Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Apostle University Training, Part 3

It took about 10 hours from Seattle to Amsterdam. We had a three-hour layover, then another 6 hours from the Netherlands to Khartoum, Sudan. This was our first taste of Africa as we waited on the tarmac for an hour. It was 100 degrees outside, and the airplane doors were open, allowing the air to "circulate". Less than 2 hours later we finally landed in Addis Ababa.

We arrived shortly after 9:00pm. Having waited for a long time to go through immigration, we got stuck at customs. We had to pay a deposit for the LCD projector we brought with us for our retreat! We initially balked at the idea of paying 100% of its retail price as a deposit, but in the end, we paid it and moved on.We were then greeted warmly by the staff of the Great Commission Ministry and were taken to the GCM's training center to spend the night.

Courtesy of Kerstin Pless Photography (c) 2012
The next day, Sunday, we visited Gospel Light Church. We went to the second service at this large congregation (about 2,000 attenders that day). I was not sure where their energy came from, being Ethiopian, or the Full Gospel tradition. Perhaps both! It lasted a little over 2 hours. Even though the service was in Amharic, we felt the presence of the Spirit! The message was simultaneously translated and made available via wireless receivers. The pastor walked us through the story of Samson from Judges 14 through 16.

We returned to the training center in the afternoon. We had three options for how to get down to Hawassa: public transportation (cheapest and most uncomfortable), charter a public bus with an unknown driver, or rent a van from GCM with our own driver. With this option, the van would be available during the training days as well in Hawassa.

Our team was interested in the second option. They didn't mind taking the public bus, but with all the luggage and equipment to drag around, chartering a bus seemed most logical. Then we couldn't get one at a reasonable price. So, we ended up renting a van from GCM. In retrospect, this was the best and safest choice.  

We had planned to leave Addis by mid-afternoon on Sunday. We ended up having dinner first because it had taken us longer to make an arrangement for transportation. We left the capital as the sun began to set.

After a nearly 4-hour drive from the capital of Addis Ababa, we arrived in Hawassa late on Sunday evening. There was one main road that connected the two cities. It was a two-lane road traversing through the highlands. It was lit only by the stars and our headlights. Then we came into a town that was teeming with people, cars and activity, even at the late hour.

Our team stayed at a hotel in Hawassa that night. The room had a mosquito net over the bed, a reminder that Malaria was a real threat in this part of the country.

Monday morning we woke up to the bustling sounds of a city and found our way to the courtyard for breakfast. While we waited for our food, we met the regional director of GCM. He was a man full of the Spirit and grace.

We needed to exchang our dollars into the Ethiopian Birr ($1 to 17 ETB). This became rather comical since their largest bill is a 100 Birr. Imagine getting thousands of Birr in 100 Birr currency! We were literally stuffing piles of money in our bags and purses! It made me a little nervous!

We then drove to the retreat site, a guest house owned by a denomination, Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus. Every property is enclosed by walls, usually of corrugated metal sheets. The guest house was spacious on the inside. There was a church/chapel, another building with a meeting facility, another building with rooms for guests. About half of the rooms had Western-style toilets. The other half shared a few toilets at the end of the building. Yes, there was a toilet that was a hole in the ground as well.

One unsolved mystery is that most of the western toilets were either missing their seats, or they were broken! That led to a few challenges.

Next time: Hippos and the monkey queen!