Chapter 29 – Now Langano Blossoms

The years roll by and Langano blossoms again . . . even after all the years of setbacks, revolution, and evacuations. SIM is again established at Langano. And, hey …. there’s even a brand new all-weather road in from the highway!

Betty and I have endeavoured to piece together the events and people that brought Langano back to a vital ministry. As much as I would like to have been one of those Colobus monkeys high in the trees to eye-witness the events, we were not on the scene. My information is gleaned from missionary blogs, newsletters and conversations. There is a possibility for inaccuracies and gaps …. so, if you have information that corrects our account or material that enhances the story, please email us (Click the “Contact Us” page on the menu line above). Thanks. I have also used photos from these sources as well. I will list credits at the end of this chapter.

Dan and Kim Scheel

Dan & Kim

Dan & Kim Scheel

A very special couple was appointed to Langano in 1994, Dan and Kim Scheel from the USA. Reopening the little clinic that Betty had used many years before was a top priority. But the Ministry of Health gave only temporary permission until a standard size clinic building would be erected, equipped and staffed. So Dan, a construction engineer, got to work and erected a new and improved clinic building down by the lake. It was a huge task but Kim reopened the clinic in 1997 in the new complex. Kim was then joined by Nancy Redman, a career SIM nurse, and national nursing staff.

In June 2003, the Scheels wrote in their newsletter that the medical staff had vaccinated 3,700 children in a week against measles as well as dealing with a malaria epidemic and treating up to a 100 regular patients per day! What a heavy work load the nurses and staff had to carry!

new clinic

The new clinic

Operating the clinic was different from when Betty and I went into Langano. All we needed was a permit to open and then Betty operated as she saw fit. Now the government of Ethiopia is able to set standards and procedures to control all medical facilities across the country. This means Kim and the staff spend considerable time with reports and proposals.

Kim Scheel, the nurse in charge of the clinic became a nurse-practitioner at Baylor Unversity in Texas, USA. She also brought in groups of nurse-practitioners during their education at Baylor. What a great experience that was for them. Other nurse-practitioners have come to volunteer as well.

Camping program again

When the Scheels entered the scene at Langano they, in addition to establishing the clinic, got the “Bible Camp” up and running again.

They arranged for Ethiopian kitchen staff to cook for groups coming in and cared for all the logistics necessary to see a camping program begin again. Buli Kinaso who we had come in to help us teach years before and is now married to Borema’s youngest sister, Bulbulay, became the Ethiopian manager of the project. Jake & Sarah Wetzel, having been in Christian camping with SIM in Bolivia, were reassigned and brought their camping experience to Langano

By 1995 camps were scheduled. The groups came prepared with their own programs. And that’s how the camping program continued until Sports Friends came along several years later.

Quite a number of other missionaries have ministered at the camp and poured their hearts into the Langano ministry. Each of them has left an imprint in their own way. We could never name them all.

… and then an elementary school

new school

The new school

An agreement was signed with the Government to run a new elementary school at Langano. Dan and his building team worked to complete the new complex. It officially opened in October 2003. The number of students fluctuated somewhat because of the semi-nomadic characteristic of the Arsi people. About 300 students on average were taught by four Ethiopian teachers and two evangelists who taught the Bible lessons. They were capably supervised for many years by SIM-USA missionary-teacher Joan Smith. She successfully coached the local Ethiopian teachers so that they could run the school by themselves.

school studentsExciting success is summed up in a letter the Scheels wrote on December 2015:

“We had a great thing happen at Langano at the end of this past school year. A group of inspectors showed up and asked the students 18 key questions. The questions were to determine whether or not students were actually learning the lessons they were supposed to or not. Our students were able to easily answer the questions, whereas students from other schools could not. This both affirmed that our school is being effective and made us proud of our teachers, who are all committed teachers, as well as committed Christians, eager to share their faith.

When registration began this fall, the students began to come to sign up for the new school year and just kept on coming. We went from a student body of 400 to 700, with no option to turn anyone away. The community knows that if they want their kids to succeed at academics, the SIM Langano School is where their kids should attend. Having an influx of more that 300 students has created some definite problems. We have had to scramble to hire more teachers and will be needing to do something very soon about more classroom space. Two classes literally meet under some shade trees, as there is no place else for them to meet.”   Here is a short video documenting the work of the SIM school in Langano, Ethiopia. Recorded May 2015. ** Betty and I notice that the School administrator states that they have been there 30 years, a slight error because the school was built in 2003. Maybe he meant that elementary education began in the Langano area 30 years ago. That is more likely.

Many Arsi people become Christ-followers

local church

The local church

As the local Christians shared their faith, people responded.

Mulatu was asked to be the pastor of the church on the mission property. He was an Ethiopian evangelist from another area of Ethiopia coming to Langano as a missionary to the Arsi people. Just like the SIM missionaries, Mulatu and his wife Kalkidan and their 3 children had to learn a new language.

Mulatu and Kalkidan endeared themselves to the whole community with their friendly and accepting manner. Their happy smiling faces radiated God’s love to everyone. Mulatu also preached to the patients waiting at the clinic each morning. Several other churches have been built in the area.

Sports Friends

Sports Friends logoA new and exciting sports ministry also started at Langano as an outreach to the youth of Ethiopia (and subsequently to other countries as well). Here’s how that came about.

Brian Davidson and Tripp Johnston from North Carolina, USA, along with their families, visited Ethiopia in 2002. They visited Langano and saw the potential for churches using sports as a powerful bridge-building tool in reaching out to youth and their families. SIM leadership agreed and Lake Langano was determined to be the place where this concept would be implemented. “Sports Friends” became part of SIM, and became the first residential camping program in Ethiopia.

Short-term teams from the US regularly come to Langano each summer to assist in the training and implementation of the camps. Up to 80 campers gather from all parts of the country to participate each week during the camping season.

And, this is how the camping program works . . . . .

water slideFor each week that camp is in session, the Langano staff select a different region of the country to bring kids from. To be eligible to come to camp, each player must have been consistently involved with their Sports Friends team for at least one year. The coaches hand pick a few of the players – of all skill levels – on their team to bring them to camp. The local churches help to pay for the expenses for each player to go to camp.

new chapel building

The new chapel and meeting area

The coaches come to camp with their players and spend the entire week with them. The week at camp consists of three meals a day, a bed, showers, Bible teaching by drama, singing, Bible discussion times as well as lots and lots of soccer! The coach is there, along with camp staff and counselors, to interact with love and encouragement to each of the campers.

When camp is over the coaches travel back home with the kids to follow up on everything that happened at camp. This is a very important aspect of Camp Langano and Sports Friends.

Brian & Laura Hall

Brian & Laura Hall

The constant contact and presence of a mentor in each child’s life is the key to their spiritual growth. Often their friends and family members also come to faith resulting in a number churches planted throughout Ethiopia.

Funds have been raised and other facilities have been built: a new chapel and a zip line, to name a couple. Bryan & Laura Hall, with their children, live on site directing the ministry. As we mentioned in the chapter on going home discouraged, SIM missionaries not only, by God’s help, raise their own personal support, but also funds for their project. Most of the staff are living in the little old buildings we built. They need new ones!

… so Langano is blooming!

The staff have implemented other projects in agriculture and community development as individuals have joined the staff for short periods of time.

Short term teams from the US have made tremendous contributions to Langano; from tiling the floor in the big lodge, assisting in other building construction projects and helping with the heavy load of nursing. This is in addition to the teams that come for the summer to participate in the Sports Friends’ camping program.

What can we conclude from this story of Langano? In the next and final chapter I will endeavour to express our personal observations. Stay tuned ……

Thanks to those who have written blogs and newsletters from which I have gleaned my information for this chapter.

Dan & Kim Scheel news letters Video of Brian and Laura Hall working in Langano, Ethiopia.Recorded June 2013. Shane & Allyson Smith with children, Hannah, Mia and Moses Interesting information from blogs. A “must watch” video SIM promotional information
Photos: Dave Morrow, Rose Meed, Google Images, Sports’ Friends, The Tile Guys

Interesting report about Sports Friend potential ministry.

New Open Doors For Sports Friends
A Report by Tripp Johnston with Carmen Imes — June 1, 2006

Four years ago, Brian Davidson and I, with our families, embarked on a mission to Ethiopia. We were convinced that sports could be a powerful tool that churches and church planters could use to build bridges to youth and their families. SIM leaders shared this conviction. We believed that a successful experiment in Ethiopia could establish a prototype for sports ministries around the world. “Sports Friends” set about implementing its vision of training and equipping Ethiopian Christian leaders to use sports for intentional church planting, evangelism and discipleship ministries. We wanted to create a national sports ministry movement that would yield great kingdom results.

The power of the sports platform is enormous! Have you ever seen a young person who doesn’t enjoy playing games? Sports surmount the boundaries of race, tribe, class, age and religion that so easily divide us and hinder the Gospel. Children, youth and young adults are playing soccer, volleyball, basketball and other games in virtually every Ethiopian city street and country meadow.

Yet nobody could have predicted just how effective church-centered sports ministry would be! Today, more than 1,000 trained Ethiopian evangelists are using sports to build relationships with youth and their families. More than 500 churches have initiated sports ministry programs, both in the cities and in the countryside. New churches have been planted, and thousands of people, including many from hostile religious groups, have placed their trust in Christ. And the sports ministry movement in Ethiopia is still in its first lap!

Church leaders in other countries in Africa and around the world have heard about the success of church-centered sports ministry and have asked Sports Friends to train them as well. Representatives from Kenya, Sudan, Uganda and Rwanda have recently traveled to Ethiopia to see first hand what God is doing. While there have been inquiries from many countries, first on the list is Nigeria, where a team will soon be working full time training and coordinating the outreach efforts of various denominations. Introductory conferences have already been held in Nigeria and the response has been tremendous. As in Ethiopia, Sports Friends hopes to unleash a movement of churches and church planters using the powerful platform of sports to expand God’s Kingdom in Nigeria and many other countries. Who would have thought that something as simple as a soccer ball could open so many doors for the gospel?

It takes Heart—Not Body

Joshua is an unlikely soccer ministry leader. He has never played soccer in his life. In fact, he is the most physically handicapped person I ever met. He lives in Jos, Nigeria, and gets around in a small, handcrafted wooden wagon pulled by one of his many friends. Joshua has a normal head and chest, but his hands and arms are withered, and his body ends at his waist. He lies in his wagon in the same position day and night. Yet he’s a giant of a man, with a huge heart and a sports ministry called Joshua’s Soccer Academy.

Three teenage boys serve as his companions. They pull his wagon, dab the sweat off his forehead, and hold his Bible in front of his eyes so he can read it and teach from it. He gathered about 30 boys from his neighborhood to play soccer, and he recruited a coach to work with them. After practice, all the boys gather around his wagon and he teaches them from the Word of God. He tells them, “God loves you. His Son Jesus Christ can bring joy and purpose to your lives just as He has to mine.” He radiates the love of God, and lives his life to make a difference in the lives of the boys on his soccer team.

Lodge now

The Lodge, built 45 years ago is used as a dining hall and office facility. I planted that large Flame tree as a tender seedling. Look at it now!

9 Responses

  1. Pearl says:

    A little bit bitter-sweet?

    Some very exciting new programs and expansions of the ones you began. I loved seeing the flourishing Flame tree. I immediately thought about you and your work with the verse from the Psalms – you planted by the river, your work didn’t wither and all that did you did there prospered.

    • Betty Harrison says:

      Thank you, Pearl for your kind comment. I love your analogy of the flame tree.

      Thanks too for sticking with us through all this! We have appreciated your interest.

      Hope you are keeping well. This proposed 60th reunion of our PHS 1957 graduation — the idea at times makes me chuckle. We are all getting old!

      But, God is with us!

      Thanks again, PearlyO

  2. Shirley Stewart says:

    Pearl, that is a perfect verse to sum up this story! Norm and Betty, thank you so much for sharing! What an incredible journey, and what a treasure of the old letters to fill in faded memories (at least some of my memories are fading!). Also – what great pictures – I sincerely hope this can somehow be officially printed, and in color. How the world has changed in 50 years, and you were there in the “old times”! I am hoping that before you sign off – maybe after the last chapter, that you add a summary of your ministry since leaving Ethiopia?? AND an updated picture of you two?? I saw one of you both sitting side by side in church – that would be perfect!!

    • Norm says:

      Thanks Shirley. Nice to hear from you. We wondered about printing the story but so far we find it very pricey to do so. And I think your requests will be answered to some degree in the next chapter.

  3. Norm says:

    Thanks Pearl. We are so thankful that God has allowed what we started back then to prosper now.

  4. Shirley Stewart says:

    That will be good! I guess I just don’t want the story to end!!

  5. Betty Harrison says:

    Hello friend, Shirley! Just in addition to Norm’s comment. We appreciate the fact that you too have followed the story of Langano. I think quite a few of our High School class have.

    Thankfully, the story does continue. I don’t know if you would have googled the website of Sports Friends. If you add Langano and Ethiopia, you might fight it easier. They offer a daily prayer request to your email. I like it – you can just pray the words they suggest for their need.

    I know which picture you are thinking of – and dear Norm has the ability to put that on our blog!

    Thanks, again, Shirley. I like to picture you with your big extended family! Greetings to Bud.

  6. Lois Pegg says:

    Oh, how I have loved reading your story, and don’t want it to end. It must be so satisfying to know that as you planted the seeds, like the little flame tree, God has brought the bountiful fruit in his time. All praise to Him!
    Thank you again for sharing your story with us.

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