Lord willing, we will be departing Ethiopia today. We leave with many fond memories of Addis Ababa and the two churches here that are part of the Sovereign Grace family. The first church, Covenant Life Church of Addis Ababa, was started here five years ago with a handful people. This past Sunday, they celebrated their fifth anniversary with approximately 1,000 people in attendance. A few weeks ago, they started a second church in the north part of the city; after only four meetings they have 300 coming each week to their Bible study outreach on Tuesday evenings. What's remarkable about this is that this is the only Protestant church in the area. As one of the pastors explained to me, Ethiopia grants freedom of religion as long as you register with the government. As a result, there are approximately 350 witches registered in the north Addis area.
During our trip, we visited many different religious facilities and some granted us permission to film. The Coptic Orthodox church is the dominant religion here, but Islam is growing. During one visit to a mosque, I stood outside with our guide while one of the crew went inside (women are not allowed in the mosque, or perhaps it is just non-Muslim women--it was hard to discern the answer). While I was standing there, a girl of about 8 or 9 approached me and apparently rebuked me for not having a head covering or dress. I couldn't tell what she was saying, but her gestures made it clear enough. After that, we thought it would be better when we visited the Muslim quarters of the city if I stayed with the van. The cameras were provocation enough.
We learned that Ethiopians are more private than Americans. They do not welcome being photographed out and about on the streets or in crowd shots. We had to ask permission wherever we went, which is not a problem, and we also had to be prepared to compensate them for it. It's a bit disconcerting to step out of the van with a camera and immediately be swarmed by outstretched hands. But I can't say I blame them. So many camera crews come and go, documenting their growth and misery alike. It's only right that they ask for something in return.
We often had the opportunity to mix missions with videography--praying for the children we met or investing in some small way in their lives. In a previous post, I mentioned meeting a girl with an eye infection. It felt so lame to write about it and not be able to do anything for her. So in God's wonderful providence, one morning in our hotel we met a man who was here with a medical team to treat eye infections and prevent blindness. He told us that it was likely this little girl had a common infection that leads to blindness. If memory serves, he said their team treated more than 4,000 people in the three weeks they've been here and it's barely putting a dent in the need. He arranged for a doctor to give me a prescription for the antibiotics she needed. Aman, the pastor here in charge of the outreach to her neighborhood, assured me he would get this medicine to her and let me know all about it. I was glad to be able to do one small thing while I was here--and in fact, I was challenged by the example of the guys on my video team who spent the week in their off-hours investing in a group of young boys who waited for them by the hotel entrance each day.
Though we've had a number of challenges since we arrived, we have seen the faithfulness of the Lord and His grace extended to us through the churches here. We have received generous hospitality and care from them and we will miss our new friends!
(Photos: The pastors and their wives at the anniversary dinner; an Orthodox icon; a Coptic Orthodox church; Muslim women taken through the window of our van; me with Menen, one of the women in the original Addis church who took care of us so well!)