Chapter 2 – Our First Home
What a place for a camp! Lake Langano was for most foreigners an ideal location for holidays. Occasionally missionary families would spend happy days on the shores of the lake fishing, swimming and hiking. The main highway running south from Addis Ababa skirted the western shoreline creating easy access to its sandy shores. Various commercial enterprises had built a string of tourist hotels.
Two and one half years before our arrival, Albert Brant suggested to the SIM mission leadership that Lake Langano could offer a suitable location for a future camping ministry. In May 1969 three men were commissioned to find that suitable location. One of the men, Bruce Bond (in “When Spider Webs Unite” page 254), tells how they used Albert Brant’s 12 foot aluminum dinghy and explored the western shores only to discover that the best swimming beaches were already claimed by commercial entrepreneurs or diplomatic embassies. So they crossed over some five miles to the southeastern shore. There they discovered a beautiful sandy beach. About a half mile from the shore was a stand of pristine tropical forest. The site could also be reached by a trail about ten miles around the southern edge of the lake from the main highway. Satisfied that they had found a suitable location they headed back to the western shore in the 12 foot craft. What they anticipated would be a leisurely ride across the stretch of water turned into a harrowing experience. In mid-lake the 15 h.p. motor stopped; the water pump had given up. They took turns on the oars, but to their dismay they could see a fierce storm building. In a few minutes a violent wind made rowing impossible. All they could do was keep the craft facing the storm. The wind carried them across the lake and miles from where they had left their car. Shivering in their soaking clothes they were grateful to be back on shore.
Back in Addis Ababa the men discovered that this ideal piece of property belonged to an absentee land owner, Ato Tadela (Ato means Mr.), who was a friend of the Mission. In those days, much of the land in the Arsi area had been given to wealthy Amhara landlords, who in turn rented it out to the Arsi nomadic pastoralists. Perhaps he would be willing to lease a small area to SIM.
Now after long protracted formalities and applications with the land owner and government, we were finally on site. The challenge now was: Where do we start in the process of building a camp?
At first we parked the VW camper on the beach and stayed there until there was enough room on the actual site where I cleared the thick African bush to build our temporary home. The general area around the lake was semi-arid with scattered Acacia trees, but the site on which we were to build was about one quarter of a mile from a river creating this rich growth of thorn bushes, massive trees and thick undergrowth. I chose a location under the colossal sycamore tree for our new home. Single handed I chopped away the undergrowth at the top of a slight rise that sloped down into a vacated creek bed. I had made arrangements with Gordon Creighton to transport supplies from the SIM Sheshamane Leprosarium in the white Mazda pickup truck, a distance of about 40 miles. One day he arrived with a load of corrugated tin sheets, cement and lumber. This was the first of many gruelling trips Gordon would take over the next few years with building supplies using the Sheshamane tractor and trailer.
Now I could construct a storage shed and our temporary home. I had obtained used tubular tent frames that were cast-offs from the army. The walls leaned inward from the ground up to the gable shaped roof. The storage shed was constructed on a cleared piece of ground.
For our home I arranged the framework on a 12×18 foot concrete pad. I attached corrugated tin sheets to the frame and it wasn’t long before our home in the bush was ready for occupancy. Our local friends were somewhat perplexed when I cut holes in the wall for windows and then covered them over with a pretty cloth. What was the use of that? Why didn’t I just leave the walls closed like their mud walls?
In the months that followed I prepared the front yard for a lawn and Betty planted flowers in front of the house.
Little did we realize at the time the consequence of constructing our little house under that large tree. We would find out later the local Arsi people thought no one could survive living there. No wonder neighbours did not live close by.
But soon a very special young man entered our lives!