2/22/15 – What? I’m preaching?!?!

This morning I awoke at 5:30am, had a nice read and got all packed for the trip to Addis. I went down to breakfast early at 7:30 to journal with a cup of coffee and, fortunately, Greg and Rhonda came down at 7:45 and Greg asked me what I was going to preach on at church. My face dropped, Don had asked me yesterday at the prison if I would like to preach at church today and I enthusiastically agreed to. I have never preached in a church before and would love the opportunity, but it completely slipped my mind until Greg asked the dreadful question. The look of shock on my face must have been priceless.

I quickly started reading a Spurgeon sermon and decided to preach on The Consolation in Our Suffering. I scarfed down my omelette and retreated to my room for 80 minutes of study and preparation before we had to leave for church. I prayed with all my heart that God would give me strength and that he would be glorified in my preaching.

We arrived at the same church where we held the conference Monday and had a great time of worship. I prayed the whole time that God would bring the right words. He brought several passages of scripture to mind that would be applicable- I have no idea if I quoted any of those scriptures during my message, though.

I delivered the sermon fairly fluently, made the points clear, engaged the church, encouraged them scripturally, and made an altar call. Three people in the church came forward and we prayed for them. I encouraged the church to raise these new believers in the faith, to stand beside each other, to encourage one another, and to keep their eyes toward their heavenly home. Overall I think it went well and the team encouraged me with kind words after the service.

After church we drove directly to Addis. The drive was warm but comfortable and, since we were on the new toll highway it was a very fast and smooth ride. I began reading a book Greg gave to me called “10 Years Inside Shelton Prison” written by a PFC volunteer. I hope that will be good airplane reading.

When passing the toll booths we saw a new ‘high rise’ housing development of a few thousand units. It is all under construction and none of the units are inhabited yet. We drove through a somewhat industrial part of town and a mixed use area and then approached downtown Addis Ababa. Addis is a very large city that appears to be growing rapidly. There are many more modern buildings here and a lot of construction in process. There is a new light rail system being installed. We assume it is going to be heading out of town directly to the new housing development.

After driving around for about an hour looking at two or three different hotels we wound up right back at Sheba Guest House where we stayed our first night when we arrived in Addis at 2:00am. This time the hotel has power and we are all much more rested.

We took 15 minutes to get settled and then headed out to go shopping. We sometimes call this our cultural experience but, in reality, the whole trip is the cultural experience, this is just our opportunity to look for something to take home for memories.

We drove past the government offices and the US Embassy and climbed the hill to an outdoor shopping area where they primarily sell linens. Greg’s altimeter showed 8,300 feet. Don was asking if they have or use any type of prayer shawl and, next thing we knew, Tadele, Meseret and Misraku had purchased a scarf for each of us. What a wonderful gift to remember them by.

We were all done shopping after very little time. Our hosts wanted to take us to the national museum. We ate dinner first at Lucy’s Restaurant. Lucy, the supposed Homo Sapien, was discovered in northern Ethiopia 40 years ago. The restaurant is named and themed after her. The meal was excellent with a large variety so everyone was ale to find a food to please them. I had another traditional Ethiopian meal – when in Ethiopia…..

We walked ½ block to the museum and found it was closed. I believe our hosts were disappointed because they really wanted us to see it. We had a really nice day, anyway.

Back at the guest house I called Susan one last time before returning the air card to Meseret’s phone. There was no time left on it so we heard each other’s voices for a moment but no conversation. Meseret was kind enough to allow me to use her SIM card all week so I would have to buy another one.

I took Tadele’s Missionary Partner Application Packet to him this evening along with his new business cards and some other materials he can use in the ministry. Apparently the bathroom in his guest house room was not working so they moved him to a very nice suite out back. It is a large stand-alone cottage/apartment with very nice amenities. I’m so happy, after all the hard work he has done, that he has received this great gift. It’s like he and Meseret have a honeymoon suite. A very nice getaway after a long, hard week. I would not be surprised to learn that this is the nicest place they have stayed – I hope so.

I have now packed completely and am ready to head home. It’s been a fabulous trip, among the best, certainly.

2/20/15 – Yirga Alem Prison

We left the hotel around 7:30am and stopped for soap along the way which took about 30 minutes to find someone that had enough and could write a receipt.
We passed once again through the Rift Valley, we have done so several times.

Highway under construction – dirt road
There is great poverty in Ethiopia. Children wearing tattered rags. They always wear a shirt. I have seen nobody without a shirt on, even children who are wearing no pants. Some children have an adult t-shirt on like a dress.

Over 3,000 men in Yirba Galem prison and 80 women with 20 children ranging from infant to roughly 3 years old.
The entrance came upon us quickly so we weren’t prepared to photograph the entrance as we approached, this happens as often as not.
We drove the van past many women who appeared to be waiting for a visit and we entered the prison courtyard. There were weaved baskets and other like goods hanging from hooks at one end of the prison – we were told they were made by inmates to be sold on the outside. There was also a bank sign, seeming like there was a bank there, which I can’t figure why, there must be another reason the sign is there.
We met with a social worker who spoke good English and a couple other officers, only one in uniform. We were told we are very welcome and could do whatever we need to in our program. We will also be able to visit the women and children.

We were walked through another gate we entered the main prison courtyard. It was roughly 75 yards across in each direction. We were a spectacle and all the men are sure amazed to see us coming through, especially Rhonda and Carol. I have occasionally heard what are obviously inappropriate comments (occasionally in English) in other prisons but I didn’t sense that today. The men always stare with great interest but when I/we smile and wave at them they smile really big and wave back, as if to be happy that we noticed them and acknowledged them. We are almost always made to feel welcome, and we certainly were today.

We walked back behind a building and through a very small door (we had to duck) into a narrow hallway with a couple more short doors on either side leading to very small rooms. Then I realized this was the rear entrance to the stage/platform of the prison church. I thought briefly to myself “anything could happen to us in here”. I felt no fear, nor did I think anything bad would happen, but I was walking into a rather claustrophobic one way path that, if desired, someone could shut us in here forever.

Perhaps this is how a sheep or livestock feels when led into their final destination (the difference being they are oblivious). Or perhaps this is how a man or woman feels when they are escorted into a prison where they will be spending a large part of their life. Fear, despair, hopelessness, terror, remorse, anger, despondency. I am only entering for a short time and leaving. I often need to stop and think, in these situations and experienced, and reflect upon the hearts and souls of these men and women. What can I say to them? How can I encourage them? How can I relate to them? Praise GOD for his Gospel of truth. His Gospel that brings freedom. His Gospel that sets the captive free.

We walked in to a packed house. There were hundreds (probably 700) men already inside and many more were trying to squeeze in through the door into the standing room only sanctuary. There were other men standing outside the window of the platform where we were standing. It was REALLY HOT with all these bodies in this 40’x60′ room, especially once the pastor starting leading them in worship and they all were jumping up and down for about 10 minutes.

They started removing the six 3’x3′ wooden windows and handing them outside – that was the only ventilation we had. I am reminded of the great crowds that came to hear Jesus, and the paralytic man that was lowered through an opening in the roof, these men were hanging into the windows to listen. I am certain there were many, many men that never bother to enter that church but a crowding in because we are here, another way God blesses this ministry – even when we aren’t able to preach in open courtyard God still brings many lost sheep to hear his message of salvation.

We were allowed to take photos so I handed the camcorder to Tadele and he walked among the crowd. I haven’t had a chance to look but I’m sure there will be some great footage (do we still call it footage when it’s digital?).

Everyone did a great job at the service. Brent introduced the ministry (IGL message) Greg was emcee, I gave my testimony, Brent did the short sermon and Don did the long sermon about Bartamaos.

As we were leaving Kassahun (our driver) clipped a decorative planter box and slightly damaged the van. It was eating on him all afternoon. I’m not sure of the arrangement with the rental car but I suspect he owns the vehicle and contracted with the rental company to be our driver for the week. He takes very good care of his van, gets frustrated when we close the door too hard and works hard to keep the outside clean. He has been sleeping in his van every night, I think.

2/23/14 – Departure Day – The Long Goodbye – God’s Favor is Endless

Today will be difficult. We have come to love Tadele, Misraku and Meseret and we know it will be a long time until we see each other again. The bond of love that is formed when Christian brothers and sisters serve together is inexpressible and miraculous. It is amazing how The Lord has created a special and unique relationship between his children, even amongst those who have never met on the other side of the world. We are united in a bond of peace and a common joy that cannot be understood outside the family of God.

We have met many great servants of God this week. Tadele has gathered a great team of volunteers and church leaders. He has created a trusted team of advisors and is doing great and hard work in the prisons of Ethiopia. My prayer is that God will bless him and his family and the ministry of PFC Ethiopia. I pray we, as a ministry, will be able to return soon and that I will at some point also be able to return to Ethiopia to serve alongside him. I also pray God will bless Misraku with a wife, he desires one and said to me the first day “it is not good to be single” so I pray, Lord, that as Misraku continues in his service to you that you will bring a woman with a heart of Godly service to him to fulfill his dream of marriage.

Immediately after I awoke the call to prayer began at 5:30am. Don and I both slept well. However, I don’t know how much difference it will make, we are about to wart a 23 hour journey home. We will be at the Addis airport 3 hours early, a 2 hour flight to Nairobi, a 5 hour layover, an 8 hour flight to Amsterdam, a 5 ½ hour layover and a 10 hour flight home to Seattle. My sleep schedule will be shot once again. Just as we get adjusted with our body clocks we need to leave and do it again.

Perhaps a first for mission trips occurred this week – warm showers all week. I’m sure there has been at least one cold shower on every previous trip but we’ve been blessed that way this time. Greg and Rhonda, however, have no cold water in their room, only scalding hot.

What a beautiful morning. It feels like late spring/early summer back home. About 50 degrees, clear skies and birds chirping. A big change from where we’ve been the rest of the week with horns honking, exhaust fumes, people hollering, etc. We are in a very nice compound, very relaxing. I hear a rooster crow and a cute little dog with a ball protectively grasped in his mouth comes up to me with a happy prance. This was a great trip. Thank you, Jesus.

Brent paid the bill and was shocked to learn this guest house was more than triple the cost of the other places we’ve stayed all week. Live and learn. We still came in way under budget on the entire trip. Tadele did a great job setting everything up and Brent did a great job as treasurer for our team.

After a breakfast of French toast with maple syrup we said our thanks’ and goodbyes to the Ethiopian team and planned our exit for home.

We were told it would be about 30 minutes to the airport. We know that often winds up being twice as long so we decided to leave the guest house at 11:15am. Our hosts were in the car waiting for us at 10:45am so we piled in and left at 10:55, arriving at the airport at 11:05. We are almost four hours early for our flight. There is nobody’s at the counter and, since we are so early, we are told we may not even be allowed into the airport. Don asked everyone he could find if they knew when someone would be at the check-in counter. No got no answer so we waited while Tadele tried to find out. More waiting, but we expect that in Africa, and we have plenty of time. The weather is absolutely perfect, 80 degrees and sunny with a very slight breeze. I can wait out here all afternoon.

Goodbyes were quick but difficult. I don’t know when I will see them all agin, but I sure hope it’s soon. I feel the same way about all the other missionaries I’ve served with around the world, too, and I doubt I will see them all again while we remain in these bodies, but I have assurance the day will come when every one of us will be together with our faces bowed down and our voices raised, all of us singing joyful praises to the one who brought us all together. What an awesome God we serve!

After waiting 30 minutes for a gate agent we were all checked in quickly and headed through security. She gave Cloud Nine lounge access to Greg and me, with rights to bring one other person with us. Don decided since we were so far under budget we could each eat a meal in the airport here and in Amsterdam. Generally, once we set foot in the airport we are on our own for meals, in the same way we are on our own when leaving home until we arrive at our destination country. However, before we do that, let’s check out the lounge. I went in and found a buffet of good food and beverages and the man at the counter said he would let us each bring an extra person in with us. Thank you, Lord! Everyone was already seated at a table at the airport restaurant when I stopped them from ordering and we all went to the lounge. It was a nice place to kick up our free for 90 minutes and have some good eats.

It was a rather bumpy take-off and we hit some turbulence as we climbed but once we reached cruising altitude it was smooth ‘sailing’. I put some good praise music in my ears and reflected with tearful joy on how great our God is, the great promises we have in Jesus, all the work The Lord had done through us through the ministry he gave us this week, the love I have for my team, and how blessed I am to have such a beautiful and loving wife at home awaiting my return. He fulfills all my dreams and more. His blessings overflow

The ride became a little bumpy for a moment on our decent into Nairobi but smoothed out quickly. When we got off the plane onto the tarmac we got onto the wrong bus and it took us to the customs area for people entering Nairobi. We had to go through health screening. Africa is very serious about Ebola right now. We had to fill out health cards, answering several questions about our health and where we had been. We then were screened for our temperature by temperature-sensitive cameras, we could see ourselves on the screen overhead. When we had entered Addis last week we went through a similar system where they had us look at the camera, it scanned our heads, and then let us pass through.

We then realized, when we reached customs, that we were in the wrong terminal. We boarded the bus again which took us to the international terminal. Greg and I went upstairs to the Pride Lounge and were told that we have access for ourselves and one other person each. We kindly asked if we could bring the other two people on our team and she was very gracious and allowed us. God is so good. We are now in the lounge, relaxing in comfort with food and beverages during our 5 ½ hour layover before our next 8 hour flight to Amsterdam.

2/19/15 – Awassa & Shashemene Prisons

We left the hotel at 8:50am to buy soap for the inmates. While we waited Carol and Rhonda bought a cup of coffee from a young lady with a coffee stand on the side of the alleyway. We decided we are going to go back there every morning for coffee. Carol and Rhonda are in love with her, telling her she is so beautiful, taking pictures of her and embarrassing her 🙂

We arrived at the prison about 9:20am. The same officer we met with us Tuesday was there to greet us. As we entered the prison they patted us down (the officer accidentally almost started Carol down) and them they let us in with our bags and backpacks without looking in them (the pat down was, therefore, unnecessary). We walked through the courtyard to the prison church. As always we are stared at and they are excited when we wave to them. This has become very ordinary over the past few years. Although every experience and prison is unique, it is no longer overwhelming or surprising and I have become comfortable being amongst the men and interacting with them as we enter and walk through the prison.

We were blessed to be able to use our cameras inside the church so I was able to video the church service and the yard behind the church. The Officer in Charge even allowed us to take a photo with him in the courtyard in front of the prison entrance and visiting area that I mentioned in yesterday’s update. We were also able to take video in his office when we prayed over him.

The service was long, about 2 ½ hours. There was very loud and lively worship and prayer and at least one tribal song at the end of the music. Don introduced the ministry during the IGL message and introduced Greg who served as Emcee for the service. Carol gave her testimony, Brent gave the short sermon (using the analogy of a little boy that made a toy sailboat that blew away and he later saw it in a store window and bought it from the store owner in able to get it back – you can see the resemblance of Christ’s sacrifice for us). Then I presented the long sermon (Believe It Or Not) and Don did the altar call. Brent offered the healing prayer followed by Carol praying for the inmate church leaders and presenting the gifts to the inmates.

The service was filled mostly with believers, the current prison church, but there were many other men seated outside. We were told after we left that there usually aren’t nearly as many men in the worship services in that prison but many of the men were there listening because we were there. That is very common. Three inmates came forward during our altar call, three men that I believe by the looks on their faces, their body language and their behavior that they were truly repentant and had been born again during our service. Praise God! What a blessing.

After the service they invited us behind the church to show us an area where the church collects water to allow inmates to shower once per week. They can’t provide showers for everyone, only about 50 per week. We were told there is a water shortage so they haul the water up during the week and collect it on the roof. They then have some PVC pipe running along the top of the fence to a series of 4 shower heads, a gravity-fed shower system. We were able to take photographs and video since we were still within the church area.

As I mentioned Tuesday the entire prison is secured by wooden fencing. I wondered what keeps an inmate from escaping. He looked at me funny as if to say “why would someone be so foolish”. He said “The guns keep them in”. If an inmate tries to escape he’ll be shot. If an inmate does escape the guard will wish it never happened, so the guard won’t hesitate to take whatever action in necessary to keep it from happening. I’m sure it’s one of those situations that never occurs because the inmates know it.

When we left the prison we were invited back into the Warden’s office where we were welcomed to return and he allowed us to pray for him. After leaving his office I asked him if we could take a photo of him and our team, he obliged. He stood between me and the visitors’ area so we got photographs of that area after all, a real blessing.

We returned to the hotel room for five minutes to get snacks and prepare for another one hour drive north to Shashemene for another prison visit.

We came to a traffic checkpoint along the way and the officer welcomed me since I was sitting in the front seat. He spoke very good English and he asked where we are from. When I told him USA he said “we are brothers. We fight Al Qaeda, too”. We all had a good laugh. Where is the video camera when you need it (not that I would ever consider having my camera out during a traffic checkpoint).

Along the way we came across a Baboon mother and child with dad trailing not far behind. We stopped to take a few photos and continued on. When we arrived in Shashemene we stopped to get more soap and I sat in amazement at what I was seeing on the road in front of me. The poverty level in this town is clearly much more dramatic than the rest of the areas we have been. Greg was outside inconspicuously watching everything and taking a few photos. I asked him to come sit on the corner with me while I let my video camera run for a few minutes. We sat for about 15 seconds before people started staring at us and about another 30 seconds before people came and told us we weren’t sitting in a good place. I moved up onto some stairs and almost immediately a guy was yelling at me. He was yelling at me for taking photos. We slowly walked up to the van where our driver and the other nationals could translate and tell the guy to leave us alone. It was a dumb move on my part but I learned (what I should have already known). In a few minutes the guys had calmed down (for the most part) but people were still hovering all around us.

When we arrived at the prison we were told the officer in charge was not there and we had to go get him. We drove back to town and, for some reason, we didn’t pick him up, we returned to the prison and he was there. He invited us into his office where we introduced ourselves and Carol presented gifts to him. He told us the greatest need there was to build a chapel for the inmates to worship and he was hoping we could provide for it. Greg very elegantly explained our ministry and our limitations and our purpose but told him to please let us know after the service what the cost would be to build the chapel so we could pray for it.

We entered the 2,000+ inmate prison and were swarmed (at a reasonably safe distance) by about 300-400 men. One of the officers showed us an area on the ground, out in the open, where there were mats and towels laid out on the dirt. This is where many inmates are sleeping. The prison was built for 500 inmates but they now have over 2,000 so many of them sleep outside and have no rooms. We then walked around the back of an area where inmates were shooting pool and playing foosball and we came to the current chapel. It was a perfectly adequate building with mud walls and plenty of benches for seating. We proceeded with our service to mostly Christian men. Greg advised us to speak words of encouragement to the men in the church since it seemed to be mostly church members. Brent gave his testimony and then I encouraged the men out of 1 Peter to stand firm through trials, to remember that they are in this place so God can work in them, that they are the light to the men in the prison that don’t know Jesus, that they have a promised inheritance, that their home is not here, to stand firm for Jesus, and to stand firm with one another. Greg then spoke to the faithful men to continue in their work, to the believers who aren’t walking firmly to turn back, and to those that don’t know Jesus to turn to him. We were told we only had a few minutes so we gave the soap, Bibles and Bible Study booklets, threw the soccer ball out to them and then we left.

As we were just about to go back to the Officer in Charge’s office another officer told me to come with him. He showed me the area where they want to build the chapel. I asked him if I could take some photographs to take home to show our supporters at home and he allowed it. I was able to get some video of the prison grounds but not the main prison courtyard.

On the way home we threw candy to the children and had a great time of fellowship. After dinner we all came back to the hotel at about 8:00pm so everyone could crash after a really long and hard day. What a great ministry. We are so blessed to be used of God in this way, to bring the least of the least to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ, to form new relationships around the world, to meet with other believers and work in a common purpose, and to serve the Creator of the universe with joy in our hearts. Tomorrow is another day in service to our King and I am so eager to get out and be used in such a powerful way.

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2/18/15 – Halaba Prison and Conference #2

The people of Ethiopia express agreement or understanding or affirmation of a comment by breathing in with their mouth in the way that we express shock or awe, when we are caught off guard or are stunned by something and we suddenly breathe in deeply.

Their day starts at 6:00am so the time we call noon is 6:00 for them. They even set their clocks that way…when I looked at the clock today at 11:00 their clock on the wall said 5:00. They also use a different calendar…it is currently 2007 in Ethiopia. Nobody can tell me why, though.

I went to bed early last night and slept better but still had times of waking and having difficulty going back to sleep.

We had a really good breakfast of eggs, a sort of salad made of cabbage and tomatoes that was really good, and Injera Fir Fir. The tea was a spice tea and the coffee was really strong (as it has been all week 🙂 We also had fresh Papaya Nectar.

We left the hotel shortly after 7:00am for the prison. The country has a good infrastructure with fairly nice roads (paved everywhere we have gone so far).

It is late Wednesday night as I post this, it was written in the car on the way to the prison, no time to type tonight. However, the highlights are that we were granted entrance into the prison of 329 inmates (212 men and 17 women) where we held a service for 130 in the prison church that was constructed in 2007 (I don’t know who’s 2007) by Prison Fellowship Ethiopia according to the sign above the door. 6 men came forward with apparently contrite hearts to receive Christ.

The conference was a big success with about 50 attendees, nearly all of which committed to work in prison ministry.

It was a hot day, the hottest of the week.

Tomorrow we will be holding services in 2 different prisons, the first being Awassa, right behind our hotel.

The team is doing great and we are all very encouraged and healthy.

2/17/15 – Awassa

We ate breakfast at 6:00am and left the hotel at 7:50 to make the journey to Awassa. It was a nice, pleasant drive on nice roads and it gave me time to journal about the past couple days and shoot a lot of good video. I was also able to take some time reading through Ephesians, what a wonderful book full of promises and the truth of who we are in Christ.

As is common, we saw some kids on the side of the road and we slowed down to throw handfuls of candy out to them. They get so excited and it is so much fun to see the smiles on their faces and their screams and giggles. I’ve never seen anyone get hurt yet as they scramble for goodies.

We arrived at the hotel shortly before noon and were checked in to our $20/night rooms in short order. We rested for a couple hours before heading to Awassa Prison where we will hold our first prison crusade.

We left the hotel at 2:00pm to get soap for the inmates. It turns out the prison is right behind our hotel. To get to the prison one must drive around the back of our hotel and through the prison gate. There is a corrugated fence on the back side of the prison compound along the road. Once you enter the compound it is all wood fences, 8 foot sticks made into fence. Once entering we come to the yard where firewood is stored and the meals are cooked. There was a fire burning in a corrugated and wood hut, presumably cooking dinner. There are goats and cows roaming free and many people walking up and down the road. As we drove along the wooden fence we past a guard tower and several officers who waved us through. As we drove up to the secured prison area the first thing we came to was a visitation area where there were approximately 60-80 people sitting on benches at the visitation area.

Please bear with me, words cannot describe what we saw next but I’m going to try to paint a picture. There is a wooden cage, for lack of a better explanation, around the prison entrance. It is about 50 feet long with a bench built into it on either side. It is built of 2 inch diameter sticks spaced far enough apart to be able to see each other and talk through them to each other but not spaced enough to be able to hand anything through or reach your arm through. This is the visitation area. Sit on one side and talk through the wooden “bars” to the inmate. This is a very primitive prison. We all commented with awe when we saw it. We have all seen many, many prisons but none of us have ever seen anything like this.

We weren’t able to take any photos so, unfortunately, nobody will ever be able to see what we saw . Oh, wait, yes you can, you can come with us next time, a great idea in my opinion 🙂

We parked in the “parking lot” and met with the officer in charge in his office. The head officer was not there so we met with the next in command. He was very happy to have us there, he told us we are welcome anytime, and was very thankful for our presence, our purpose and our gifts. He is also a Christian and is very glad that we came to share the love of Jesus with the inmates.

It turns out there is another unexpected program going on in the prison so we weren’t able to hold a service today but he scheduled us to return Thursday morning. We have had a change of schedule (as can usually be expected) and our Thursday morning schedule was open so that is what we will do.

We offered to lay hands on the officer and pray for him and he gladly accepted and kneeled down in his office. He was such a humble man and very welcoming. We are excited to return in a couple days.

When we returned to the hotel we went upstairs to one of the rooms and that had a clear view of part of the outer yard and we took some photographs.

Tadele brought his wife Meseret to join us this evening. I didn’t realize it but Awassa is the home of Tadele. Meseret will be joining us at the conference and, I believe, for the prison visits, as well. She volunteers with him in the ministry.

They took us to Awassa Lake for some sightseeing before dinner. When we arrived there a guy was standing at the entrance of the park collecting money to drive in. Meseret got out of the van and told him he’s lying and being dishonest and she’s not going to pay him. We drove past and then came to a few big stones placed in the roadway that approaches the beach. Our driver got out to move them and started talking firmly to some teenagers that were trying to block the road in order to get paid, they were trying to play the same tricks. He moved the stones and we got to the edge of the lake where there were some really large birds (I can’t remember what they’re called) and some small monkeys. The boys were feeding these WILD birds and the monkeys and trying to get us to pay them for letting us watch them eat. There were also some much younger boys (under 10 years old) dancing for us in hopes of getting paid. We don’t know if these were lost boys or just some boys trying to earn some cash. We took a bunch of photos and then went to dinner.

We went to a lakefront walk where there were many vendor stands and lakeside restaurants (shacks), all of them serving fish. We had whole fried fish and apple soda for dinner. It was a beautiful setting and we were there on the lake during sunset, a gorgeous and wonderful evening.

Tomorrow will be a prison service in Halaba in the morning and then our second conference will be held in the afternoon back here in Awassa. It’s going to be a busy day. It was between 85-90 degrees today, a lot warmer than it was in Addis and Adama.

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2/16/15 – Conference day – Adama

Our conference began at 9:00 so everyone met for breakfast at 7:30. It was a good meal with plenty to eat. We arrived at the church at roughly 8:45 and we were ready to go at 9:00 with only a handful of attendees. We all gathered for prayer and then considered delaying our start time if necessary but after a brief time of worship and prayer there were about 40 people in the room. We got started with our training and, after introductions and opening by our emcee, Don, our teaching topics began at about 10:30 and there were 65 people in the room
Everyone did a great job with their teachings. We took a tea break after session 2 and it was some of the best tea I’ve ever had. Everyone else agreed. I asked the hostess if she could get me some to take home. She said she would make me some and asked how many kilos I’d like to buy. I guess she makes it with a blend of tea, coffee and spices and JUST A LITTLE bit of sugar, I’m sure 🙂 We will each be bringing some home to share.

Lunch was served at 12:30, the same meal I had for lunch yesterday. It seems this is the traditional meal, I have seen many other people eating it, as well.

The 65 in attendance all stayed until the end of the conference and everyone was very attentive until the end.

I have been taking lots of video on this trip and hope to try my hand at some video editing to help share the memories as well as helping others to see what these campaigns are all about in hopes of bringing more people along in the future. This ministry is such a blessing, I want everyone to share in it.

Tadele and Misraku were receiving lots of phone calls at dinner from attendees that were extremely grateful for the teaching. Their phone kept ringing after dinner. I was still full from lunch so I only ate a bowl of tomato soup while I watched Misraku eat raw meat, a very common food here. It looked something like ground beef. I could look it up on the internet but it’s suddenly not working right now – no surprise 🙂

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