On October 17, I traveled to Ethiopia for my third trip to Africa. Called a “vision trip” for our church, the trip was that of discernment for where God is calling our church to be in Africa for the mission of His Vision. This has undoubtedly been the most meaningful trip I have taken internationally, and to call it a “mission trip” does not come close to giving it the full justice of what it really was. My life has changed. Over the next seven days I will share with you the journal of this trip. While this does not directly relate to my life as an oncologist, my perspective at work since my return has been remarkably different. I pray that I can communicate with you the passion from this trip, and what I believe God is telling us all through this travel, this journey and through His word to us in scripture.
The journal here is a collection of the letters/emails I sent home while I was away. Although I started out just writing to my husband, this quickly evolved into a communication with everyone I love back home, hence the first person narrative. Each day I will add the next entry, so please check back tomorrow! With love and blessings, Heather
Day 1. Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. October 17, 2015.
DAY ONE…We have arrived in Ethiopia!
I am so sad you are not here with me on this trip. It is so different already, from the last time I visited 2 years ago. The flight was flawless…even though very long (Departed Greenville 3:00 am Friday morning, arrived in Addis Ababa 7:00 am Saturday morning, drove to our destination to ultimately arrive to first location around noon on Saturday; Greenville NC is 7 hours behind Ethiopia).
Regarding the flights and travel schedule, everything was on time. We were on a brand new plane which was very comfortable and the food was great. I was actually able to sleep during the flight – I think I got a total of 4-5 hours of sleep which was crazy. We arrived in Addis at 7:00 am (midnight your time) and actually got into our transportation at around 8:30. We were not rushing and I think we could have left even earlier than that if we had hustled. There were no glitches at the airport in Addis. A friend from my prior trip, Sami, met us at the airport and of course it was awesome to see him! He looks great, happy. We got in the van and stopped to pick up bottled water and a sim card for the cell phone we will use while we are here, then we headed out to drive to Lake Langano.
That drive was FOREVER. I think it took over 4 hours to get here. However, just outside Addis, there is a brand new interstate that is nicer than anything we have at home. Apparently China built it, to support all of the new growth and development in Addis. You would not believe how nice the freeway is…It just opened 3 months ago. There are dozens of brand new high rise apartment buildings along the interstate as well, also built by the Chinese, and apparently by Indians also. Very interesting all of the development here, which looked so new even since we were here last 2 years ago. The freeway closes at dark however, due to the danger in driving high speeds – something Ethiopian drivers apparently are not accustomed to.
So the drive on the interstate was good for a couple of hours, then it was back roads again. Most were paved, but most were dirt roads or lots of potholes.
The drive was so scenic, and so unlike any landscape I have ever seen. Dessert looking landscape interrupted with mountains and creeks and lakes. Lots of dry dead vegetation and so much brown dry dirt everywhere I felt like I was becoming clay colored. Everywhere you look people were herding cattle and calves, goats. I haven’t seen as many horses as we saw when we were here last, but we saw dozens of camels! We stopped at a small hotel called “Bethlehem Hotel,” and used the bathroom (a medical emergency for me and Teff at that point), and of course, then stayed for a coffee ceremony.
Lake Langano is south of Addis. The lake is massive, and muddy brown murky color (although free of parasites I am told), and we are staying at “Camp Langano.” We met with the camp’s organizer for lunch and got the scoop on this amazing place. Basically, the camp is organized and run by a husband and wife from California who are in their mid 30’s, through a larger organization called SIM. They hold weeklong sports camps here through the summer and during some winter weeks, specifically for Ethiopian kids who are not believers. The may be Muslim, or they may be raised in other faiths, but they are brought to the camp by their regular school coaches who are also networking with the organization. The program reaches many children who may not even get to come to the camp, but participate in other programs throughout the year, organized by the schools and sport coaches. Eighty to ninety percent of the kids who attend the summer weeklong camp will give their life to Christ as a result of this sports camp. It is amazing. Mission teams from all over the country come to help the staff here during the summer camps. Some volunteers are high school students, some are older adults. It reminds me of a young life camp. There is swimming, a zip line, a ropes coarse, games, cabins….and on top of that, there are monkees, baboons, horses, and HIPPOS here. (Although apparently hippos are very dangerous – do not get close to them as they will charge and attack humans!)…It is like going to summer camp in a national geographic special.
We finally have a little down time before dinner, after which I finally fell fast asleep….in a cabin with no power or AC … also with no highway sounds, street lights, or noise, other than birds and monkeys just outside our doors. It was the most peaceful place I can remember ever being.