We've had packed days and limited access to e-mail. Below are updates I had written last week. Today, we're off to meet the archbishop of the Catholic Church in Ethiopia as well as a number of evangelical colleges, learning from all what they're doing in the city of Addis. I'm learning lots. It's been good. I'll try to upload photos to Flickr. Not sure if it'll work.
Today was a really insightful day. On our tour of Addis Ababa the other day, I was watching people kneel in front of the church, praying for what could’ve been hours. I wondered if they truly had an understanding of the Gospel, or if their devotion is a blind desperation, if you will. It also didn’t make sense to me that they would pray to pictures of Mary and Jesus, or bring flowers or candles as gifts.
But today, we went to visit His Holiness, The Patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. (Basically, it means he’s like the pope of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church.) First, we were received by His Grace, The Archbishop of the Church in Southern and West Africa. (Those of you who know me well would know that I don’t usually pay much attention to titles. But we were drilled on the right way to address or talk about these men, so there you are. We visited with HH and HG.) Ray (our professor) explained to us various aspects of the liturgy, how, in the Orthodox Church, “worship is the recreation of the drama of our salvation.”
Going on a 2-hour tour of the Patriarch’s Museum (led by a very knowledgeable and enthusiastic tour guide) opened my eyes to much of this expression of worship. And while I don’t enjoy liturgy and traditional religion, it did make me wonder if we as modern-day charismatics haven’t lost some reverence for the cross.
However, I didn’t like how some Ethiopians were bowing before HH, kissing the end of his robe, and kissing the cross… Ray had explained that the kissing was merely a hope that the virtue of a person (or icon) would rub off on you. Still, to me, it seemed more like people were worshiping the person and the cross, both of which are merely pointing to Christ. I could be wrong
Today, we’re going to visit one of the slum areas of Addis to see the work Jember’s group has done. After that, we’ll be having a class on Poverty and Race. That should be interesting!
My roommate Bethany and I have been able to move out of our expensive hotel and move into Kristin Davis’ place. What a blessing! (I met Kristin once in Kenya. She’s the cousin of my former neighbor, Davis.)
Tomorrow, we’re having a “tourist day,” visiting the Nile Gorge as well as the oldest monastery in Ethiopia. Speaking of the Nile: I never realized how much of a source of contention the Nile has been in this part of the world. Egypt reaps all the benefits and balks every time Ethiopia, Sudan or Uganda want to use the water to irrigate their own countries. In fact, we were told that if Ethiopia could use the water in the Blue Nile and in Lake Tana for irrigation, they could grow enough food for all of East Africa. But they can’t. Egypt says the Nile is theirs. Someone even mentioned that they believe the next big war in this part of the world will be because of the Nile. Yikes, eh? (In case you’re confused by where Uganda comes into play: The White Nile starts there and the Blue Nile in Ethiopia. They merge in Northern Sudan.)
Friday & Saturday
Yesterday, we walked some of the slums of Addis. It’s hard to believe that 80% of the city’s people live in slums! And check this out: ALL the land in the country belongs to the government. You can own a house, but you don’t own the land. During the Derg era (communism), the government claimed all land. And though it’s now a federal government, they’ve not given back the land to the people. Crazy, eh?
So, anyway, we walked the slums to see the projects Jember’s group has done. They had broken down shanty homes and built brick houses with shared kitchens and communal pit latrines. (Some areas still simply have open sewage.) They built schools and youth centers, a daycare facility for the elderly, care centers for mentally and physically disabled. Projects you’d expect a government to take on, which they don’t.
People were friendly, and as always, the kids were adorable. No-one should have to live in slums, though. No-one.
Today, we’re going to visit a monastery in the Nile Gorge. Should be interesting. Oh, and BTW, I woke up last night to the laughing of HYENAS! In the city limits, yes. Kristin says this is one of the only African cities where they have to deal with the danger of hyenas. I lay in bed thinking, “That’s a hyena! No, it can’t be!” But indeed, it was.