Prayer Letter #5


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Helen Greaves               March/April 2002

Prayer Letter #5 

Birthdays, drama and

papier mâché… 

Dear All,

I think time is playing tricks on me; it seems to be passing unusually fast.  Lexi and I have been here half of our time and I can hardly believe it.  Most of this month has not been as frantic as the previous one but there is still plenty to say in this letter just from the things that we encounter from day to day. 

From the tree to the cup…

Just recently I have experienced some wonderful and very different ways of living.  A few weeks ago Lexi and I were invited for a meal at the home of our Amharic tutor.  As it was a Sunday we attended his church in the morning and took pleasure from our most enjoyable service yet.  Sitting between Mesfin, our Amharic tutor and Salamwhet, a friend from the Compassion school, we were whispered to for the hour-long sermon.  Knowing which passage our friend Tefie was preaching from and through the testing of our very small vocabulary we managed to get the gist of about 80% of the sermon!  What a great feeling! 

This special day got better and better as we then enjoyed a very good meal at Mesfin’s house.  The meal consisted of the national food, injera, with wat.  Wat is the meat dish that accompanies the carpet underlay… err I mean injera and there are many other small dishes which you take small piles of onto your injera.  Actually the injera is definitely growing on me.  I don’t feel sick as I eat it now, which is a marked improvement!  The main meal was followed by coffee, and no ordinary coffee either. This was real coffee.  First the beans were collected from the coffee tree in the garden (yep that real!), then, very much against Ethiopian culture, we were asked if we wanted to help with the roasting and grinding.  Mesfin and his family have had quite a bit of contact with ‘forenge’ (foreigners) and so are used to our strange urges to have a go at the menial jobs like coffee making.  They don’t see the novelty themselves!  As for the roasting we weren’t quick enough and the grinding, not strong enough, pretty pathetic really but it tasted great at the end! 

Cheese, bacon and seeds…

The beginning of this month brought my birthday and it was a day to remember!  Lexi sent me on a birthday present hunt around the compound, which admittedly I wasn’t very good at.  I’m not the most observant of people but that made it even more fun.  I received some of the most inventive and well thought out presents.  These included things for which you had to be in Ethiopia to appreciate, like cheese, melon, bacon and eggs for lunch and seeds to plant in our garden.  Every present came with so much thought and effort and gave me a whole new perspective on giving! 

A visit to Bonga…

The last week of March brought visitors to Jimma from the UK.  The Baldwins had friends came over to stay so school was cancelled for two weeks.  Lexi and I jumped at the chance for a holiday so we arranged to travel to one of the remotest SIM stations to visit some friends. 

We traveled for 8 hours until we reached our destination.  Bonga is a large refugee camp near the Sudanese border and has 15,000 refugees, 10,000 of which are children under the age of 12!  Although we were still in Ethiopia we felt worlds apart from Jimma.  Bonga was hot, (40 deg C almost every day) the people were Sudanese not Ethiopian and the landscape, while still breathtaking was dry and sparse.  It was a whole new experience and a wonderful one at that.  Sudanese people are very laid back and friendly. Their skin is the blackest I’ve ever seen. They also laugh at everything, which creates a very cheerful and relaxed atmosphere. 

The three SIM-ers in Bonga are Claire, Mark and Melissa and we thoroughly enjoyed their company.  Another friend of ours, Julie, who is living and working with SIM in Addis Ababa, was also visiting Bonga at the same time, which was a real gift from God as we hadn’t planned it at all. 

Claire was in the throes of an Easter drama that the youth of the churches in the camp were going to perform a week after we got there.  Loving both drama and generally making a fool of myself, I offered my services and so found myself making donkey outfits, papier-mâché sheep and bombing it through the camp on the top of a 4x4 transporting the rock for Jesus’ tomb! (One of those things you only do in Africa!!)  The drama went well and it was incredible to see both the gospel and the hope that it brings proclaimed to thousands and thousands of refugees driven out of their own homes. 

I was so hot that you could spend the majority of the day just sitting and sweating…sorry glowing!  Being unable to do very much gave much opportunity for talking and sharing.  We had a wonderful break and returned to Jimma feeling refreshed.  

Things are going so well in Jimma, I am seeing answers to prayer all the time.  I am enjoying the language so much more and really feeling that I can use it a tiny bit!  Working at ‘Compassion’ is going so well and we are seeing the real characters of the children coming out.  They make us laugh every morning with their antics!  I also feel as though my relationships with those around me are developing too which is an answer to prayer.  Jimma is becoming more and more like home every day! 

Praise God: 

·        He is a faithful and unchanging God.  I’m learning to lean on him.

·        For a great holiday and break.

·        For our safety as we travelled. 

Please pray: 

·        That we would continue to teach to the best of our ability.

·        For our relationships with the local children.

·        For wisdom for both Lexi and I in the decisions we have to make every day about things like travel and visas. 

I want to thank everyone who has prayed, written, emailed and generally supported me over the months.  I am so blessed and your prayers are being answered every day.  Please join with me as I praise God for his faithfulness and provision. 

I pray that you would all know his grace and peace every day, 

                        Helen x 

‘…let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.’    Matt 5:16