Saturday, April 28, 2018

Wedding-Rich Awi Edition

The morning started at the groom’s house. Walking to the wedding we were told it was a very “rich” wedding. 

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The invited guests of the groom were already gathered under awnings and tents, sitting, enjoying lamb stews on sour injera and homemade alcohol. The man at the table is running a “guest book” where he records the guests and any contribution of money or food for the party.  

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The parents of the groom, her dress was astoundingly beautiful. All hand done. 

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The mood is light and joy-filled.

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A woman manages the injera baskets that have come in on the heads of women (close friends and family contribute)

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Then the party starts, the music starts quiet and slow, bits of dancing with the groom’s friends. 

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People come and go, greetings exchanged, meeting new people.

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horses preparing for the festivities.

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A friend of the groom mixed old with new as he expertly played the handmade instrument, while rocking his plaid suit and cell phone.

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 The groom prepares to enter his parent’s home for a meal.

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After the meal is eaten, everyone walks or loads up. This was a very “rich wedding” and they had four vans hired in addition to 15+ bajajs (three-wheeled taxis) as the procession moves to the bride’s parent’s home. Pictures can’t capture the electric energy, the horns, drums, shouting, dancing. 

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Moving across the pasture

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The brother of the groom is in the bajaj, but hanging out of it (see background vehicle). The point is to loudly and joyfully celebrate, to all within earshot.

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When arriving to at the point where vehicles can no longer pass, the procession moves on foot and horse.

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It’s loud and fun

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and dances the whole way, even through ravines

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Finally, the bride’s house is in view.

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The bride is inside but her family is blocking the door so the groom’s men have to fight to break through to get her. I was gone at this time but Jon said it was the most physical of fight he has ever seen as her party took it very seriously that no one would enter the house.

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Maybe someday I will publish the video of this, but look near the house at the man in blue on the left. He has climbed over the backs of people and climbs over the people blocking the door and slips into the top of the door frame. At this point, Jon left as his stomach was full and he had gotten the photos the family wanted. In the bride’s house, there is an exchanging to jewelry and Orthodox priests who give blessings and benediction. 

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The family had hired their own wedding photographer, first time we have seen this in the countryside. A three man job, the driver, the photographer and the third man in the vehicle, braces himself and holds onto the waist of the photographer to keep him from falling out. ;) 

From here, all involved, feast again and the party goes into the night. 


Tuesday, April 24, 2018

They're Ours

The warm morning sun faithfully shines this time of year and we enjoy every ray as we know rainy season is coming and bring with it, wet, cloudy and chilly. During this season between Easter and the rainy season, it’s busy with weddings. The long fasts of Easter are over and this is the only time of year when the Ethiopian Orthodox don’t have their fasting on Wednesday and Friday either. The paths aren’t bogged down in mud and it’s the ideal time for weddings. 

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(The boys play on the drums while they are not involved with the bridal party celebration)

Last Sunday morning, I was reflecting on WhatsApp chats with both of our family’s. I was feeling gloomy at how much we miss out on in our nieces and nephews lives. Additionally, in a few short months, we will have three new nieces. Our two babies are toddlers, giggling, talking and playing and know their extended family through pictures and very occasional FaceTime. I told Jon about feeling the heavy weight of separation from our families and friends. The day moved on and I forgot about this feeling in the midst of a morning of house church and worship. Jon and I were invited to a wedding within our village area but not a groom or bride we knew well. Our stomachs are worn down from all our Easter feasting so we both weren’t excited about the meat stews but also have appreciated weddings in the relational aspects. 

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We walked along the paths, following a friend, single file as we neared the hut and people were leaving who had already celebrated, eaten and drank the appropriate amount.

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(Homemade beer is served in cow horn glasses.)

A bright-faced young mom came towards us, ornately decorated basket of injera balanced on her head, baby wrapped in a scarf on her back. She greeted our friend and then looking to us, asked, “Who are these foreigners.” “They’re ours”. was his response. She broadly smiled and repeated, “Ok, they are ours”.

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(Not the actual woman but a similar style basket)

We greeted and moved to onto the animal skins where we sat for the feast but the phrase, “They’re ours” has rolled around in my head. Father, thank you for this encouragement on a day when my “home” feels so far away! 

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(The bride and groom. They are actually very happy but following cultural standards, the bride needs to look sad the entire time in respect to her parents as it expresses her sadness at leaving her parents’ home. )

The Awi culture is a strong insider/outsider culture and we know we will never be Awi. Our neighbors from villages 10 minute drive away are considered outsiders but we thank God for the gift of the Awi allowing us to be “belonging outsiders”. We were recently invited into an Awi activity and as I thanked a member of the group who had been key in our invitation, he laughed and said, “Yes, little-by-little” 

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Thank you for prayers based on Easter follow-up. On our walk home, a group of young men followed to play soccer in the pasture.

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They had all watched the Jesus Film. Jon asked them, “What was new for you in the story?” The leader replied, “It was all new! We learned many good teachings.” Continue to pray with us. 

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Death Doesn't Win

“Death is swallowed up in victory.

Oh death, where is your victory? 

O death, where is your sting?” 

1 Corinthians 15:55

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As I’ve write less than years past, it seems I am always posting a mixed bag of stories, of emotions. I yearn to just record joys and encouraging stories. But, life is life. When I have the space to write, it also gives me mental processing time and the unresolved parts of my life rise to the surface, so death of the loved and the young bubble up. In the following stories, I am not making judgement on these souls.

Death, for the redeemed in Jesus, has no lasting sting, the grave cannot hold us. Death wins for those without saving faith in Christ. 

This morning, hanging clothes out on the line, I prayed for our local orphanage and the kids there. Sister Isabela sent me a text, Elias, the oldest boy at the orphanage, died. She asked for prayers for the other children, already having so much loss in their young lives as they grieve a “big brother”. He was HIV positive and it caused a stroke about 3 years ago, but he kept smiling his lopsided smile and limping along beside the others. He was the DJ and they were the dancers.

Milkay, the mom of three with cancer who we have been helping get to Addis for chemo treatments, she came over this week. I hadn’t seen her since the phone call that left me reeling and unsure how to process.  She entered our gate covered from head-to-toe in the black clothes of mourning. We sat down and I asked more details. While she was in Addis (we were also there), at the only place in the country where she can get chemotherapy, Milkay received a phone call that her 11-year old daughter was sick. Her daughter died the next day. Milkay was not able to make it back for the funeral. Milkay and I have plans to visit her grave on Monday. She still has cancer, has two other children, no husband and a dead daughter.

Death, stop winning! 

Sunday was our Easter. Thursday and Friday nights, I have sat out in our yard, under the stars, wrapped in blankets, among our neighbors, friends and strangers, praying as we watched “The Jesus Film” that God would open blind eyes to His salvation, He would turn hearts of stone into hearts of flesh. I see it there as the projector shines brightly on the large white tarp. I see Him defeat death, the gloriously empty tomb, the ultimate life-giver, Jesus, raising again. Through tears this morning, I speak outloud, ”I am hopeful. There is Christ!”. Nothing limits our sovereign God. Thank you to those who prayed with us for these nights of viewing.  A quick update is going out to those on our newsletter list with details. 

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Starting on Saturday night, we are graciously folded into the cultural celebration of Easter. We will eat far more lamb than we want but have opportunities to share life intimately with our neighbors. Pray with us for clear language and these beautiful hearts. (And strong stomachs…) We will have multiple hut invites a day until the meat runs out. The hard part of this is that there is no refrigeration and so we eat meat butchered on Sunday until Wednesday or Thursday.

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At Yeshi’s house and at Tafera’s, as they are town homes, we were served a chicken stew, instead of the countryside lamb. 

“The sting of death is sin, and the power of sins the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory though our Lord Jesus Christ.”

1 Corinthians 15:56 & 57

Monday, April 2, 2018

One-Year Old

The fresh mountain air fills our lungs. We are back in Injibara and so glad. Though there are many uncertainties with life in the Ethiopian highlands, it is also the place we feel most settled. How is that for a paradox? We sent out a recent newsletter. If one didn’t hit your inbox and you want to receive riveting info, please let me know. 

Since we’ve been back, our time has been full. It’s great to be back in the swing of community rhythms but the pace feels a little break neck the next few weeks. 

Do you remember the story of the mom who lost her mind and ran away from her home? Thanks for your prayers. I met the mother, she is back in her home, staring blankly at the ceiling of the mud house, holding her baby’s blanket in her hand. The baby for whom we prayed. We bought formula and helped the father. The baby just turned one and he died. I know, what? how? why? I sat outside with Yeshi and the baby’s father, fighting anger at the whole situation, not understanding where God is working in this family. Their two other small children playing nearby, Yeshi and I lifted the family up to the Almighty Creator, who sees, knows and orchestrates all things.

And life marches on, small flocks out to pasture at the break of day, the pounding of coffee in the mortar and pestle, the laughter of people gathered, building new houses. 

Aubrey is here with us in this “year-of-the-girl” in our household. She is from my hometown though because of our age difference, I know her mom more than her.  :) We are so thankful to be blessed with her presence for the next 3.5 months. 

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Until I get more photos, rest assured, we are not breaking her in easy. She brings joy and energy. Please pray for her health as well as we went through a terrible virus and she vacillates between “sick” and “recovering”. She is trooper.

Easter is coming, for us a week later in Ethiopia. Please join us in praying for our neighbors hearts. Yesterday we celebrated Palm Sunday, strange to be one week behind. 

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We have five new sets of neighbors as there is a push of homes being built nearer to the main road.

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Watching the mud process. A mix of mud, straw and cow manure. It doesn’t smell but sets up hard and strong.

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The women prepare the food for the crowd of workers.

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I love this shot, Little Miss T’s chubby hand extended., She is such a greeter, which fits amazingly well in this culture.

And as we mourn our neighbor baby, we do not miss the irony and tremendous weight of blessing to celebrate this little one-year-old. We celebrated when my parents were here and because they missed Tiger’s birthday too, we celebrated both babies. Also because, how do you tell a one-year old the party isn’t for them. ;) As Miss T nears Tiger in mobile milestones, they operate like twins. Miss T started walking at 10 months, I think mostly because she thinks she can do anything that Tiger does. These two operate like puppies, piling on each other, rolling around the floor together, sometimes  hurting the other but without malintention.

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Someone was feeling happy about the party!

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And can we just take a moment to appreciate this perfection?

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Humbled by this gift, our fourth gift of laughter and joy. 

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Regarding our internet situation, it has never been great in our house. Upon returning this time, we realized it was better than we gave it credit for when Whitney was using WhatsApp with her fiancee every day. We were so glad for it, not constant but decent. When it turned off everywhere outside of Addis on December 13th, we thought it would be short. However, we still have no connection. Jon is working on his online classes and can drive 20 minutes for slow and inconsistent broadband, not ideal but if there is power, we can limp along. Any of my communication comes when I prepare texts or posts in advance and he takes my computer along. I am not in a stage of life where getting outside of our neighborhood is easy. It’s a challenge to feel cut-off, join conversations late if not missing them completely. All of this isn’t just to be one long excuse for my inconsistency but to try to explain if you haven’t heard back from me on something, I am sorry. I am praying the data in the countryside would be turned back on shortly because of the connection it brings. Plus pinterest. I like pinterest.