Chapter 17 – Time For Furlough
May 22nd finally arrived – the date for our departure from Ethiopia for furlough. The Ethiopian Air Lines flight took us to Frankfurt where we overnighted and then flew into Toronto. Before long we were warmly welcomed by family and friends back in Victoria. It was so good to see our friends in Central Baptist Church again. Our friends, Bud and Alice Young, gave us the use of their home for the month of June while they were away on holiday. Cliff and Grace Padget prepared a comfortable spot in their basement during July. From there we visited a number of churches on Vancouver Island thanking them for their financial and prayer support and bringing them an update of our building the Langano Youth Camp. But we were exhausted and too tired to think about fund-raising any further.
The August 22nd date for our return to Ethiopia was rapidly approaching just as our uncertainties and qualms about our future increased. What were we going back to?
Would we ever see the camp facilities completed and ready for programming? There wasn’t money to complete the project. Although there were some missionaries on the SIM Ethiopia council that were enthusiastic about the future ministry potential of the camp, others were cool toward it. “Couldn’t these funds (if there were any) be better used in other endeavours?” They also thought my building skills could be better used elsewhere.
The more we thought about it, the more we became discouraged. We were not in the frame of heart or mind to be excited about returning. We asked the SIM office in Toronto to delay our scheduled flight out of Toronto to give us time to resolve our confusion. The dear office people were very supportive even though they had worked so diligently to arrange tickets, transportation schedules, etc. Now we had to make a decision. After praying we finally knew it was best to stay home.
With our minds made up we looked for a place to live and I applied for employment with a company I had previously work for. On August 17th I went to work for BC Hydro which was constructing the foundations for massive power line towers in the Langford area near Victoria. The salary was very good and I was soon moved to the gas division where new gas lines were being layed throughout Victoria. Life suddenly seemed more simple.
It was quite a challenge working along side ungodly men whose language and lifestyle did not match mine. One day an emergency blowout occurred. It prompted a rash of unholy profanity. When it all calmed down one of the fellows, knowing I had been in “religious” work, suggested that it must be hard for me to listen to such language. My somewhat casual response was that it isn’t so much what goes into one’s ears, but the damage would be from what comes out of his mouth. He didn’t realize I was actually referring to a biblical principle (Matthew 15:11). It was a brand new thought to him so he related it to the crew during lunch break. It created an interesting conversation with the guys for most of the afternoon.
For a while I worked with a jackhammer tearing up the street in downtown Victoria at the Johnson and Government street intersection. I found it somewhat disconcerting when people from our church discovered me doing this kind of a job. Wasn’t I their missionary they had supported in Ethiopia … what was I doing here? Some times I wondered the same thing!
Finally I was transferred to the job of cleaning up the mess left behind by the digging operation. Another fellow and I refinished concrete sidewalks and refurbished lawns and flower beds ripped up by the heavy equipment. This suited me much better.
We rented a new little house in the Langford area of Victoria where the children could walk to school. It served us well. One day we purchased a little second hand washing machine for $55.00 but were very disappointed that it didn’t work. The spin dryer would not drain properly. Betty asked me to take a peek underneath to see if it could be fixed. Wouldn’t you know it … there was a man’s sock plugging the outlet hose! Betty was delighted to have it working like a charm,
But as time progressed the question, “What am I doing here?”, was never far from the surface of my mind. I had a good paying job and the prospects of future employment was excellent …but! So Betty and I began to pray in earnest for clear guidance about our future. In mid February, during my regular reading in the Bible, a verse caught my attention. Isaiah 30:21–
“And you shall hear a voice behind you saying, ‘This is the way, walk in it’.”
I knew God was going to show us the direction we should take. I wondered what form the “voice” would sound like. Two days later a letter arrived from Ed Tomlinson, Canadian SIM director, stating that the Ethiopian government was willing to extend the time of our re-entry visa, which had expired the previous summer, to May 22, 1974. If we were to take advantage of it we would need to be back in the country by that date. We knew visas were not passed out too readily. This, tied in with the growing desire to return to Ethiopia, was the confirmation (the “voice”) we needed to know with certainty that God was taking us back.
As though that was not enough, we received word that a Christian publishing house in the USA had promised to match any funds that came into the building of the Langano Youth Camp dollar for dollar up to the amount of $5,000.00. And the offer was good until the end of August. This was a further confirmation of God’s guidance in knocking down a primary reason for our discouragement when we first came home. Finances would come to carry on with the project.
Another boost to our confidence came in April. Len and June Perry, good friends who ministered at a church at Sointula near Alert Bay, invited us for a weekend. Len had just attended a seminar conduced by Ray Steadman in California and shared lessons learned from 2 Corinthians 4:6-9 –
For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ. But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.
We knew it wouldn’t be our efforts that would accomplish Langano’s project. We could face the challenges with renewed confidence and enthusiasm in our God.
It was good to be on the coastal waters with the Perrys, sailing in the mission boat, the Goforth, just like we did so many years ago as young people at Homewood camp on Quadra Island. Jeff even had his turn at the wheel.
Back on the job, the crew I worked with was extremely surprised to hear I had resigned from my good paying job with such a promising future. Had I “dropped out of my tree?” was one response.
Central Baptist Church in Victoria, our home church, was again generous with support and prayers.
May 22nd found us arriving back in Ethiopia. We had stopped again on our way at the Frankfurt Airport. We were happy to meet Steve and Elizabeth Van Nattan there who were also returning after a trip to the USA where they had raised considerable funds for the camp. Little Mary was four and now had a baby brother.
What would we find at Lake Langano at our arrival? Well, let’s get on with “the rest of the story”.