Selam!—(greeting; peace be with you). We’ve been in Addis for three days now, yet it feels like so much longer (in a good way)! We arrived on Ethiopia’s Christmas morning, January 7 and were immediately welcomed into Jim and Mary Vander Wal’s home, here in Addis Ababa. The Vander Wal’s friend, Tadesu, invited us over for Christmas dinner. We ate all kinds of things we can’t pronounce, let alone tell you what exactly they were. Tadesu taught us how to make injera (think big pancake that taste like sourdough bread). We were so honored to be able to participate in the meal and the popcorn and coffee ceremony. One thing we love about Ethiopian culture is the hospitality and importance of relationships. We were at the Tadesu’s house for around three hours, but not once did anyone appear rushed or eager to leave.
We are so thankful for the hospitality of the Vander Wal’s. They have welcomed us into their home with open arms. We have spent valuable time with them playing games and having insightful conversations on many topics from Islam, health issues such as HIV, orphan crisis, and caring for the poor. They are great followers of Christ and leaders at SIM (Serving In Missions) which is the organization they are missionaries through.
Ethiopians operate off a different calendar then we do. It’s actually January of 2006 here right now. And their time is structured differently. Time starts when the sun rises. So sunrise is 1:00, lunch is around 5:00, and dinner 12:00. In our minds, however, we are still just 8 hours ahead of the U.S. J
It’s always a guessing game when it comes to electricity and water. They may be out for just 10 minutes or 2 days. Cell service almost never works so communication is very hard. We have learned to be very grateful for the infrastructure in the USA, but also realize the patience that is learned when living in Ethiopia J TIA (This Is Africa)…especially when it comes to being somewhere at a certain time... you get there when you get there.
We spent the following two days after Christmas just experiencing life in the city, running errands, visiting people, getting a feel for the neighborhood, etc. This afternoon we joined a team here from Biola University to visit the ACT project (previously known as an AIDS training project, but now involves other health issues…so we just call it ACT). This project was started 12 years ago at the height of the HIV crisis in Ethiopia. At the time, medication was unavailable and ACT came alongside people to care for them in their final stages of life. However, as medication became available ACT began to broaden their focus of care. They now provide housing, food, school materials, and medication for families who cannot currently support themselves due to HIV and various other health conditions. While providing them assistance they aim to rehabilitate the families and individuals by helping them find work and become self-sufficient so they may graduate out of the program. We visited two families involved in the program and had the opportunity to hear their stories, including their challenges and hopes. This was a powerful experience to reflect on how God is the only true light in our dark days both behind us and yet to come.
In the evening we were invited to dinner at the house of an Ethiopian man who works on the SIM compound. This man works long hours every day and then goes to school five nights a week. He grew up in a rural area and did not receive an education, so at the age of 25 he has gone back to school and is currently in the third grade learning how to read and write. His dedication to his work, school, and his family is incredible. He has a wife and five month old baby, who are absolutely beautiful. This is a wonderful example of Ethiopian hospitality; many Ethiopians have next to nothing, yet they will invite you in for a meal and coffee. They love each other well, sharing what little they do have and cherishing time spent in fellowship.