Sunday, April 27, 2008


I keep reading something like this: "Millions of blogs created with Google's Blogger are unavailable in Ethiopia . . ."

Can anyone confirm?

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Pain in the Back

So I made the mistake of trying to lift the lawnmower about three feet off the ground myself. The result: my back has been "out" since Wednesday. So I have been sleeping, laying on my back with heat and ice, sleeping, doing some reading and tv watching, a very little bit of prayer, sleeping, heating and icing. My kids say I look like an old man as I shuffle around the house.

So what do I take away from it - resting in the Lord. Sometimes things just happen to us that we can't control; our plans get set aside because of our limitations. As Americans we hate this. We are good at removing obstacles, whether they be a person, a system, or a piece of technology; that which does not serve our immediate need for efficiency or expediency gets removed.

Thankfully God is not like that. He is strong when we are weak. Which is exactly how I have been feeling.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Making a New Friend

At tonight's meeting I met Seifu Ibssa, a Sacramento man who sold one of his cars and other good stuff to raise money to help his home village in Ethiopia obtain clean drinking water. He is the head of East African Village Outreach. I would encourage you to look over his photo links. You will have a good idea of the how the region where I am going looks.

Servealongside received another donation today;I think I know who you are - ameseginalehu!

Monday, April 21, 2008

What I Learned Yesterday

We held our monthly teacher's meeting yesterday. This time it was led by a couple who have traveled many times to Masha. Here is what I gleaned from the meeting:

1.. Rats regularly visit the Masha guest house so it is advisable to purchase a mosquito netting tent like the one pictured above. It can be placed on top of the bed with the mattress and blankets inside the tent.
2. There will be three other people besides the teachers traveling as a support team. They are in their sixties. That puts me as the youngest member of the team.
3. No military looking clothing allowed.
4. That it is essential that I go on this mission primarily as a humble student. One of the major mistakes of short-term missionaries is failing to respect a people who have been at life as long, if not longer, than them.
5. Pack light ( I plan on bringing very little clothing as I can purchase any additions in the Masha market.)
6. When we attend church we will most likely be asked to share very briefly, in front of the entire congregation. We need to think carefully about what we will share. We should say something affirming of the local culture.
7. Pens are a status symbol amongst students. We supply each student with one pen.
8. We should not buy gifts for our students. We want to be very careful not to create an unhealthy dependence or set high expectations for whoever goes next year.
9. I will most likely have a class of 50 students.
10. I will have a wall painted with black paint as a board to teach with.
11. If I want to use the internet I will have to travel to a different town.
12. We will leave July 6 and return August 6.
13. The students' ability level is about 4th to 6th grade.
14. The students will think our class if fun compared to the national teachers.
15. The national teachers discipline their students by forcing them to kneel on the floor with straight backs for about an hour.
16. We may be teaching with national teachers or have only two teachers. If there are only two U.S. teachers we will have to limit the program to 100 students.
17. We need two more U.S. teachers.

Lord Willing

So I am learning and realizing that I might have some technology issues to work through. My ability to post will depend on several factos:The availability of telephones lines, the flexibility of the manager of the telephone office in a nearby town, the conditions of the roads, the version of Internet Explorer, etc.

I am currently writing from a computer that does not recognize any of's buttons (hyperlink, insert, etc.) and so I can't upload the map until I reach home.

Thanks to Chanman ( for linking my site. Perhaps I'll have to have him blog for me in absentia (I have not checked with him yet about this, but can't imagine him saying no). So what I might be able to do is email him my posts, picture, and videos and have him post them on my blog. I think that would work - oh, the wonders of technology.

A first lesson learned - the resources just might not be there. It is why my favorite phrase has become, "Lord Willing".

Where in the world?

The town where I will be working is called Masha (or Maasha). It can be found on some maps of Ethiopia. The map connected to this post shows roughly where it is, located between Jima and Gore. I found out yesterday that there is no road directly from Addis Ababa. We will drive from Addis to Metu to Jima, stay the night, and then drive the next day to Masha. The roads are dirt or mud, depending on how much it rains.

Friday, April 18, 2008

From Ethiopia? Awo!

So the plan for this blog does not just cover stateside. I plan to update this blog from Ethiopia, embedding video and pictures. Even though the region is very poor, there is a computer at the school. I am really excited about using technology is this way, Lord willing.

In the meantime enjoy the photos. I did not take them, but found them in cyberspace. They are both allegedly of the region to which I will be traveling. One is of Maasha and the other of the countryside. Can't wait to see it for myself.

Am I Really Doing This?

Their suits were not tailored in the American style, and they were not men of impressive stature or appearance. But when they stood before a small group of interested people, what they shared moved me. They passed around their treasured Bible and spoke plainly about the hardships of the people in their region. There was no powerpoint slides or emotional music to move the soul. They just spoke simply, and it was enough.

Inside I knew I wanted to take action. I even held back tears. I nudged my wife, chiding her about me going this summer, and whispering, " I wonder if they need teachers this summer". To my surprise she gave a positive response. As a teacher, I have a substantial amount of time off, including those lovely summers; days of sleeping in, gardening, fixing up the house, attending conferences and workshops to climb up the pay scale, and taking care of things that the busy school year deprives me of. To give all of that up is a big sacrifice, but not so much on my part.

We have three children: A nine-year old girl, a six-year old girl, and a two-year old boy. My wife is homeschooling the children and relies on my support to run the household. Her saying "yes" to the trip meant that she will parent and run the household by herself for a whole month.

Being a woman of faith she understood immediately, and in fact, helped me to see that it was clear that I should go. At the time it was hard for me to commit to actually going to Ethiopia, even though my spirit, or the Spirit, was nudging me to go. To me there were some very real obstacles. I did not have the money, knew nothing about Ethiopian culture, and questioned my own physical, intellectual and emotional abilities.

When I first expressed interest, one of the elderly team members nearly broke down in tears. She told me I did not have to worry about money. She was right. At this point in time, fundraising has been the least of my problems. Several people in church have provided funds, a co-worker has made a sizable donation, and even one of my student's parents has promised a donation. Best of all my friend Asher Styrsky of Styrsky Insurance sent out a mass email to clients. The email promised to match funds for each donation received. At this writing my trip is nearly paid for because of Asher's generosity.

So now I am doing all I can amidst a busy school year to learn about Ethiopia. This experience will require a whole other post, as Ethiopian culture is very complex. I will share that I am writing this post while listening to Azmari I have no idea what they are singing about, but the music is very beautiful. Although learning about Ethiopia is a grand endeavor overcoming my own sense of inadequacy is monumental. But I am not alone in this work.

As a christian I take great confidence in gospel, and trust that " . . . he who began a good work in you will complete it." Even though I worry that my passport might take too long to arrive, or that the trip might get canceled, or that once in Ethiopia I might get seriously sick, or won't adjust well to the culture, or won't get along well with teammates, or blah, blah, blah . . . I go to Ethiopia, with this in mind: "Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus."