Dear beloved friends,
It took us four days to get here, but here we are in Gambella, Ethiopia. We arrived yesterday. The church here is so wonderful. The elderly women washed our feet. I was so humbled. We have CEF leaders here training 14 teachers in TCE1. We have Phillip from World Outreach teaching from the Biblical Conflict Resolution series.
I had to be out of the action today because of some intestinal situation. Yucky, but it gave me time to rest and recover from jet lag. We were 31 hours on the plane due to delays in Chicago; we took a second flight to Hong Kong then to Addis Ababa.
Flying into Addis, the first thing I noticed was the pollution. Thick and massive. 8 million people…what did I expect? The shuttle took us to a nice hotel. On the way, we passed thousands of people walking on the streets. Trash everywhere. The air was thick and humid with the smell of dirt. A blind man was knelt by the road only inches from ongoing traffic. There were no traffic signs or rules. The people crossed four lanes of traffic, risking their lives. The drivers tapped their horns continually. Winding narrow roads passed multi-colored metal roofs loosely attached in quilt patterns. A metal door would swing open and two beautifully dressed women in the latest fashion would emerge to join the flow of people. As we stop to unload luggage, a beggar wrapped in rags touches our shoulders and begs for money. We are instructed to ignore him or dozens more will follow.
When we leave at 5 am, a drunken man, not 30 feet from us, hurls rocks to break a taxi window. We slip by carefully.
Flying into Gambella, I notice the sparse dry land, sprinkled with huts or tin dwellings. As we land, two large jumbo jets stamped “World Food Program” alerts us to the reality of the nearness of a desperate situation. We are informed they will do food drops over S Sudan, which is just miles from here in Gambella, Ethiopia.
We meet our property manager, Jiath, Philip from Uganda, our wonderful ministry coordinator, Buony, and our friend Josh from Oregon. Eight of us load or baggage onto a van. The scenery is reminiscent of Nebraska campground areas with brush and trees. A group of baboons play on the side of the road.
As we arrive in town, we pass many people in bright colored clothing walking. Donkeys haul carts loaded with water jugs. Makeshift buildings have various businesses with curtain fronts. People sit on this stools or plastic chairs, chatting. Some sell jewelry, some are playing pool, some sell bottled water and pop. Honking, tiny taxis weave in and out through people.
Our campground is a gated community. We have at nice room and access to a restaurant. We visited our building where we learn we now have over 600 students! The area is unlevel and rocky. We watch women with large buckets of water on their heads walking a nearby pathway, returning to their families. The school desperately needs water and a generator for electricity. Three holes in the ground enclosed in blue tarp provide toilet needs.
Tomorrow we visit the refugee camp.
More to come.
Love in Christ,