Seulam from Ethiopia! I am writing this early Sunday morning before It has been an eventful few days so far. We arrived in Addis Ababa in the wee hours of Thursday morning and were warmly greeted by Teddy, Grace and her husband, and Thomas (the nephew of Pastor Yosef whom we worked with last time). Despite the late timing of our arrival, they all stayed up with us to visit, drink tea, and eat pizza! We are so blessed to have such wonderful contacts here!
After sleeping in very late (partially due to our late night and partially due to jet lag [we are 10 hours ahead of CA time]) we decided to delay our journey to Soddo a day and do some things in Addis while we had the time. We were able to visit Thomas’s church and also the Mekane Yesus Seminary. The campus of the seminary was beautiful and was much larger than I expected. It turns out that the seminary was around the corner from Grace Place, where we stayed last time and where we are staying currently! We walked by it countless times in 2012 and did not even know it was there. I believe I even took a picture of the sign in front of it!
The seminary is more than just a theological school. While it does train pastors and theological educators, there is also a school of Leadership and Management and even a Jazz Music school! We were able to tour all of these and some of the jazz students played us a song that they composed themselves. Those in the Jazz Music program will eventually lead worship in their churches. I saw many parallels between this campus and Concordia, as both train up leaders for the church. It was great to see the place where the late Concordia theology professor Dr. Eshetu Abate was once the president. His photo still hangs on the wall with all of the other former presidents. We get to learn about the TEE (Theological Education by Extension) program from the director. This is an amazing program where many are trained to be theological leaders in their home congregations in the countryside. These leaders are not paid for their service to the church but they voluntarily pay the tuition anyway so that they can learn more to be of service to their brothers and sisters in Christ. I have a lot to learn from such selfless theologians!
The next day we began our delayed journey to Soddo, a six hour van ride south of the capital city of Addis Ababa. Leaving at 6 AM is no problem since we are up early due to jet lag anyway! Teddy, Thomas, and Grace’s husband accompany us, though we drop Grace’s husband off along the way. He voluntarily teaches one or two week intensive theological courses in the countryside to help educate those who cannot come to Addis. We arrive in Soddo at about noon, just in time to meet up with Pastor Yosef for lunch. We were joined by his wife Ribka when we went to visit the students worship night where we were able to reconnect with many of the medical students whom we worked and stayed with last time. After some time of catching up, we headed to Sudi for dinner, the familiar restaurant where we ate every meal while in Soddo last time. The restaurant had changed some, adding more landscaping and decorations to the inside, but the neon green and red walls with the photo of the ancient tribal man were still there to greet us.
I will have much more to say about the amazing work that God is doing another day, but this will have to do until then! There is so much good news to report but the internet is limited so more on that later.