Friday, August 4

Role Reversal

In March while Amber and Ellie were here in the US, I wrote this for her to tell about my time with Gashaway, who with his daughter Kalkidan will be staying with our family here in the US for the next two weeks. The following is the journal I wrote for Amber the morning after I returned from 4 days with Gashaway.
On Thursday morning Yosi and I got up at 4:30 a.m. to leave and pick up Gashaway at Tatek's house. We ended up actually leaving the bus station at seven, and traveled about seven and a half hours to the central town in that area called Alem Ketema. From there, there is transportation by small buses and Land Rover like vehicles to the surrounding villages. We had planned to arrive in AK and then head immediately for Meranya, which is Gashaway's village, however though it was only a bit after lunch there was no transportation available for the rest of the day. Well there were vehicles but no drivers. So we visited with some of Gashaway's friends in that village and spent a lot of the time with one friend who has a barbershop. It was a long after noon in many ways but we enjoyable at the same time. Because of getting up early and the travel, mixed with not knowing anyone or having English conversation that late afternoon and night were somewhat lonely. We ate shiro (what everyone eats) for supper at a local hospital that was established by the Germans many years ago. I went to sleep about 9 b/c I was extremely tired, I was worried about waking up all night long with that lonely miserable feeling, but God was gracious and I didn't even budge until 6 the next morning. Wow when I woke up, I felt so much better, you understand how mornings are better that evenings. We left immediately for Meranya and I was excited to get there and for Gashaway to see his family and church. It was a 2 hour ride but wasn't at all bad, the view out there is immaculate constantly. The mountains and valleys and rivers seem much bigger than life and every corner brings a new amazement of God in regard to His creation. When we arrived mid morning, Imabeat was in school until lunch so we visited at one of the church leaders homes. We had eggs with enjera and tea for our b-fast and then were still there around 12:30 so we had shiro with them. They are a wonderful family, and were incredibly kind to me, it was so comfortable to be there with them to chat with them and eat with them.
We left from there after eating and went to Gashaway's house. Imabeat was instantly that very typical Ethiopian shy, she greeted me and then was off to fetch this, to get that, or if she was there was sitting in the other room of the house like the women in the culture do many times. I carried coffee, tea, sugar, an umbrella, and ibuprofen to give to Imabeat, and she was very grateful for all of it. Also I gave her transportation money for when Gashaway and Kalkidan go to the states, so that she can get to Addis and see them for 3 or 4 days before they go. Some of Gashaway's friends were constantly coming by to see him and we ate kolo and drank tea for the majority of the afternoon. I was sitting in a place where I could see out the door of the house and some of the down time I was contemplating in my mind the sovereignty of God in how people live day by day there with very little medical problems, but when medical problems do come how little they can actually do about it being so far from any real medical care. And thinking about that specifically in light of Kalkidan. How so far Kalkidan has been spared even through 5 surgeries that all went bad and none of which were helpful to her, and how for 3 and a half years she has been dependent on her parents for life b/c without them removing her stool she wouldn't live. And all of this in a place so poor and with such inadequate facilities. We went and visited the church and about 4 or 5 families from the church later in the early evening. That was good. It was pleasant, not like the great white hope was encouraging the world with his presence, but just good fellowship. We had tea here and coffee there, at one house we had sugar cane. Everything was great. The sugar cane is difficult to eat, they use only their teeth to peel it and eat it. In Bolivia they use machetes to peel and eat it so that was different for me, but went fine. After that we returned to Gashaway's and he and one of the guys went to one of the church leader's house without me and returned with one of those fold up beds like our guards sleep on. I don't know what he slept on that night, but it was incredibly kind of him to offer his bed for me. He is the primary one doing the ministry while Gashaway is away, and really seems to love the Lord and His work. After dark when all work was over for the day, people from the church started pouring in, in all there were 17 or 18 of us in one little room talking and eating kolo and drinking tea until about 8:30 or 9. It was a good time and everyone kept saying how happy they were that I came all the way there to see them. Before they left, Gashaway shared from James 1:19ff, and then prayed. When they all left Gashaway walked them out and when he returned he was ecstatic about how happy all of them were concerning my coming. The whole time he was like a little boy on Xmas morning, filled with excitement and full of anticipation. He was a remarkable joy to be with the entire time. We ate dinner after all of the guests left, and then just sat and talked and had tea together. Just a little bit later, Imabeat brought in a pitcher of warm water with a small tub and soap and proceeded to wash my feet. She washed while Gashaway poured the water. Needless to say it was very humbling. But at the same time, it was remarkably amazing to see the constant serving that they exhibited. I could hardly hold back the tears as I watched and experienced their kindness. When they finished I told Gashaway that it was the first time ever for me to have my feet washed and he was so happy for it to have happened at his house. He said "it is our culture when guests come", and Imabeat chimed in and said "yes but we get that part of the culture from the Bible." She then sat and had a cup of tea with us and when she finished immediately got up refilled the tub with water and took my socks and began washing them. I said no problem, I have more in my bag. But she and Gashaway both insisted, so she washed them and hung them in the house and by morning they were dry. It seems everything was this way while visiting there. They went way out of the way and over and beyond, about even little things. But it made the trip very special. So about 10pm I went to bed and could hardly fall asleep b/c I was so glad to be there. I kept thinking what a blessing it was to know them and to be there with them and how much there is to learn from these people that the rest of the world doesn't even know exist or care to know. It seemed like every 30 minutes I was awake in the night, and I thought, wow, if that night in the hotel had been like this I would have been miserable b/c of being so tired and feeling alone, but not this night, it was like every time I awoke it was with a smile on my face, as if Santa was coming in the morning. Needless to say I was so glad to be there. God used them to comfort me and to rescue me from the unhealthy loneliness that had gotten me down the day before, them as well as His scriptures concerning His own humiliation of becoming a man. To most, it seems humbling on my part to go all the way out there. The food, the culture, the transportation, many 'problems' have to be overcome. But in light of Christ, and His humiliation, there is no comparison. I was given a place to lay my head, someone offered water to wash my feet, I was given there best to eat. People were coming to see me not because I could do signs and wonders but because of a genuine love. So different that what Christ suffered on our behalf as a man. These kinds of things went through my mind every time I woke up in the night. I tossed and turned the whole night, yet when I awoke in the morning I felt like I had slept for 3 days. Completely refreshed, spiritually and physically. Imabaet prepared tea and b-fast for us and two of the people from the night before came early that morning to tell Gashaway and I goodbye. One was the family that we had visited the morning before. They brought a large flower vase made of pottery for me. The other was the church leader who had given up his bed the night before. He came with a sealed envelope with my name on it. I put it in my bag and opened it later that night in the hotel room when we were back in AK. It was a letter mostly in Amharic so I didn't know all of what it said until I got back here and had Yosi read it for me. It was filled with constant thanks and praise to God for my coming and seeing them. They wanted me to know how much it meant to them, and wanted to show me, but didn't know anyway to do it, so they gave me the money to cover the transportation of Gashaway and I to and from Addis. Absolutely amazing…even when Yosi was reading it, he was stunned to see that. It is a lot of money in the city, but on the country side that is about 2 months salary for most of the people there. I wish there was a way to reject it but you know that is impossible here, after all they are not giving it to me, but to Christ. So we got to AK about mid morning and had the rest of Saturday to spend there, b/c buses to Addis only leave early in the morning. So we had to wait until Sunday to return. We expected Getu to come to AK that day but we couldn't find him there, so we jumped a bus to his village about 30 minutes away. We found him there and spent the afternoon visiting with believers in his village from his church. We ate lunch twice and had coffee and tea a few times. Again it was so enjoyable to be there. It was fun to be with Gashaway and Getu together. The last house we visited was a crippled guy that knew Fikre from some years before when Fikre was in the area working with the IMB and water projects. We left from there to try and get a bus back to AK. We walked 2 km to get the bus at a place where there wouldn't be many people b/c transportation was slim and many people were trying to get it. Once the bus us full it is impossible to get back for the night. So when the bus got there. That crippled guy hopped off, he had gotten on when it came by his house to save a place for us and not only any place but the front seat which was the only one with close to enough room for my knees to fit at all. From that place he had a 30-45 minute walk back to his house. He had one leg that was completely immobile and used a long stick basically like one of his legs and hobbled along like that. These kinds of things were constantly happening. The bus was leaving at 6 the next morning for Addis. Gashaway got up at 3:30 to go and reserve my seat, I got up at 5, looking for him and that is when I realized what he had done, so I walked to the bus station and he was there in front of the line for me. They put me in that front seat and then he went back to get his things for the trip home. That was the beginning of our 15 hour bus ride. Through mud, mud, and more mud. If there was a truck in front of us that was stuck, Gashaway would get out and help them move, he knew that if they couldn't move we couldn't move. He was primarily concerned with me getting home, it was evident. Then when that truck was out of the way the people from our bus began getting us out of the mud. Also on the way the radiator overheated twice, the starter broke, we were sideswiped by a truck that broke a lot of glass on the bus, and the fuel pump went out. We did eventually get to one small village that also runs buses to and from Addis and there happened to be a bus there, so we changed buses for the remainder of the trip. Even after that we had problems with the mud, but eventually we made it back home at an average rate of 7 miles per hour. Fast huh. And now it is the next morning and I am rested somewhat and very grateful to God for allowing to have this time with Gashaway.