Chapter 2 – Our First Home

Lake Langano beachWhat 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.

Ethiopia maps

Lake Longano, one of several lakes, in the Rift Valley

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?

Camper on beachAt 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.

tin house bettyLittle 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!

18 Responses

  1. Bruce and Betty Adams says:

    Very interesting! Looking forward to the next chapters.

  2. Sherril Hood says:

    Very nice Norm, and Betty looks lovely–and of course, she planted flowers!

  3. Denny Hoekstra says:

    Good Reading! Brings back lots of memories! I remember driving out to the camp and when we left our front wheel on our Fiat broke off and we had to wait for parts to come from Addis so I could fix it.

    • Norm says:

      Oh no! Unfortunately that road had a way of doing such things to us. You will see some of our adventures on that road in later chapters.

  4. Paul and Lila Balisky says:

    Can’t wait for more. And we hope the Sports Friends is alerted to this story – what a wonderful history for them to incorporate into their own story.

  5. Roy Hodges says:

    Doreen is up there with Jesus, looking over your shoulder and cheering you on! As Harold Fuller remarked to Doreen. “May God give you more grease for your elbow”!

  6. Facinating, Norm and Betty, can’t wait for more, keep us advised. I have a proofreading-gene. Here’s my contribution. In the first paragraph in this chapter, “to it’s sandy shores” (in ‘it is’ sandy shores??? NOT. Try “to its sandy shores”. Your Prairie English teacher would turn over in her grave, lol. BTW in going through some old writings of mine recently, I found that particular mistake in many of them, in spite of the fact that I knew better.

  7. Pearl Mc says:

    Wonderful pictures. They really add to the narrative.

  8. Norm says:

    Thanks Bette … obviously you are away (or is it a way?) ahead of me! I’m afraid my English teacher would have bed sores by now with all her turning over. But really … thanks for your contribution; I do appreciate it. I’ve made the necessary changes. Adding grammar to my spelling disabilities ….. well I see I’ll probably keep you quite busy as future chapters unfold. Thankfully Betty is much better at this than I am.

  9. Marilyn and Vic Rempel says:

    What a great Idea! We will look forward to each new chapter!

  10. Melody says:

    This is exciting to be reading your story! I love all the pictures and I look forward to Sundays post 🙂

    • Norm says:

      Some of these stories you have probably already heard, but I think you will enjoy reading them again and seeing how they fit into the overall picture.

  11. Carol Stevens says:

    This is all so wonderful!! I’m looking forward to Chapter 3!

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