, but so are the joys of the work I do here. I went to the local souk (shop) the other day to buy sugar and eggs. On the way, I ran into some project kids, one of whom knew where I could find sugar, when a couple of places I tried didn’t have any. Then on the way home, I met another family and got a nice, sloppy kiss from the little girl! As you can tell, I really like the kids, even though initially, I found the idea of having to care for kids with HIV to be a pretty challenging thought, since my nursing background is not pediatrics. What was one of my big fears has become one of my greatest joys!

My house in Baltimore went on the market to be sold as of October 10th. I am so thankful for a man from my church, someone I’ve never met, who organized all the work that had to be done to get the house ready to sell””and it was a lot. Please pray that the house would sell quickly, that it would be owner-occupied and that I would get the asking price, since I’ve had to lower it from what I agreed to last spring and spent a lot to get it ready to sell, after the tenants vacated.

Again, thanks, as always, for your partnership with me in my work here. It is a joy to be here doing what I love and I couldn’t do it without my “home team”. And special thanks to Tigist Workineh, our staff person, who had written out Beza’s story in English, so I could share it with you.

A Week in the Serengeti

Addis Update April 2012: Medical Teams

Greetings from Baltimore. I arrived in the US on March 17th and will be here until May 11th. It will be good to see many of you while I’m stateside. But it is time for an update from Addis. One of my major responsibilities is helping to coordinate our visiting medical teams, so I’m going to give you a glimpse into how that works. We host 8-10 teams each year and find that they greatly help our ministry here in Addis.

On a recent Sunday morning, the Ethiopian Airlines 777 touched down at Bole Airport in Addis with 12 members of a team from MD, NY, WA, TX, and NC. Gizaw, our team coordinator and our trusty Getts Travel bus met them at the airport. Once through immigration and customs, they went to our guesthouse to settle in for 12 days. There was orientation after lunch, and then they all went to bed to deal with jet lag. On Monday morning we started with team devotions and sent them out on home visits to learn about how our beneficiaries and the patients they would see in outreach clinics live.

Two of the patients we saw stand out and describe the need that exists for health care in Addis. The first was young man who had sustained a head injury, was seen at the local hospital and a CT scan was ordered. He couldn’t afford it, so was sent home. The community health extension workers knew of his situation, so sent him to our clinic. We were able to send him for the CT scan, using money that the medical teams provide for such tests. This showed bleeding between his skull and brain. We sent him back to the hospital, where he was able to have the surgery he needed to remove the blood. Needless to say, he and his family were very thankful.

The second was an elderly man with a chronic leukemia who was prescribed oral medication to take, which would cost him the equivalent of $250/month, which is likely more money than he survives on in a year. In the West, his condition would be considered a medical emergency and he would have received care. We routinely see people at our outreach clinics who have greater financial needs for health care than they or we can meet”-like the 22 year old who needs $200 a week for kidney dialysis and $25,000 for a kidney transplant in India, but no way to get anti-rejection drugs in Ethiopia. These dilemmas are never easy, often heartbreaking, and repeatedly remind me of the brokenness, inequalities and injustice of the world we live in.

We limit the number of people we see in a day so that the providers can spend adequate time with each patient. Many people here never get touched by a health care worker”-it always astounds me that diagnoses can be made without any hands-on or stethoscope-on care”-so we encourage touch, time and prayer.

There is always discussion in the missions community about the benefits or lack thereof, related to hosting short-term teams. At our project, we like teams. They provide us with added value to the work that we do in the following ways:

  • In the early days of the project, helped us learn to care for sick and dying people and the treatment of HIV.
  • Bring medical expertise and knowledge.
  • Help us build relationships with the community, local government and local churches when they participate in outreach clinics.
  • Provide ministry to our children, support groups, community Bible studies.
  • Bring needed supplies that we can’t get here.
  • Encourage the missionaries and Ethiopian staff.

Teams are a lot of work, but we have a good system in place. My responsibilities are varied. Before the teams come, I coordinate the “wish list” that all teams get about 6 weeks ahead of time, to request medical and non-medical items that we need. I work with the rest of our team to make sure the numbers of patients scheduled is appropriate to the number of providers we have. Once the teams are in Addis, I do a medical orientation to help the providers and nurses understand the way things work. On the work site, I become the “consultant”, along with my Ethiopian nurse as we make recommendations to the providers about how best to deal with the problems that they are seeing. I often help the pharmacy in dispensing medications, and translating directions for the patients. Sometimes, if it is a busy day, I will see patients for a while. At the end of the day, we pack everything up and make a list of what we need for the next day, and I either get it from our stock or go to the local pharmacy to buy it.

Counting meds and filling prescriptions.

An old man is trying out reading glasses, one of the most popular items we have–if one person is seen getting them, suddenly everyone wants them! The picture doesn’t do the event justice, as he was quite comical.

You can see how much Dr. Diana loves being a pediatrician. And the little boy is very cute!

So from a few pictures, I hope you get a taste of what a medical team is like. We are always looking for doctors, NP’s, RN’s, Physical Therapists, general helpers, teachers, and pastors to come and work with us. Unfortunately, we can’t accept Physician’s Assistants, as the Ethiopian government won’t credential them. If you want to participate in a team, you can email the medical office at Mission to the World:

medical@mtw.org.

I’m looking forward to seeing many of you in the US during my time here. Many thanks to all of you who help to support my work in Ethiopia. I know I sound like a broken record in almost every letter, but without you, I couldn’t be in Addis, doing what I love.

Christmas Greetings 2011

I will soon be celebrating my third Christmas in Ethiopia. It hardly seems possible, but God has been gracious in allowing me to be here doing what I love. One of the frequent questions I get asked is, “what is a normal day like for you?”  So, I’ll try to explain a “normal” week, rather than a day.

The workday always starts with the staff meeting at our local coffee shop for macchiato’s, a coffee drink with a shot of espresso, steamed milk and sugar (not what you get at Starbucks!) for the equivalent of 26 cents!

Monday morning we always have staff devotions which missionaries and Ethiopian staff take turns leading. We then pray as a group for needs of the project and individual beneficiaries. If there is an event to celebrate we usually do that after devotions. Then its off to work we go.

My work here is varied and not usually boring. Here’s a list of some of the things I do regularly:

FOR PROJECT

  • See beneficiaries with health problems at home, hospital or in office.
  • Fill prescriptions from health center from our stock or buy at local pharmacy.
  • Reimburse for prescriptions filled by beneficiary.
  • Order lab tests and x-rays and review results; document treatment.
  • Recommend further evaluation and write referrals.
  • Go to health center or hospital appointments with beneficiaries to advocate for change in treatment.
  • Encourage beneficiaries to bring their CD4 count results to us for HIV monitoring.
  • See all HIV+ children yearly and as needed.
  • Restock/clean up pharmacy.
  • Evaluate health of beneficiary being considered for income generating activity.
  • Pray with beneficiaries.
  • Research medical issues of beneficiaries; email US consultants for help.
  • Maintain watches of beneficiaries used for adherence to medication.

FOR MEDICAL TEAMS

  • Work with staff and MTW office to plan for upcoming medical teams
  • Send “wish list” to team leader about 6 weeks ahead of visit.
  • Coordinate all medical care when medical teams are here at our outreach clinics; act as “consultant” to visiting providers and nurses.
  • Translate drug instructions for pharmacy.
  • See patients or help in pharmacy when things are getting behind

OUTSIDE OF WORK

  • Sing with Motley Singers, a community chorus.
  • Attend St. Matthew’s Anglican Church. Limited choice for English speaking churches here; this is the best fit. Am part of church council.
  • Attend Inter-mission Prayer Meeting weekly, a group that has existed for ~70 years; it has become my “small group”.
  • Co-ordinate short wave radio schedule to communicate with “down-country” missionaries, some of whom have no mobile phone service available.
  • Knit, sew, read, listen to music, go out to eat with friends, grocery shop, do laundry, go to gym.
  • Amharic language tutoring weekly and study in between.

Life here is good, full, busy, always interesting. This year the project has gone through many changes, as we have “graduated” about 150 “families” this means that they are able to provide for themselves financially, but are still eligible for health services. Some of this was funding driven and some because it was time for people to graduate. We face even further challenges in the next year, as we anticipate urban renewal coming through some of the areas our beneficiaries live and tearing down the slums, leaving people without affordable housing and loss of their community. Please pray that we would have wisdom in knowing how to best help our beneficiaries through this time. Also pray for the future direction of the project.

Currently, I am the only MTW missionary here; my teammates the Warren’s and Treadwell’s are in the US on home assignment, visiting churches and raising additional personal and project support. I miss them lots, but am well cared for by our wonderful Ethiopian staff. We are also anticipating the arrival of new missionaries in 201–Jason and Liz Polk and their two children. Jason is a pastor and will be our church planter; Liz is a psychiatric social worker. Jessica Ringsmuth will also be coming to work with us as a counselor. I can’t wait til everyone arrives!

I will be in the US for 6-8 weeks in the spring and hope to be able to see many of you. Details are still sketchy, but will soon be coming together.

As we approach this Christmas season, I wish you and your family a time of peace and joy as you celebrate the birth of Jesus. Glory to God and joy to you!

Some thoughts on the city

I’ve been doing some thinking about the city, since that is where I live and minister. I shared some of these thought with our staff in our Monday morning devotions a couple of weeks ago. Tim Keller and the Redeemer City to City website were very helpful, so I can’t take all the credit.

It’s natural that I would be working in the city, since the city has been on my heart for about 20 years when I started volunteering in the Sandtown neighborhood of West Baltimore, first with Sandtown Habitat for Humanity and then at the New Song Family Health Center. Those experiences were formative for me when it came to buy a house and I bought in Baltimore City.

So when it came time to come overseas for longer than 2 weeks, it was obvious that after my first visit here to Addis in 2005, that this was the place. I think of the Lideta area where I live and work as my neighborhood and the Bole area where we also work as my second neighborhood.

When I was going to language school, I would walk about 20 minutes to and from home to public transport. That was along main streets where people were busily going to work or elsewhere. When I was on break from language school and after it finished, I realized how much I missed the 7 minute walk to the office. As I go to the office, I walk into a neighborhood where people are shopping, going to church, selling vegetables, kids are going to school, people are stopping to greet one another. There is a real sense of community not seen on the main street and one I’ve not seen in my Baltimore neighborhood for a long time.

In our project we have formed communities within communities. Our beneficiaries are part of the compound community where they live, the Kebele (local government) community, the ACT project community, their support group community, orphan community and community Bible study group. And our staff, both Ethiopian and American forms yet another community of co-laborers for the Gospel, in caring “for the least of these.” Sometime in the future, we will be forming another community, as we plant our first church.

But the communities that we work in are undergoing lots of change and at some point in the future will be the victim of a wrecking ball in the name of urban renewal. Because of that we are looking at different sites for ministry, still within the city but in a different area. Teddy took me to one of these areas a few weeks ago–it is very different, new high rise apartment buildings, with not a lot of character or life. And in our discussions with community leaders, there are few city services there–no health center, no hospital, no banks, no grocery stores, no coffee shops, no little souks (shops) where you can buy most anything, no vegetable sellers on the side of the road, and no churches.

People live in cities either by choice or necessity. One third of the world’s population lives in the cities of the developing world and ~40% of them are poor. Cities generally grow faster than the rate of national growth in a country. You go to cities to reach a culture–there are more of any kind of group of people in a city than elsewhere. Someone has said that there is more “image of God” per square meter in the city than anywhere else in the world.

In the Old Testament book of Jeremiah chapter 29, there is a letter from Jeremiah the prophet to the Israelites who were sent to exile in Babylon. God, through Jeremiah, tells them to live in the city as if it were their home–because for 70 years it would be, until He brought them back to Jerusalem. The Babylonians were strangers, Babylon was thought to be an evil, sinful place by the Israelites, but God called them to make the best use of their time there.

In Jeremiah 29:7, Jeremiah the prophet writes “… seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.” Sort of an Old Testament version of “bloom where you are planted.” Keller says “your community will prosper if you pour yourself out in deeds of service and seek the peace and prosperity of the city where you are.” So that is what we are doing in Lideta and Bole as we care for our beneficiaries.

In the New Testament book of Acts, there is a story about how the early church was persecuted and people scattered. A man named Philip went to a city in Samaria and proclaimed Christ there. This passage shows how urban ministry combines word and deed ministry, as well as racial reconciliation. Acts 8:6 says “when the crowds heard Philip and saw the miraculous signs he did, they all paid close attention to what he said” (emphasis mine). His deeds made the people of this Samaritan city more open to his words. And the fact that he, a Jew, was in a Samaritan city, speaks to racial reconciliation, since the Jews and Samaritans intensely hated each other.

There is a verse in the Jeremiah passage which says, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” I have always liked this verse, but never really knew the context. The context, as it always should, helps me to see that God’s plans for me are His plans, no matter the circumstances of where I am and that He has my best in mind, even though it may not seem like it to me at the time–just as the Israelites thought that exile in Babylon was not a good thing.

I wanted to link to a song by Chris Tomlin, God of the City, that speaks of God’s heart for the city, but the file is too big, so here are the words:

You’re the God of this City, you’re the King of these people

You’re the Lord of this nation, you are

You’re the Light in this darkness, you’re the Hope to the hopeless

You’re the Peace to the restless, you are.

There is no one like our God, there is no one like our God,

For greater things have yet to come and greater things are still to be done in this City…….

Little by Little………

My favorite Ethiopian proverb is “little by little an egg learns to walk.” I apply this often to language learning, but also have used it for what has seemed like incredibly slow rehab for my broken wrist, which is overall going well.

But it also has applicability to the work I do here. Dealing with the AIDS epidemic in Africa seems daunting, even this many years into it. After I had been here in 2005 and 2006, I could see the difference our project was making in the lives of individuals. It made me see that even though it might seem like spitting in the ocean, it wasn’t like that at all for our beneficiaries, whose lives were improved by being shown the love of Christ through word and deed.

So in the past week our project has made a big difference in the life of a 9 year old girl. I wrote about her getting a hearing aid in my March update. Her mom has died, her dad does his best to take care of her, despite his own health problems, which are many. He told us a few weeks ago that she was having difficult seeing at night. That reminded me that I had noticed her getting very close to anything she wanted to see. So last week we went to an eye clinic, run by another NGO here. She got an eye exam and refracted for glasses, and the glasses were ordered–for the equivalent of $19.41! We went back last week and picked them up. When I looked at her prescription, I was amazed at how nearsighted she really is– -14 and -15 diopters–even worse than my worst eye.

It reminded me of 2 things–my own experience with getting my first glasses at age 7, when I told my mom “Mommy, now I can see the buttons on your blouse”. The second is Jesus reading from the scripture in the temple in Luke 4–“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners, and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (emphasis mine). So as we work here with “the least of these” there are times of rejoicing when we are able to do things that really make a difference.

New glasses!

Caring and Being Cared For–July 2011 Update

When I broke my right wrist on April 19th, I didn’t know what would happen to my ability to live my life here. For those of you who are unaware of this event, I was out making home visits on a rainy afternoon and slipped and fell on wet, smooth concrete. My feet flew out from under me and I broke my fall with my right hand. I knew before I got up that my wrist was broken.

Thanks to my co-workers, I went to Cure Hospital (www.cure.org) where there is an American orthopedic surgeon. The mission of Cure Hospital is to provide orthopedic and plastic surgery for needy children with club feet and cleft palates. A private practice for adult patients helps to fund the charity work. So it was a win-win situation both ways. I was in a cast for 6 weeks, and have now been out for five weeks, going to physical therapy three times a weeks and trying to get my hand and arm back to normal.

So I have been dependent on many people for many things, something that my independent nature rebels against! I initially needed help with tying my shoes, doing laundry, opening jars and cans, chopping vegetables, taking me places and many other things. Gradually, I’ve become more independent, but I’m still not back to “normal.”

The daily household chores were things that I expected to need help with. But what I didn’t expect was a different type of caring, which I have received in great measure from the beneficiaries for whom I have been caring. While I was in the cast, there was the daily question “what happened?” as I would see different beneficiaries each day. And once I told them, their response was inevitably “Eneng, eneng”, which in Amharic means, “let it be as if it happened to me.” And while saying this, they would beat their chest with their fist. These ladies have been so gracious, caring and concerned. Even my beggar friends between home and work have expressed concern and caring. One is a man who has very chronic and extreme psychiatric problems, but he was almost “normal” a couple weeks ago when he stopped me to ask how my arm was doing. I try to stay on his good side so he won’t throw rocks at me!

This whole experience has caused me to do some thinking about my work. It has been very refreshing to see some mutuality in caring coming across, rather than the one-sided way (me to them). I’ve been reminded of how the apostle Paul, in his second letter to the Corinthians, reminds the Corinthians that because God has been a source of comfort to them in their afflictions, that they can be a source of comfort to others in their afflictions and troubles. It’s a way of “paying it forward”. It will be fun to find some other ways to encourage our beneficiaries to do this for one another.

I’m into my 5th week of Physical Therapy. This treatment has been more painful than breaking my wrist was. There are times that the stretching and bending my wrist and fingers by my therapist brings me to tears. Even though I’m a “PT veteran”, I realized that this is the first time I’ve had PT on a joint that had been completely immobilized prior to starting rehab. I should be done sometime in July, though there will be continued work on my part to get my hand fully functional and “as good as new.”

There was one really dark weekend after the first week of PT, when I felt discouraged and vulnerable. So I hibernated in my apartment, relaxed, read, prayed, slept, listened to my favorite NPR programs and ate some good chocolate! I was reminded of the last few verses in the Old Testament book of Habakkuk:

“Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines;

The produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food;

Yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation.

God the Lord is my strength.”

Prayer and Praise Items:

  • Thanks for a good doctor and physical therapist.
  • Thanks for the many people who helped me & continue to do so.
  • Thanks for caring beneficiaries and staff of the HIV/AIDS Project.
  • Pray for beneficiaries who have graduated (able to work and receiving less support) from the project or may be soon. This is an anxiety producing time for some of them.
  • Pray for a restful, refreshing week at the beach in Kenya, July 9- 16, with others from MTW East and Southern Africa.
  • Thanks for so many faithful financial supporters–without you, I couldn’t be here.

Ethiopia After Two Years: April 2009-2011

It’s hard to believe, but I am at the end of my first two years in Ethiopia. None of this would have been possible without your friendship, encouragement, care packages, email, snail mail, prayers and generous financial support.

I have a deep desire to stay here longer, perhaps until it is time to retire, but the exact amount of time is uncertain at this juncture. I feel as though I have only scratched the surface in many ways–my ability to communicate in Amharic, getting to know our beneficiaries better, learning how to provide excellent care in an under-resourced setting, and coordinating medical teams, just to name a few. We are moving ahead on planting a church here, which will be an exciting future venture that I’d like to be a part of. Our TB Active Case Finding Project is in its infancy and we are finding that it is giving us good relationships within the community and helping to bring health to many people.

When I was preparing to come to Ethiopia, the following quote by Frederick Buechner spoke volumes to me–and still does: “The place God calls you is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” I still have that deep gladness and the desire to meet the deep hunger that our beneficiaries experience in so many spheres of their lives.

Some of you planned to support me for two years only; I am very grateful for your faithfulness in doing that. There is no pressure for you to continue. For those of you who would like to continue your monthly support, it would be helpful to know that.

Thank you for your love and support over the past two years and I look forward to our continuing partnership as I serve here in Ethiopia.

Better Late Than Never!

March 2011 Update from Addis Ababa

Stories of Sadness and Hope In the summer of 2010, we started a new project, Tuberculosis Active Case Finding. In case you are wondering why an AIDS project is doing this, over the past few years, we have found that our beneficiaries are dying of undiagnosed or late diagnosed TB, a consequence of their impaired immune system, poverty and living in a crowded urban slum. We felt that there must be more TB out there than was being diagnosed.

In the process of visiting homes and doing surveys to determine whether or not we think someone is a TB suspect, we met a woman who was clearly dying. There was nothing to do but good nursing care–make her comfortable, pray for her and support the community around her. She was of the Ethiopian Orthodox faith and even in her poor condition was resistant to us praying for her since we were not Orthodox, but finally did allow us to. As we found out about her life from her neighbors, a verse of a song that became special to me on my first trip to Ethiopia in 2005 went through my head (see following this article). Her life was lonely–because she had chosen that. Her neighbors told us that she never associated with anyone in the neighborhood, and was estranged from her sister who lived fairly close by. They told us she “got a better funeral than she deserved”, but in the end, the community from whom she kept her distance cared for her in her last hours and buried her.

While there is always sadness here, there is also the joy of seeing good things happen. On our last medical team, we were able to get an 8 year old child in the project a hearing aid. This little girl, Tesfanesh, was told not to come to school because of a significant hearing deficit. We pleaded with the school on her behalf and she has been going to school. Because Audrey, the pediatric audiologist from one of our supporting churches in Brooklyn, NY was able to bring an audiometer and hearing aids, Tesfanesh has had her hearing tested, has been fitted with a hearing aid, and can now hear much better. She is now doing better in school. Her mother is dead and her father, while he takes good care of her, is not well himself and I’m sure is overwhelmed by an active 8 year old. She is very loving and craves attention. She will be coming to the office regularly so that we can make sure she is using the hearing aid appropriately and to have some female adult attention. She is a good example of the coordinated care that we try to give our beneficiaries and their families. She reminds me of another verse of the same song:

Untitled Hymn by Chris Rice

Sometimes the way is lonely

And steep and filled with pain

So if your sky is dark and pours the rain

Cry to Jesus (x3) and live.

Oh and when the love spills over

And music fills the night

When you can’t contain your joy inside

So dance for Jesus (x3) and live.

Work Permit Update Thanks to all of you who have been praying about my work permit since my Christmas letter. Things have been progressing; all of my documents have been submitted to the appropriate government agency. There is significant urgency to this, as my two-year business visa expires on April 3rd. There is no guarantee that it will happen in that time, so I may have to make a trip back to the US to renew my visa. So I am waiting to hear when my appointment is. In the meantime, there is plenty to keep me busy!

North Africa Unrest Thanks to many of you who have emailed and asked about my safety here in Addis, in light of all of the unrest in North Africa and the Middle East. At this time, things are quiet here in Addis and we do not feel any threats, other than the usual need to be careful about petty theft when out and about. While it is a constant story on the daily news, and always in the back of my mind, the day-to-day issues of living and working here are more in the forefront. However, there has been some recent violence and persecution of Ethiopian Christians in the south of Ethiopia, so we do remain vigilant and prayerful.

Prayer Requests

Pray:

  • For favor and timely action from the government office that has to approve my work permit.
  • For wisdom to know whether or not to buy an airline ticket to the US.
  • For continued progress in language learning. I’m thankful for a very patient tutor, Dawit.
  • For work permits for Michael and Emily Treadwell.
  • For setting of my priorities in the medical care of our beneficiaries, coordinating medical teams, TB project leadership

Praise:

  • For new team members who are now raising support in the US, Jason and Liz Polk and Jessica Ringsmuth.
  • For the upcoming marriage of two of our Ethiopian staff, Danny Abebe and Betty Tsedeke in May.
  • For a good 2 weeks with the medical team from Baltimore/Brooklyn, NY, 2 churches who are significant supporters of the project and of me.
  • For faithful supporters who allow me to be here doing what I love.

EXTRA EXTRA EXTRA EXTRA!!!!!!!!!!

MY WORK PERMIT HAS BEEN ISSUED, AS OF THURSDAY, MARCH 24th!!!!!

Thank you all for your prayers and encouragement through this process.

Melkam Gana! Merry Christmas!

Christmas 2010

Christmas greetings from Addis Ababa. Christmas in Ethiopia isn’t celebrated until January 8th, so if you read this after December 25th, which is likely, it will still be on time!

As I’m writing this, I’m at a Catholic retreat center about an hour outside of Addis, on a beautiful volcanic lake, on an Advent retreat with my church here. Life in Addis continues at a whirlwind pace, so it has been nice to have some time out of the city to rest, relax and reflect. This entire year has been a whirlwind of medical teams, visitors, language learning and continued adjustment to life here in Ethiopia.

The story of this year is not about me, but about what God has done in and through the team of people I work with, both American and Ethiopian. It is our privilege to care for 485 HIV affected families, to be the light of Christ in an otherwise dark and lonesome place. Here are some stories:

Wuesene

WeuseneMany of you have been praying for her, since my September update. We completed 45 days of painful injections for mucocutaneous leishmaniasis. After those were completed, the doctors weren’t satisfied with the results. Thankfully, she was able to get an oral medication, which has done the job! There was only capacity for 20 people to be able to get this drug! The change has been amazing! The swelling in her central face and cheeks is gone and the lip is healed! We have been able to find her a school, run by another NGO, which is specifically for children who are behind in school for their age. They provide her with uniforms and there are no school fees to pay. She is in first grade at age 12, so I hope she is able to persevere and learn. I saw a tee shirt on a girl a couple weeks ago which said something like “A girl without education is like silver left in the mine. Education is the best way for her to have more opportunities and choices in her life. She is a good example of our partnership with the local government, when we give them the opportunity to send patients to our outreach clinics when we have visiting medical teams here from the US. Not all the results are so dramatic as this!

Habtam

Habtam Habtam has been a huge challenge medically since I arrived in Addis 20 months ago. If you’ve seen our video ( http://theater.15four.com/ethiopia/),she is the one being carried to the taxi to go to the hospital during the summer of 2009. Later that summer she became psychotic from one her TB medications. But God has been faithful and it is joy to see her come to the office several times a week, when a year ago, she could barely care for herself and her family. She calls me her mother because of how I have cared for her. I tell her I am her friend and sister, not her mother, but she just babbles at me in Amharic, as if I understood every word–which I wish I did! She has her struggles and at this writing is dealing with a very sore and ulcerated mouth, making eating and drinking difficult. And the doctor told her not to come back, which has made her wish she were dead. Such are the struggles of the poor with medical care here and we are seeking to bring Christ’s healing love and compassion to people like Habtam.

Hiwot

Hiwot One of the joys of my work is the HIV+ kids that I care for. Several of them have been quite sick this year, but I have been amazed at their resilience as they have bounced back time after time. Hiwot is an 8 year old girl, with AIDS, TB, and most recently shingles. But she is doing well again, back in school and being a real girly girl who loves to pose for pictures, as you can see here.

As we anticipate and celebrate Christmas this year, I pray that you and those you love will know the life and light that Jesus brought to the earth when he came as a baby 200 years ago.

Please pray for wisdom for our missionary team and others here in the country who are facing stricter regulations regarding the granting of work permits. I need a work permit in order to stay here beyond April 3, 2011, when my visa expires. I want to be able to stay longer to continue the work God has called me to here. At this point, it looks like I will have to leave Ethiopia for short trips, probably to neighboring countries, to renew my visa and comply with visa regulations. This is an unexpected expense and I am thankful for my faithful and generous supporters who have provided the funds for this even before I knew about it.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.