Ethiopian Spring (May 2006): Part 3
During our 2-week visit to various parts of Ethiopia, we purposefully checked on the results of our last 5-week visit. How was the Bible Memory Program doing? Were they having any trouble using the flannelgraph? What about the laptops? How was the building of the Burji meeting hall and the rural Alaba churches coming along?
The Bible Memory Program for the Alaba Town church and the Burji district churches will end September 10, 2006. This is the end of the Ethiopian calendar year. The Alaba churches reported that they have only 10 Bibles left, and the Burji church reported that they are already in need of 1,132 Bibles! I have alerted the International Bible Society in Ethiopia that we will be placing a large order for Bibles in September. The Deda congregation has completed their memory program; so we purchased 500 Bibles this trip, taking 200 of them to Alaba for distribution to the Deda people (see Report 5a).
Young people from the Alaba Town church proudly display their new Bibles.
I was very pleased with the supervision of this memory program. The deadline for the newly established churches in rural Alaba is September 10, 2007. This will give them about 1 ˝ years to learn 9 Bible passages. I discussed and demonstrated various ways for the leaders to teach the passages through song, drama, repetition, visual aids, etc. I wish you could have seen the excitement in their eyes as they began to catch a vision of what can be done!
Meeting with the leaders of the rural congregations in Alaba.
The flannelgraph sets that I had made are being actively used. In fact, we could not find any in the central office; they were all out in the villages! They had only a couple simple questions about their use. So I will go ahead and prepare the additional sets covering the New Testament. Set #5 will be the Life of Jesus; set #6 will be the Life of the Early Church, and set #7 will be the Teachings of the Apostles. Please pray for me as I prepare these sets. (Right: A flannelgraph lesson out in “the bush” of rural Alaba.)
Learning computers has a high learning curve. Imagine going from a society where even telephones are scarce, to a society that is computer-driven! The Alaba leaders are more computer-savvy now, but the Burji leaders need much training. The wife of one of the leaders is taking a 3-month computer course, which we hope will help. It was exciting to see them trying to learn, though, and with time they will get very good at it. More work is needed to help them in this area.
Our ministry to the visually impaired continues to be effective. At their request, we brought another 400 pairs of eyeglasses for distribution. I brought the Bible on cassette in the Amharic language for a blind boy in Burji. And I met again with another blind boy; this boy has a brain tumor which is growing fast. Nothing can be done for him medically, so I gave him all the pain pills I had. Please pray for him to be strong despite the pain. (Left: a dying blind boy in Burji.)
Working with my mother, I was able to follow up with the women in Alaba and Burji. How hungry they are to connect with their sisters in the things of Christ! In Burji, the women have their meetings from 5-6am on Thursday mornings. In Alaba, about 150 women gathered after the Sunday worship service for our time together. I spoke on Gomer from the book of Hosea. There is a Gomer in each of us; across the millennia, she is calling to us to return to the home of our Lord and be content with the provision and security He provides. Striving for the life of independence and self-sufficiency brings only ruin and degradation. (Right: Mom & I with two women in rural Alaba; their husbands are elders in the first church building we’ve built.)
Another aspect of our work that I checked on was the distribution and showing of the Jesus Film. By our Lord’s grace, I had been able to locate the Film in Alabinya, the tribal tongue of those living in the Alaba district. The Jesus Film people here in the United States made several copies just for me, straight from the master discs. What a time of celebration we had when I brought these copies out and turned it on! Do you remember Kadir in my last report? Well, he is the voice of the narrator! And another rural leader in the room was the voice of Jesus! Many years ago they had worked on this translation, but they had never seen the final product!!!! In our Lord’s grace, He allowed me to be the one to bring the project home, so that He could do a mighty work through it! What an amazing thing!
As a conclusion of this report, I want to speak of a precious woman. Her name is Fetiye. She is the mother of 2 living children. One recently died as a toddler, weakened like so many infants by amebic dysentery. When I went to visit her, Fetiye was gone. She had left her newborn in the care of an elderly woman, loaded her donkey, and had traveled to the nearest river to get water. She was gone about 4 hours. Why did it take her so long? As a way of trying to get the purest water possible, she was gathering her water from a little hole in the sand. This was slow work, waiting for it to drain into the sand bowl, then lifting it cup by cup out of the river into her water jug. And in the waning light of day, she and her donkey walked the long distance back to home. In the meantime, her newborn baby was heard crying in the hut. The elderly lady calmed the baby. How? Probably by feeding him river water.
My heart goes out to this precious sister of mine. Her life is so difficult. Like all women, she gets weary in the work of providing for her family. Her little ones need attention; her husband longs to sit with her. But she must work sun-up to sun-down. She has no “labor-saving devices,” except her faithful donkey. She doesn’t even have the bare necessities for safe food preparation, so her body is further hampered by digestive problems. What can be done to help?
The life of a rural Ethiopian woman is very difficult. Getting water is a big part of her day. Has our Lord appointed to us to help our sisters in this matter?
In the providence of our Lord Jesus, I not only had this experience visiting with Fetiye (so that I could see up close the struggle of life facing my sister), but I also was introduced to someone. This person actually went to school with me as a “missionary kid” in Ethiopia. Now he is conducting trials on drilling wells in Ethiopia with a new system developed by an IMB missionary in South America. This system costs only a couple hundred dollars, not the usual tens of thousands of dollars. It is designed to provide a simple well for 4-6 dwellings. Nathan and I had long discussions about the possibility of this system in Ethiopia. Imagine! A well beside each rural Alaba church, with a sign “I am the Living Water. He who comes to Me will never thirst, and He who believes in Me will never die.” Our sisters would have a great burden of work lifted from them; their families would have safe, clean water to drink; their little ones would have a better chance of growing to adulthood; they would have more time and energy to devote to their own spiritual growth and to training their children. And the message of the Living Water would come through loud and clear to all who came daily for fresh water!
We are still researching this possibility. The testing is being done in southern Ethiopia as I write this report. We will get the results of the testing, review the manual, and lay it before our Lord. Please keep this in your prayers, that we would know His mind in the matter.
Fetiye at her home in Alaba.
This report has been prepared by BeckyLynn (Lapsley) Black
If our Lord wants you to become involved with us in Ethiopia, please make your check payable to BeckyLynn Black. No tax-deductible receipt will be given, but a sincere thank-you note will be sent. 100% of your gift goes directly to the Lord’s church in Ethiopia. We pay our own expenses and we do not deduct for “administrative costs.” May our Lord bless you for your kindnesses to us and our brethren in Ethiopia.
June 30, 2006
Precious people in rural Ethiopia, whom our Saviour loves, and for whom He died.