Chapter 18 – Renewed Enthusiasm
We were back at Langano with a new sense of vision and enthusiasm. God had used circumstances and several people back in Canada to encourage us. Discouragement was replaced with knowing we were in the right place, with the funding that would enable the building to go forward.
Soon after we arrived in Addis Ababa, we travelled down to the lake with Bob and Marg Ratzliff who had been helping at the camp site for four months while we were away. It was so good to see our Langano home again; especially our Arsi friends, and the bougainvillea and other beautiful shrubs we had planted. Even though it was the end of the dry season, water from the ram pump had kept the vegetation growing and healthy.
And there was our trusty caretaker, Borema … all smiles and so exited to see us back! There were lots of hugs from him (He had decided to learn this “hugging” which was so foreign to his culture, but needed if he was going to work around foreigners!). And there was the excited greetings from several ladies who heard we were back. Cathy and Jeff were also excited to be back, enjoying Borema’s sisters and brother, finding some of their belongings they hadn’t seen for a year.
We found that rats had taken up residence in our little tin house, leaving considerable evidence of their lifestyle. The floor took several washes and rat entry holes were plugged. But soon we were comfortably settled in. The next job was setting up Betty’s tent clinic again. In a couple of weeks she had fifteen patients in one day. It was beginning to feel like we had never been away.
But soon I had to return back to Addis Ababa to purchase building supplies; windows, doors and all the other necessary details to complete the main lodge. I left Betty and the children with the Van Nattans who had arrived on site, and I headed over the bridges to the highway, and north to the big city. What a joy it was to have the finances to proceed with the money Steve had been able to raise for the camp while in the USA. He would be travelling back to Addis Ababa later to buy even more necessary supplies.
A month later it was back to Addis Ababa again. This time I was able to purchase an old Land Rover that replaced the similar one I had previously borrowed from Sheshemane. It became a great work horse for us.
I also brought back a young man who had come to assist in the country’s famine relief program but was redirected to the Langano project instead. We were more than delighted to have Mark Stebbins join us. He was a university graduate from Chapel Hill, North Carolina and had been heavily involved with the Navigators, a student organization that promoted Bible study and scripture memorization. During his five months with us he memorized the entire book of Colossians.
Even though he had only been a Christian for three years, he exhibited an amazing maturity; especially in the area of submission. On one occasion, I was confronted with, what was to me, an impossible situation in dealing with a troublesome relationship. Mark encouraged me to submit it to God and let Him overrule the circumstances. What a transforming effect that had on my attitude!
Mark won the hearts of the Arsi people as well. When he might be working up on a ladder and a local person would come along, he’d come down and warmly greet them; even though he could only speak in English. One day a young man paused at the front gate with a broken bicycle. Mark could see the chain needed adjustment and fixed it. Before long the young man was back again. The same problem, and Mark kindly fixed it the second time; or so he thought he had. The third time the gracious spirit of Mark finally had the fellow on his way. Mark was a tremendous help and blessing to us. He went on in life to marry Lou Ann after which they served in Ghana and then in the international office of Navigators.
I wanted to get on with completing the main lodge; at least getting it to the place where the camping program could begin. But other important matters needed attention. Finishing Betty’s new clinic building had priority.
At the same time we were slowly building a good relationship with the local Arsi people, but we were still foreigners to them. Betty’s clinic did much to break down that barrier. The people were grateful and said “She likes our babies”. But one day a dramatic incident bonded us even further.
A prominent Arsi elder in the local clan was tending his herd of cattle alongside the highway some ten miles away and not knowing the ways of highway traffic stepped out in front of a bus and was instantly killed. In tremendous shock, a delegation of men came to me asking for help in burying the man. He was a very important person and they wanted more than the usual custom of burial. I constructed a wood coffin as they requested even though their custom was to wrap the body in a homespun shawl. As I loaned them some shovels for digging the grave they asked me to come as well. Mark and I did just that.
We sat near the grave being dug in a location reserved for the elders. Now as one of their peers Mark and I took our turn symbolically digging a small portion of the grave and then sat silently with these grieving men while ritual wailing was taking place around the actual grave.
Of all the years I had been in Ethiopia, this was the first and only time I didn’t feel like a foreigner. From then on we continued building relationships with these people whom we were growing to love and appreciate. We prayed this would lead to their acceptance of the life-giving hope in Christ that replaces hopeless mourning such as we had witnessed that day of the funeral.
Don Richardson’s account in his book, Peace Child, captivated my attention. It told the true story of how he discovered the key to the hearts of the Sawi people in Irian Jara. Peace was made between two warring groups by the exchange of a “peace child” between the two parties. This was an analogy to the sacrifice of Jesus Christ making peace between God and man.
Could there be a redemptive analogy at Langano? Could God illustrate His love to these Arsi people in a similar manner? The answer was soon in coming.