It has been an embarrassingly long time since we posted to our blog. But, in an effort to keep folks more up to date with what is going on with us, we are updating info and planning to post more frequently. Obviously, some of our posting ability is out of our control with the wacky internet but we will do our best.
So…what have we been up to lately? We spent the a couple of weeks in the capital city, Addis Ababa. Part of living as an expat means being keenly aware of the expiration dates of vital documents. Jon and I renewed our passports in July and so we had to head back to the US Embassy to pick them up. With our new passports we headed to immigration to update our residence per to the date of Jonathan’s work permit. Once that was finished we headed back to the US Embassy the next week to start the process to renew Carter’s passport that expires in January. It’s amazing how navigating bureaucratic offices and paper work makes you feel as though you have accomplished a month’s worth of work.
Member care and cheesecake!
We also checked in with our member care friend, Misty Bodkins. She headed to Ethiopia to check in on us after having spent a couple of months in Uganda doing trauma care training. She is always such a blessing to our family and it is encouraging to have her be here on the ground with us to make sure we are coping well. She knows us very well so she can easily pick up on any hidden challenges we may be facing. She is also a great listening ear. Check out her ministry at ministrycareinternational.org.
Teka, Jess, Michelle, Drew and Bekalu with Wolaitta colors behind
After leaving Addis we headed down to our old tromping grounds in Soddo. It helps to break up the trip to Chencha for the kids and it gives us a chance to catch up with friends. We arrived during the week of the New Year for the Wolaitta region where Soddo is located. It was such great experience to see some cultural dancing and other performances…even if we were escorted to VIP seating because we are foringe.
Wolaitta New Year is kind of a big deal
We are now back home in Chencha. This is the time of year when the rains are not as frequent and the days are sunny and breezy. It is also nice to be home for some of the birds that are in their breeding plumage. We have a Pin-tailed Whydah (Vidua macroura) male that is often seen displaying for the females in front of our house. It is fascinating to watch.
Pin-tailed male display
Okay, so I know this post seems rather predictable. This is the time of year that it really hits you that another year is almost over and you start to look back at what you did or did not do over the previous 12 months. I won’t bore you with details and a long list of accomplishments and failures, I honestly haven’t spent the time to think about all that has happened in 2014. I will say that as I thought over the year and the variety of ups and downs that we have had I thought about how God has provided me with exactly what I always asked for. I graduated college with no idea what I wanted to do, but I did know that I didn’t want a job that had me doing basically the same thing everyday. I also hoped for something outdoors. When the Lord blesses you, he really blesses you! While many things about our day to day are the same (we do have two small kids) so much of our day, most days, is play it as it comes. That is pretty much how we live our life and I can’t say it is just because we are in Ethiopia, but that does often add to the spontaneity of our days. There have been some high highs and low lows this year but God was with us all the way and taught us, comforted us and showed us His love. What more can you ask for?
A few pictures from 2014. They are random but somewhat in chronological order.
Merry Christmas and God Bless. See you in 2015!
Jon’s Pre-comments: As I proofread this latest blog post from Jess, it struck me that the emotions, excitement, and worry feel very similar. The major difference is the way we view the circumstances behind the emotions. For instance, you can feel Jess’ anxiety in this blog post. In these same circumstances, I have been full of excitement. Changes tend to elicit anxiety in some people while excitement in others. The feeling that is in our gut is the same, but the way we anticipate the change is much different. I am exited about the new opportunities, new people, new places to learn about and explore.
When Jess wrote this post last week she had no idea how prophetic her words were. We had our first big wreck on Friday, Oct. 24 as we traveled between our new home and the farm. A beautiful, and quite large, animal bounded out of the brush and into our lane on the road. We couldn’t avoid it and it crashed through our windshield. Millions of tiny shards of glass exploded through our car.
It was as though Jess and the kids were wrapped in angels wings. I came away with minor cuts on my face. It looked like I had shaved a little too quickly that morning. Jess and the kids were unscathed. Thank God for His constant protection.
Sometimes the road gets rough, let’s face it, we live in Africa. Honestly though, it happens all over the world for all of us at some point. The road that seems to be nice and straight, smooth and laid out before us gets a little more curvy and a little more potholed.
Admittedly, for me our transition from Chencha to Soddo has been one that has been full of anxiety and discouragement. Even though we still have the precious relationships with our friends and fellow believers in Chencha we are in a new town with new roads and new routines. A lot of times it takes me losing my nice smooth road to be reminded it isn’t the road I should be focused on. The road IS going to change, but my heavenly Father is always the same. This time of transition has been a time that the Lord has drawn me in and comforted me and I have longed for His word. These are times of refinement and I praise the Lord that He is doing a work in me.
I have struggled with knowing where my place is. I’m a wife and mom. Now, I’m a home school teacher and I was teaching English (which I plan to continue). We are still involved with projects we came here to do but, one thing I have realized during this difficult road is that just because the Lord calls you to one road doesn’t mean that there won’t be others along the way. We all have different gifts, we are different members of the body of Christ. Our ministries look different. And, that is okay. Right now as we transition and continue to work with Onesimus we are here, where we feel the Lord has called us, we are trying to build relationships, trying to encourage fellow believers, and trying to empower the local churches. I say trying because sometimes the Lord uses the times you aren’t trying or doing anything specific to mean something to someone that you may never even realize. We don’t fully know what the Lord is doing with our time here in Ethiopia. We know we are a part of a wonderful ministry, Onesimus. We also know that we want to be obedient to our Lord and so for now we are riding out this bumpy road to see what the He has waiting.
Haven’t I commanded you: be strong and courageous? Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. Joshua 1:9
We have been going through some pretty major transitions over the last several months. In late June we were hit with a bit of a jolt. Onesimus Children Development Association, who we have been partnering with to have an agriculture project to fund their ministry to street children in Addis Ababa, asked that we move out of the house we have been using in Chencha that is on the project site. This request came as a shock but the reason why didn’t. Having white westerners living on the project site created problems for the ministry from the community and the government. Our sincerest hope is to help foster the growth of the agriculture project to fuel the ministry in Addis Ababa, so we were more than willing to comply. There was also a concern about possible security issues by us living in the community and not on the project compound. We enjoy good, close fellowship with those we work with on farm and many others in the community, and the church. However, the reality is that those relationships make up a very small percentage of the population in Chencha.
So, our search for a new home reached outside of Chencha and focused on areas that are more accustomed to having forenge (aka, westerners) in the area. In the end we felt lead to settle in Soddo, an area about 100km (about 60miles) away where there is a history of forenge living and working. Last week we started renting an old missionary house on the compound of the Kale Heywet Church (a denomination similar to Baptist that is found in Ethiopia). Most of our friends in Chencha attend the Kale Heywet Church there.
Jon is still working with the farm in relatively the same capacity. The biggest change will be that he will now have to commute to the farm. He will also be in communication with the project manager and staff via phone, email or Skype on days that he isn’t on site. Also, he will be able to fulfill his other big responsibility of liaison between The Forsaken Children and Onesimus much better from Soddo. That task has been largely ignored this year due to poor network coverage in Chencha. Being closer to a city and with a good road between us and Addis Ababa, Jon will be able to check in on the main office and with TFC more frequently.
I hope to continue my English classes with the staff. English classes were a good time to fellowship and for several of the participants it will be helpful as they continue their education.
For Hannah, who is with us for the year, she has already been able to find areas to serve. She is excited about what the time here in Soddo will hold for her.
Many times as we are hit with what feels like a curveball I can’t help but wonder what God is up to. Of course He sees the whole picture and we only see through our small window. We are eager to see what new ministry opportunities the Lord lays before us. We may not have all the details but we do know that the Lord has continued to call us here, has allowed us to be used for his glory, and has set Ethiopia in our hearts.
Some days my mind wanders a bit more than usual. It’s on those days that I can come to a lot of different conclusions. I do have to say the pace of life in rural Ethiopia lends itself to pondering. Here are a few recent realizations…
The rule for improv (always say yes) may not be the best rule for the improvisations in real life. In my case it is an “ishy,” but I may or may not be agreeing to things that I shouldn’t agree to. I’m still learning Amharic, and I’m a bit of a slow student. Lately, I’ve said that my Amharic is like “baby Amharic.” My sentences are simple and usually pretty broken, but that doesn’t stop me from trying to have conversations and interactions with folks, friends and strangers. I have realized just how much I agree with or to and it occurred to me that in my simple understandings my agreements may not always be appropriate. There is the possibility that I agreed to let someone have Baby Girl.
If you have a tree directly outside your kitchen door you may at some point end up with a funnel in the branches (oh, it also helps to have a 5 year old boy that likes to play with kitchen utensils). And, if you end up with a funnel in the tree right outside the kitchen you may end up with a tree frog in it. This guy hung out in the funnel all day. At one point I moved the funnel with him in it for Dawit to see. He hopped onto a branch but a short time after the funnel was put back into place he returned to his spot.
There is nothing like a little medagwa meat to make you feel like you are back in North Carolina during deer season. A medagwa is the local name for a small species of deer. It is also an unwelcome visitor to the farm because medagwas love apples. One recent Saturday I woke to a lot of shouting inside our compound. I waited until all seemed calm and peeked outside. No one was around. Jon came from the kitchen and informed me that a medagwa, running for its life, had run into our compound and was overtaken by the farm staff (that is my nice version). That afternoon there was a feast of medagwa. We were given some of the raw meat to prepare for ourselves, a leg and some other chunks. We made several meals from the meat. It was a welcome addition to our cuisine because leading up to Easter the Orthodox in Ethiopia fast. Chencha is a small enough area that no one sells meat because of the fast. So, Orthodox or not, you aren’t going to eat meat for two months leading up to Easter, unless you catch yourself a medagwa, of course.
One last thought…Jonathan is super handsome in his work overalls!
We are excited to announce that we are now a part of the great missions family of Global Outreach International (GO).
Don’t worry, our ministry hasn’t changed. We are doing the same thing with the same people. we are still working with The Forsaken Children (TFC) to support their partner ministry in Ethiopia, Onesimus. We primarily support Onesimus through the Kota Ganate Ag. Project, which is a small farm that we helped to start.
We will now have a full-fledged, experienced missionary sending organization behind us. We, along with TFC, believe that our new affiliation with GO will give us the support we need to take our vision even further. There are tangible and intangible benefits to being part of a sending organization such as Global Outreach. In a practical sense they will handle things such as mailing newsletters and other mailings, manage our monthly support and be a stateside contact for supporters. We also are able to take part in their group health insurance. From a more spiritual and emotional side, being part of the GO missions family provides us with a connection to other GO missionaries (and their experience), prayer support and encouragement. These are all things that help us on the field so we can focus our attention and energy on the mission we have been called to.
Global has been helping missionaries share the love of Jesus for more than 40 years. Global sends 100% of every gift to the missionary in the field. As an accredited member of the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability their integrity is above reproach. As veteran missionaries themselves, the leadership of Global understands the unique needs and challenges faced by the missionaries they serve. Their core values include; evangelism, discipleship, relationships, and integrity. To learn more please visit: www.globaloutreach.org.
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We now have an apple and pear orchard with more than 1500 trees covering around 9 acres of land.
The chicken hatchery has officially started, also, with our first hatch of chicks on February 6, 2014. We have two groups of local farmers who are currently receiving training and technical support through the farm so that they can start their own poultry operations once our chicks are available.
Our primary ministry is one of empowerment, which we accomplish through agriculture.
We helped start the farm to make sure that Onesimus ministries will be able continue serving kids like these for a long time to come.
If there is one thing I love about the New Year, it is the chance to look back and see the big picture of what God has done in our lives throughout the past year. While we are in the middle of it our focus is so narrow that we don’t see all the ways that God is working in and around us. As we were in the midst of the year it sometimes felt hectic, sometimes challenging, other times it was exciting and relaxing. Yesterday I looked through pictures of the past year and one word kept coming to mind – growth. I couldn’t see it until now, but in the end everyone and everything around us grew.
Watching this one develop through her first year was certainly a treat. She is a little bundle of personality, usually smiling and laughing. She has just started walking and she loves to clap and wave, but the thing she loves to do the most is to follow Dawit wherever he goes.
Dawit has done his share of growing as well. Since his 4th birthday in February he has become quite the nature explorer. At our home in Chencha he loves nothing more than to search for new bugs, to find tree frogs in the Enset, and to identify all the birds on the farm. He has been a traveler his whole life and this year was no different. He has been from the US to Ethiopia, traveled within Ethiopia, and then closed the year with a trip to Uganda. He has become quite adept at making friends quickly and easily, but the special thing about Dawit is that he seems to remember all the friends he makes. Even if he only plays with a kid for a day or two, he may ask us about them months later and if they ever meet again he picks up right were they left off.
We have also had some big developments on the farm this year. The chicks that we got in early June grew up nicely and started laying eggs in November.
With this incubator which was imported from Uganda we are ready to start hatching chicks.
The farm grew in other ways as well. We expanded the apple/pear orchard to cover almost the whole property. What was bare fields at the beginning of the year is now growing apple trees.
We can’t close this post without mentioning our little house in Chencha. It has gradually transformed into more and more of a comfortable little home.
We have officially entered into 2014 and we are excited to see all the ways that we will grow this year. Happy New Year!
You know what they say, “All work and no play makes Jon and Dawit dull boys.” In the six years that we’ve been working in Ethiopia we haven’t taken the time to get away and see the sights. Ethiopia has lots of interesting historical sites, as well as, large parks with all sorts of African wildlife. However, when we are in Ethiopia we just never seem to be able to get away. We have never even seen elephants or giraffes in the wild. So this year we decided to remedy that situation, but we had to leave Ethiopia to do it.
Just before Thanksgiving we traveled to Uganda to get away. We have thoroughly enjoyed our time here, mainly just hanging out with our friends. Jonathan goes into the village most days and works with Colin. Jess usually stays back with Ronnie and the kids. We mostly just do day to day things, but without the pressure of having to get things done.
As great as this trip has been, this week we put icing on the cake! Our friends took us to one of Uganda’s game parks. Needless to say Dawit loved every minute. We wanted to share with you some of what we saw.
Abyssinian Ground Hornbill
African Fish Eagle
That’s Murchison Falls behind us to the right. I think Dawit’s face says it all!
Tower of Giraffes
One huge croc
Water Buck female with baby, hippos and baboons
Leaving the country and culture that we are used to means that there are many changes. Obviously, these changes can sometimes leave you feeling not like yourself. One thing that has remained a constant is that Jon and I are nature nuts. During my first trip to Ethiopia in 2008 I got weird looks because I was always looking at birds and other critters. Today is no different. Living in Chencha has allowed us the chance to experience new birds and other wildlife and a lot of the wildlife we see is right around our house. We even finally figured out what creature was always lurking around in the enset after dark. We are pretty sure that a side-stripped jackal is a regular visitor to our food scrap pile and the meat scraps that I set aside for any carnivorous visitors (yes, I know I shouldn’t). We haven’t gotten a photo of it yet but there are other visitors to our yard that we have captured on film. Enjoy.
Augur Buzzard. We actually have a nesting pair that hang around near our house. The nest is high in a Eucalyptus tree that we can see from our back door.
Hemprich’s Hornbill. Even if we don’t always see the hornbills, we hear them.
Rüppell’s Robin-Chat. These guys are everywhere. I even caught one checking out our sheenta bait once.
Unidentified Sunbird. Even with my field guide and the limiting factor of our 2900 meters elevation I’m having trouble getting a positive ID on this one.
Yellow-bellied Waxbill. I had trouble identifying these little birds until I finally got a photo of them. In NC we had “butter butts” (yellow-rumped warblers a la Kristin Sasser). Here we have “red rumps.”
Streaky Seedeater. Now when I hear a sing-song melody coming from the backyard I just look for where the streaky seedeater is perched.
Common Waxbill. It isn’t the best photo of this red-masked little bird, but I was lucky to catch it at all. They flit around in the shrub so fast it is hard to get a good look.
I do okay with my bird identifications, now that I have a field guide. The frogs are a different story. I may not know what kind they are, but I love finding them.
And then there are the cool moths.
Not only are we enjoying the biodiversity of Chencha, we have Dawit excited too. He loves looking at our bird guide and any time we find a frog or bug we know who will want to see it. Jon and I have joked that even at his tender age he likely knows more about the birds and bugs in Chencha than most of the locals.
I’ve been noticing a lot of folks on Facebook receiving numbers. They take that number and list out that amount of things about themselves that maybe not many people know. I haven’t participated on Facebook, but it got me thinking about things that I might share, what tidbits might people find interesting. Then I got to thinking about where we live and how we live. Though it seems normal to us, I realize that we make our own version of normal and that for most people the way we live in Chencha might seem a little different. So, I asked Dawit to pick a number between one and ten. He chose the number 7. Here are 7 things you may not know about the life of the Bridges family in rural Ethiopia.
1. Almost every morning Jonathan gets up and makes a fire with the charcoal that we buy at market. Jon has this process down to a science and can have nice hot coals for making breakfast and heating water for coffee in a relatively short amount of time. I am not as good at the fire building but I have managed to survive at times when Jon has been away.
2. We have approximately 10 lizards that live in and around our home. We are so familiar with these lizards that we can recognize some of them. Dawit has named many of them and calls them by name. Stumpy and Rascal are a couple of our favorites.
3. What time is snack time? Any time! Our house follows the American snacking tradition. What does Dawit ask 5 minutes after every meal, “Can I have a snack?” This often causes Jonathan (the non-snacker) distress as he pushes peeled carrots on us. Fortunately, Ethiopia has given us one of the most wonderful snacks in the world, Kollo (co-low). It is a part of life in Ethiopia. Kollo is a generic term for small roasted grains such as barley or roasted peas. There is also dabo kollo which is similar to the crunchy roasted barley but is actually bread. On any given day if you come to our house and look closely enough on the floor you will find dabo kollo. No matter how much you sweep, it is ubiquitous. Actually, right now there is a fare amount of dabo kollo decorating the back seat of the car. Baby girl is like a little scavenger as she combs the floors of our home in search of the crunchy little gems.
4. Our injera machine is magical. I can use it to bake almost anything, except injera. For those who may not know, injera is the fermented pancake like bread that is a staple of most Ethiopians’ diets. Most people still use a flat clay disk over a fire to make their injera but we have an electric injera machine. It is basically a round clayware electric skillet with a thin aluminum lid. I have mastered making biscuits, rolls, cinnamon rolls, banana bread, pancakes and even pizza on our injera machine. The one thing that doesn’t seem to turn out well from our injera machine is what it is intended to be used for, injera. Even our house worker who usually makes our injera has trouble making good injera on it.
5. Next time you turn on your tap for water consider how wonderfully easy it is. We are blessed to have clean water to use and drink, but it is a process. Jon has dug two wells. One is around 50 yards from our back door and the other is right behind our kitchen (this is the new one with the electric pump). We haul water from both wells and then do an initial filtering in sand filters. We can use that water to clean and cook with. Only recently has Jon added the second sand filter. Our drinking water is filtered again through a ceramic filter.
6. Our daily life is apparently a hit reality show. Our compound is surrounded by a woven bamboo fence. Though at initial glance you cannot see through it, the fence’s woven properties leave small holes that allow the neighborhood children, and adults, to look through. This means that at any unsuspecting time you will hear shouts of “foringe,” or “Jon-a-ton,” from a disembodied voice. Again, we can’t really see through the fence unless we walk up to it and peek through one of the holes. So, as we are working or playing in the yard those on the other side who do choose to peek usually feel moved to shout something. One might assume that a simple greeting or a light conversation would give satisfaction and send the shouter on their way. Unfortunately, that is rarely the case. We speak to them in three languages, their tribal tongue, their national language, and in English. However, all we usually receive in returned is more shouting of “foringe” or “Jon-a-ton”, until we just can’t take it anymore and just have to go inside and hide until they are bored enough to leave.
7. Fair warning – if you visit our house you may want to visit a potty first! This list wouldn’t be complete without mention of our sheenta bait (AKA pit latrine/outhouse). Literally translated this means pee house. As far as sheenta baits go, we have a nice one, maybe the nicest one in Chencha. It is well covered and has a door that latches, but you can’t get past the fact that it’s a big, stinky hole in the ground. Most of the American visitors that we’ve had are a little squeamish about using the sheenta bait at first. Some have even required training sessions, including a live demo. Once you get used to it, it’s not too bad.