Michael and Rachel Weller
Saturday, January 7 was Christmas Day in Ethiopia, and “doro wat,” a unique chicken stew, was the celebratory meal of choice. Ethiopian chickens are free-range, organic chickens - rather skinny but very tasty!
Michael and I celebrated Christmas on December 25 in two different countries. In Ethiopia, I enjoyed a Christmas service at the International Lutheran Church on Sunday morning and then gathered with the Presbyterian missionaries and a few others in the evening for a Christmas meal. Michael was in Sudan, where Christians celebrate Christmas on December 25. That day he was in Yei visiting PC(USA) mission co-workers Shelvis and Nancy Smith-Mathers who have recently arrived there to work with RECONCILE, an organization developing programs of peace and reconciliation. They attended the local Sudanese worship service in the morning and shared a meal together in the evening.
Our Christmas was simple, but we received many wonderful gifts. As you know, all our children are in the States working their way into adulthood. It has not been easy, but just before Christmas we received several gifts in the way of decisions about our kids’ futures. Amira has been looking for a satisfying job using her skills and training in art and industrial design. She had recently taken a job as a nanny for a couple who “coincidentally” are both industrial designers. In the meantime, we decided to give her some frequent flyer miles from Michael’s travels and send her to South Africa, where she attended high school. It turned out that Eric, the dad of the kids she watches, works for a company that designs a product they would like to market in Africa, so that company is paying her to do some research while she is there and then perhaps when she visits us in Ethiopia later. The week before Christmas, Thomas was hired by Dassault Falcon, an aircraft company in Delaware, starting January 16 after he moves there from Pittsburgh. And lastly, we decided to bring Lydia to Ethiopia to stay with us until the summer. The cost of college prevented us from enrolling her anywhere in the fall. We thought we had something worked out to allow her to start in January but when that didn’t materialize, we decided to bring her here and find something for her to do. She was excited about that, and we will be glad to have her around. So those were our big Christmas gifts, for which Michael and I are very thankful. Brian and Sheila had no such major decisions to work through this fall but are enjoying being together following Brian’s four-month deployment to Qatar last summer. They celebrated Christmas with Sheila’s family whom they don’t see often because of the distance. We thank God for his faithfulness to each of us and for the Gift he gave us which allows us to live as his sons and daughters enjoying the most Gracious Inheritance.
During our years of service, Michael and I have repeatedly struggled with our call. While we are more and more assured of God’s guiding hand in bringing us to Ethiopia, and now Sudan, to serve him through the PC(USA), we recognize that every Christian parent is called to raise their children in faithfulness to God, giving them opportunities to develop their skills and knowledge so that they can serve God in the way he calls them. Our call limits our abilities to offer our children stability, opportunities, and resources. There have been times when we have considered finding jobs that would allow us more financial freedom, but every time we start a “serious” search we have been quickly called back to the work God has asked us to do.
So we repeatedly put our children in God’s hands (and way too often yank them back into our own hands) yielding them to his care and guidance. While I would prefer to fill my newsletters with the wonderful things God is doing through us in Ethiopia and Sudan, I see that often the most important work God does in missionaries is the work he does in their own lives. Day by day, God is teaching Michael and me to trust him with the lives of our children and prods us to follow the path he designed for us. The gifts he gave us this Christmas are signs of his promise to provide, encouraging us to continue serving him in Africa.
God is at work in Africa as well as in our own lives. On January 4, Michael spent most of the afternoon on the phone and on skype helping to arrange a safety plan for Sharon Curry, PC(USA) mission co-worker living in Akobo, Sudan. I won’t go into the details of the problem (you can find them on the internet readily enough), but the generations-old conflict between the Murle and Luo Nuer of South Sudan has affected several towns in the area and is threatening to raise its very ugly head where Sharon was living. Sharon arrived in Akobo shortly before Christmas; Michael had escorted her there to introduce her to the church leaders and help her begin to get settled. We are grateful for good communications - phone, skype, email, and facebook - allowing knowledgeable people in several countries and states to confer, advise, and pull strings. The final string was pulled, though, by the pilots of the UN evacuation flight who bent the rules to allow Sharon and some kids on the flight, though they had not been cleared. At the end of the day, we breathed a sigh of relief, gave thanks to the real String Puller, and enjoyed a supper together with our friends and colleagues, John and Gwen Haspels, who were in town. We continue to pray for real peace to take hold in South Sudan.
Michael and I have just made arrangements to drive to Gambella taking enough belongings to make a guesthouse there look like a home, temporary though it will be. Our plan is to stay through February; I may stay into March or longer, unless there’s a reason I should return to Addis for anything. We hope to begin moving on building a permanent place to live while we’re there. I am eager to begin working with Akwata and the Abobo CHE work and to help teach the CHE method in the Baro Bible School (Nuer). In addition, I will spend time at the clinics to help strengthen their services and learn what the real challenges and strengths are at each. If my last stay there was typical, I should have better internet connection from Gambella than I do from Addis. Electricity is the problem, but I will be getting a new battery for my computer soon, which should allow me a bit more freedom, too.
As usual, we would not be here without your encouragement and support. We thank God for you who are faithful to pursuing his call in the world.
Rachel and Michael Weller