Chapter 3 – Borema, Our Trusty Caretaker
A couple of days after moving to the site, a young fellow approached me while I was clearing the area for our tent-frame house. He looked to be about sixteen years old. He was dressed in short khaki pants, tank-top shirt and was bare-footed. With a sparkle in his eye he told me his name was Borema. Then what he told me next just about knocked me to the ground. He said he loved the same Jesus Christ that I did! How could that be? The Arsi people were nominally Muslim but in actual practice engaged in elaborate activities to placate Satan. What was Borema telling me?
He went on to tell me that he and his cousin, Measo, had heard about a school some distance from the lake. They desperately wanted to learn to read and write in the national language, Amharic. No such opportunity was available in the area. So off they went. As it turned out, it was a mission school where they heard and accepted the wonderful message of God’s love.
They knew it would not be wise to mention anything about this upon their return home. So they kept quiet until one evening they found themselves at a clan event – a sacrificial offering to Satan of an animal for a member of the community that was sick. Borema’s uncle was the leading elder and witch doctor conducting the procedure. All at once he declared that he could not continue the proceeding. The spirit of the animal would not respond. There must be someone in the crowd who did not agree with the sacrifice. Borema and his cousin had to admit their acceptance of Christianity. They were ordered to leave so that the ceremony could continue. They were not excommunicated from the clan for they were valued young potential leaders.
Now Borema asked if he could work for me. I hired him that day. He stayed with us for the rest of our stay at Langano. He became a loyal helper, a trusted friend and devoted Christian. He was blessed with natural leadership and interpersonal skills. He was always a valuable liaison with the community. He learned to speak some English and became competent in many of the building skills. He was always eager to learn new things. He certainly was God’s gift to us.
A few weeks passed and it became necessary to go to Addis Ababa for supplies. We also would have the opportunity to see our two children, Cathy and Jeff, at Bingham Academy, SIM’s boarding school for missionary children. Cathy was in grade two and Jeff in the first grade. What a day that was when we first took them and had to say goodbye before seeing them again for several weeks. Never before had we been separated from our children like this. They were so young; Jeff was the smallest boy in the school.
But there were no tears on their part; they had been looking forward to that day for some time. Other older children of missionary families they knew had gone off to boarding school. That is what everybody did! One big pyjama party, dolls of all varieties, a library with books unlimited and a place of solace, dinky toys with their systems of roads on the playground, merry-go-round, soccer, monkey bars, and of course, watching the bigger kids.
But for mom and dad, that was a different story. Our heavy hearts, disguised with a smile, watched as Cathy happily arranged her belongings around her bed in the dorm and, in her sweet way, comforted some of the other girls who were crying. The supper bell rang and the children eagerly joined the others in the dining room.
It was now time for us to say our goodbyes and leave. They were so occupied with their new friends, we thought it best to just slip away. Just then Jeff came running out of the dining room. Was he coming to say goodbye? No, he had forgotten to wash his hands. As he disappeared around the corner of the building he yelled goodbye at us over his shoulder.
Taking this trip to Addis meant our personal belongings and building supplies would be left in the bush for a week or so while we were away. I asked Borema if he would stay on site and watch over the place. This created a dilemma for him. The big tree under which I was building our home was a place where the Arsi people offered sacrifices to Satan. To them the huge trunk with its towering branches was Satan’s dwelling place. They had been horrified when they found us living there. We had seen people passing by with their cattle and we would greet them. Sometimes they would stop to visit, but never as night approached. They were deadly afraid to be caught there after dark.
Borema knew this and there he stood silently in front of me for awhile. I could tell he was processing the situation in his mind.
Finally I asked, “You are a Christian, are you not?”
“Yes”, he replied.
“Is Christ not greater than Satan?”
“Then why can’t you stay here and be safe?”
He stood there looking at his feet. At last in a hushed tone he voiced his response. “I will try.” We drove away in the van with a very dejected looking Borema bravely waving goodbye.
Several days later we returned. How would we find Borema? It didn’t take long to find out. There he was standing at the entrance to the clearing. His face was glowing with a broad smile; the whites of his eyes shining. He ran up to open the van door. When I asked why he was so happy, he replied, “I stayed here and nothing happened!” Here was solid proof to him that Christ was stronger than Satan. News of his victory over the fear of Satan spread throughout the area and greatly enhanced his Christian testimony.
One sunny morning, as the local people tramped past the clearing, Borema brought his grandmother to meet us. We had no idea how far she had walked, but we stopped whatever we were doing and gave her warm greetings. What a stately, gentle woman with a sweet aura of confidence she was; a lot like Norm’s dear Grandma Miller.
Finally she said, “Well, I have come here to see my children! You have them all!” It was said jokingly, because she had many others in her large family. We laughed together.
Borema’s three sisters and little brother often stayed with him on the site in a small house with a kitchen house beside it. The girls eventually worked for us in many various ways. It was a clever family. Their happy dispositions and bright smiles always brightened the camp ground.
Jeff really enjoyed playing with Tamari, Borema’s younger brother. Years later Tamari went to an SIM countryside Bible School. He had been named Tamari, which is “student” in Amharic. They sincerely wanted him to be educated.
One of Cathy’s favourite play times was going into the bush with the sisters and finding sticks of dry wood. She loved having them strap the bundle on her back the same as they did. This wood was fuel for the little family’s three-stone open fire. They cooked their corn cakes on a griddle. Cathy could squat and slap those corn cakes around in her hands and on to the griddle just like they did. She communicated with pantomime and the few English or Arsi words they all knew.
As a family we enjoyed the interaction with our Arsi helpers and neighbours; a feeling that deepened in the days and months to come.