My calendar is telling me that I’ve been in Ethiopia for three weeks. I guess that’s true. Some days it feels like I’ve been here for three days. Others feel like I’ve been here for three years. Since I’ve been here I’ve worn many hats. For example one day last week I sat in class in the morning, hugged on street kids and sat with poor mothers in the afternoon, had dinner with dignitaries, and then washed clothes and mopped floors before going to bed.
The first week was spent just trying to get settled, while suffering from some pretty horrible jetlag. God helped me a lot. I was able to find a comfortable house in a great location just in the nick of time. The day after I signed the lease the guesthouse informed me that they had given my room to someone else. I had to go. So I bought a small mattress and spent the night at my new house. I spent the rest of the week gathering a few basics for the house and helping Nega get ready for a team from America.
Once the team came they pretty much consumed my life, but it was worth it. Rarely do we have the opportunity to share in such wonderful ministry as I did last week. This single team actually performed three different ministries, each corresponding to a specific facet of our ministry here.
First was the discipleship conference. The guys from DownLine Ministries taught two three day conferences at a local seminary. The first was for students of the seminary. The second was for pastors and church leaders. DownLine focuses on teaching the biblical principles of discipleship as exampled by Jesus.
The second part of the team did a four day medical and dental clinic at our Drop-in Center. It was a huge success, more than anyone expected. Over 800 people, from street children, to crippled grandmothers, to government officials were treated. For many, this was the first medical care they have ever received.
The third part of the team was a few bright, successful, business minded fellows who came with sustainability in mind. They came to help me with one of my main roles of finding creative ways to make our partners self-sustaining through income generation. They made contacts here in the city and we spent one day in northern Ethiopia visiting a very successful hatchery operation.
If there is one lesson that I learned this past week is that effective ministry many times means stepping away from the to-do-list and taking time for people. This hit me during the second day of the medical clinic. There was a man about my age hovering around, getting in the way. I had spoken to him a couple of times, trying to be polite enough while keeping busy with my work. He finally cornered me and asked me for some food. I tried to get away. I thought about sending him away since he’d already been treated, but I finally relented and asked the cook for some bread. I brought it to him and poured him a cup of tea, but before I could dash away he announced that he was a Muslim and he knew about Jesus. Jesus, he said, was a messenger from God. He had me! There’s no way you can leave that hanging. In reality he was simply manipulating me to get more food. Nevertheless, the truth of the Gospel was at stake and needed correction. So I forgot my duties for 15 minutes and ended up having a very pleasant conversation about Jesus, about family, and about life. Once he finished his meal he left having accomplished his mission. I just pray that in the process I accomplished mine.