Chapter 12 – Moving Forward in 1972

Camp Dedication Service

1972 arrived and now the big push was preparation for a Dedication Service of the camp planned for February 2nd.  The guest cabin was still being built block by block.  I knew I would not have the roof on but the visiting delegation would be able to visualize the general layout.  Betty was busy baking cookies, tarts and little cakes for the group.  She dug into our barrels in the work shop for her fine china giving her great delight in having nice things to bring out on an occasion like this.

cabin without roof

The cabin without its roof

Then on Wednesday morning two vans arrived with mission leaders and three couples from the States who were financial supporters of SIM.  We watched the car doors open and the weary travel-worn passengers emerged.  But they soon came to life, gasping with amazement at the giant trees towering over them.

I suggested we take a tour of the site and gestured in the direction of the unfinished block cabin.

Dedication Service paths

Pathways to give guests the idea of camp layout

I had prepared sandy pathways lined with pumice rocks throughout the camp site with rope outlining future buildings and activity areas.  I’m not too sure if their imagination was as good as mine in visualizing the immense task that lay ahead in completing the buildings yet to be constructed before a program could be initiated.  But they seemed satisfied.

I then led the group down to the lake along the newly cleared roadway through the forest where they could picture the camp’s water front activities.  The Colobus monkeys also seemed to pick up on the significance of the occasion and put on quite a show much to our guests’ delight.

Back at the camp site, the ladies enjoyed seeing our little tin house with the children’s built-in bunks and Betty’s decor of curtains and covered trunks.  Soon we moved to Betty’s table for sandwiches, other savoury things, fruit salad and lots of cookies, tarts and little cakes.  They sat on the benches made for them from cement blocks and boards arranged on the front lawn.

A couple of different guests said to us,  “You two must be good friends to live out here in the bush alone together.”  I guess the potential for “getting into each other’s hair” was probably there but we enjoyed each other’s company.

Charles Anderson, our field director, outlined the steps leading to our coming into Langano.  Mr. Howard Pieruki, director of Gull Lake Bible and Missionary Conference Center in Michigan, spoke of the interest they had in our camp program and of how they had partnered with us with financial backing.  Dr. Ray Davis, SIM General Director, then told how thrilled he was to think that God had been keeping this little spot in the Langano forest for a camp and that He had kept it for this purpose from the beginning of creation.  Then God had touched the hearts of people to give to the project and that He had called us, the Harrisons, to this work.  His message was a tremendous encouragement to us.  Then he prayed for us and dedicated the site to God’s glory.

The group had to travel back to Addis Ababa the same afternoon.  Just as quickly as they had arrived a few hours before, they loaded into the vans and pulled out of the camp grounds.  We were left somewhat dazed by all that had happened.  It all seemed to be a dream.

Soon after they left, I remembered a comment that Dr. Davis made to me as we were making our way along the sandy pathway during our tour of the site.  He said, “Betty deserves a medal for living out here in the wilds under such conditions.”  I almost forgot to relay this to Betty but he was right.  It was good for her to realize that someone did have empathy for her situation.   She certainly deserved it!

Many Jobs yet to Complete

cabin gables

Cabin nearing completion. Borema’s little brother tries out the ladder (probably for his first time).

We were still a long way from having facilities ready to conduct a camping program.  There seemed to be so many jobs to be done.  Where do I start?  What are the priorities?

The cement block cabin did not have a roof for the dedication service, so I continued with the rafters and corrugated tin roofing.  I filled in the gables with tongue and groove cedar boards.  I was pleased with the outcome.  I eventually painted the cabin a warm buff colour.


The beautiful Bougainvillea covered most of Borema’s house. Even the papaya liked the climate and grew to roof height

While I completed the cabin I engaged in a variety of other activities as well.  I urgently needed to encompass the camp site with a barbed-wire fence.  This would not only keep out the neighbours’ cattle, but also serve to define the boundaries of our property.

Then there was the continuing process of landscaping the site.  The first flower bed in front of our tin house brightened the scene with geraniums and alyssum plants.  Betty’s mother sent us nasturtium seeds which we planted in an old rotted log at the edge of our lawn.  They flourished and eventually crept along the barbed wire fence.  Our first poinsettias came into bloom followed soon after by colourful bougainvillea that covered much of the front of Borema’s house.


Fresh vegetables in our garden. … even chickens!

The little rains began in early March.  This was the signal for the local people to plant their corn fields.  We too could think in terms of planting a garden.  The gentle slope beside our tin house seemed to be the natural place. It wasn’t long before we were eating fresh cucumbers, beans, squash, and other vegetables.  It seemed as though the combination of virgin soil, water and sunshine provided the right ingredients for growth.

I built a chicken coop along the side of the garden.  We bought five hens and a rooster from the local market with the hope that we would have fresh eggs.  These hens became a great source of interest and diversion for Betty.  A few weeks later we were able to acquire three white leghorn hens as well.  These “foreign” hens confused the poor rooster.  Ethiopian chickens don’t have combs but these did!  He thought they were roosters and chased and pecked them incessantly.  So we, with help of the trusty pressure cooker, ate the rooster.

That left us with five Ethiopian hens and three imported ones.  But the imported hens would not lay eggs.  In fact we found one of them eating an egg produced by one of the others.  We had to isolate her from the rest. Then the Ethiopian hens became very broody.  It was quite a game getting the eggs out from under them!  So we bought 16 fresh, fertile eggs from imported chickens.  Unfortunately none of them hatched.  This whole chicken episode made for interesting lunch time conversation.

We decided to raise rabbits to supplement our diet but this endeavour only served to highlight our incompetence in this kind of venture.  When we observed the commotion in the hutch of the two we brought in, we attributed it to the mating process.  But it actually turned out to be fierce fighting between two males!  Oh dear!

The Children Home Again

Cathy child on backCathy and Jeff’s time at home for the summer passed all too quickly.  Not only did they enjoy their friends who had come to the beach for holiday camping, but Cathy and Jeff also entered into life with the Arsi people as well.  Tamari, Borema’s little brother, and Jeff played together as any two eight year olds would do.  And Cathy … it was difficult at times to know where she was.  But we had a good idea that she would be with Borema’s sisters grinding corn meal on the two stones designed for this purpose, or out gathering twigs from the surrounding forest for their cooking fire.  On one occasion she arrived at the house with a neighbour’s baby strapped to her back in typical Arsi fashion.  However, what Cathy didn’t expect was some wet warmth on her backside!

One day Jeff was cutting sugar cane into chew and suck sized pieces when the knife slipped and cut his hand.  It required four stitches.  The Goss family happened to be camping on the beach.  Kay, wife, mother and nurse, came and very efficiently and kindly sewed the hand.  Jeff was so brave!

Our Banana Grove

banana groveIn addition to the vegetables in the garden we planted the nine banana trees and 18 pineapple shoots that Albert Brant brought in.  He also brought custard apple, avocado and mango seeds.

There were five different species of banana plants in the yard that produced delicious fruit.  My favourite were the red apple bananas that did have a semblance of an apple flavour (if you allowed your imagination to go there).  It was an interesting process to watch the plants start as a shoot beside its parent and grow rapidly.  Soon it produced a special blossom and eventually a stalk of fruit.  Once the fruit was harvested the tree was cut down.  It would no longer produce another stalk of bananas.

Good News

After being at Langano for almost one year we received news we had been waiting for.  Betty’s desire to reach out to our Arsi neighbours with medical help was about to be started.  Stay tuned!

Banana Shoot to Fruit



4 Responses

  1. Pearl says:

    Great gardens but you weren’t much of a chicken farmer! And, yes, Betty deserves a medal. More than one.
    Even in Alberta rabbits are tricky to raise. They often eat their young. 🙁

    • Norm says:

      Yep … sure did come up short on chickens and rabbits ….. but I sure did great in coming up with a wife! The project couldn’t have been accomplished without her. Thanks for your comments.

  2. Sherril Hood says:

    I totally concur with Pearl, and am loving reading each chapter. Looks as though you could grow anything. Very different from my attempts to grow anything in France or Algeria where the only space was a balcony in a city apartment. Leary came home one night with an old dresser drawer (fairly deep) that someone had thrown out and I grew some spinach and lettuce in it; had a rose bush in a bucket and grew some potatoes in a clear plastic bag so the kids could watch them develop. Your pictures are great too.

    • Yes, I have often thought that your missionary work was in a completely different setting than mine! You were cramped up in an apartment with 3 little children surrounded by a different culture up close to you, and we had almost a resort-like situation! I am sure that both had their particular challenges. xo Betty

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