Viva Italia!

Written on 9/18/2007


            The ministry of Education has forced HOPE to start a week late so that all of the school’s teachers can attend a mandatory training. Also, Dr. Minas (President of HOPE), Zeneba (Executive Director of HOPE), and Geneti (Branch Manager at the Ayer Tena HOPE School where we work) are in Zambia to go to some workshop. Basically that leaves us with not many responsibilities as far as school is concerned and a lot of free time on our end. So what have we done the last few days? Well, I’d love to tell you…

            On Sunday, for the second time, we attended the International Evangelical Church a few kilometers from our house. We walked for about twenty minutes because we couldn’t find a taxi, then we rode a taxi for the next half of the journey. The Rev. Dr. Bill Black preached on Mark 4:1-20, the Parable of the Sower. I wasn’t terribly impressed by the sermon, but took away some good nuggets, I guess. The church overall is fairly large compared to Bethany Presbyterian where I used to attend in Seattle and is a mixture of foreigners (European and American) and Ethiopian Natives.

I might need to hash something out really quick, so bear with me. It’s hard for me to understand how Rev. Dr. Black (as good intentioned as he may be), a white middle-aged male from North Carolina can preach effectively to a predominately Ethiopian church. It would seem to me that the Ethiopians there would have to become terribly Americanized, or he would have to become very entrenched in Ethiopian lifestyle, culture, and custom. In the last two weeks, the latter has proved to be false; therefore, I’m lead to believe that the former must be true. This seems sad to me. Ethiopian culture is rich in Christian heritage and just because the Southern United States has a thriving evangelical church movement going on, doesn’t necessarily mean that it is good for Ethiopia. I don’t know. Maybe I’m being cynical and just want America to leave everyone alone. But perhaps there is good being done in the hearts of people at IEC and I’m just not used to seeing so many white people in one place here in Ethiopia and that makes me judgmental of what is going on. Pray for my attitude.

Anyway, after church, a couple, Dave and Lynn Hunt, invited us to go out to lunch. Dave and Lynn used to live in Seattle over in Magnolia and Dave is responsible for starting the City Team Ministries down on Elliot Ave. They were members of All Saints Church on Queen Anne when it was first established and were missionaries to Ethiopia over the last ten years. Then, two years ago, they decided to move here to help with an organization called Horn of Africa Mission, which is dedicated to planting churches in Ethiopia, Eritrea, Sudan, Djibouti, Somalia, Kenya, and Uganda. Last year they planted over 600 churches in those seven countries and this year they are shooting for about 1500 more. This is all being done in cooperation with native churches and pastors in each country. Now they live in Addis and have two adopted children. We went to a place called “Rodeo Addis” which is a Texas-themed restaurant and bar that felt a lot like something you’d see in the states. Bethany and I shared a Hawaiian pizza while Maren and Sarah shared a calzone. A nice break from the normal Ethiopian food. We sat and talked for a while after lunch then decided that we needed some coffee, so we walked down the street to a little café called It was like a coffee shop you would see in the states, except the coffee was Ethiopian (small cup, but a kick in the pants). We had macchiatos and I talked the majority of the time with three others that were with us for lunch. Chelsea, Raymond and Danny. These are some of the first people we have met that are around our age. Chelsea is Dave’s niece who taught with HOPE about four years ago and has done extensive traveling around Africa. A White Rock, B.C. native, she has made her way around the globe in the last ten years and is cultured to say the least. Raymond was (and until Thursday, still is) a gift from God. He is 22 years old, just graduated from college at Stanford and is really interested in NGO work in a foreign country (probably Ethiopia). That’s right…a 22 year old male from America!!!! Finally, a reprieve from the language barrier, cultural differences and superiority due to age. We sat and talked for a couple hours just about life, what each of us was doing and what we saw in the future. It was great and we’re hanging out again on Wednesday night for dinner. This dream come true will shatter at my feet however come Thursday evening. Raymond is flying back to the states. Out of my life probably forever. Sad day. There is one saving grace though. The third person, Danny, is also around my age. He is an Ethiopian that lives with Dave and Lynn and sort of runs errands and does odd jobs. He is sort of a resource man. He is incredibly nice and since Raymond and Chelsea (his predominate American friends) are both leaving in the next two weeks, we might plan to take their place. We are going out with him this Friday to watch him compete in a salsa dancing competition. It should be a lot of fun and it will be the first Ethiopian night life we have experienced (don’t worry family, we’ll be safe). All in all, it was a good Sunday.

Yesterday proved to be equally exciting but altogether different. Maren wasn’t feeling good (pray for her health), so Sarah, Bethany and I decided to go on an adventure across the city to a supermarket called Bambi’s. We heard it was pretty good and that we could find a lot more there, so we hitched a ride with Befekadu (the son of Ababa Werku and Mambera) since he was going that way to take his visiting aunt to her immigration appointment (she is an Ethiopian native, but has lived in Italy for the last 33 years). We had no idea what to expect, so when we got there and saw the grocery Mecca that is Bambi’s, we were in awe. Bambi’s gave us Diet Coke. Bambi’s gave us quality cuts of already packaged meat (chicken and steak). Bambi’s gave me the first of many cans of Pizzalicious Pringles. Bambi’s gave us Snickers, granola, pasta sauce, spices, and pesto! We purchased enough for the next two weeks and started home. That evening we had dinner plans with Werku, Mambera and their family. It was the last time we would get to see Mambera’s sister before she went back to Italy and they wanted to have us over for dinner. None of us were excited for the food. We all are sort of needing an extended break from Injera and Wot, but we were excited to be with their family. That is why we were ecstatic when we saw her bring out authentic Italian spaghetti. We were served heaping portions. Befekadu and Werku think that I need to eat three times as much as any normal human because I am “sportsman”. That’s what they say I am since they have seen Bethany and I working out in the driveway of the compound. Anyway, we ate and enjoyed and were pretty full. That’s why our eyes got big when she brought out a dish of fried potatoes and tender beef shanks. The girls looked like they couldn’t handle any more, but not me. Bring on the Italian meat. Meat hadn’t been included in my diet for quite some time (I guess that’s what happens when the dinner vote is always 3 to 1 in favor of the virtually vegetarian women I’m living with) and I was ready for it. We ate and enjoyed a small glass of Italian wine and left with kisses on the cheeks from everyone there. Before we exited though, Mambera’s sister told us (through translator since she speaks only Amharic and Italian) that we must stop in Italy on our way home. She told us that since we were here in Ethiopia serving her people, she wanted us to come to her home so she could serve us. She said that one dinner was not enough to express her gratitude. We were touched and given the excellence of her cooking, we may just take her up on her offer. To bed we went.

I am happy this morning and am writing in absolute quiet (the girls are still asleep). I just finished two fried eggs and two pieces of Cuban toast (El Diablo anyone?) and am about to open and hopefully finish “The Kite Runner”. I hope this post finds you well and as content with life as I find myself at this moment.

            I love and miss you all so much. And just to mix things up a bit, I’ll leave you with the lyrics of a song that I have been listening to often. It’s a good one.


In the tears you gave to me,

I found a river to an ocean.

A concrete sky, and a stone cold sea,

I came to where the emptiness cracked open.


And all my fears came crashing through,

And met the fire of my sorrow.

But I found my strength in forgiving you,

I never even dreamed how far my heart could go.


To give my life, beyond each death,

From this deeper well of trust.

To know that when there’s nothing left,

You will always have what you gave to love.


In this life, the love you give

Becomes the only lasting treasure.

And what you lose will be what you win.

A well that echoes down too deep to measure.


A silver coin rings down that well,

You could never spend too much.

A diamond echoes deeper still,

And you’ll always have what you gave to love,

You will always have what you gave to love.


-Deeper Still, by David Wilcox


Loving as best I can and being amazed by its return,



5 Responses to Viva Italia!

  1. David Bordner says:

    Thanks for keeping us posted on what is going on in Ethiopia. Praying for you guys. D&K

  2. Nason says:

    Friends! I miss you all so much, and I just wanted to let you know that I met a guy at my church from Ethiopia, Addis, on Saturday…I told him about you four, and he was so impressed that you would be there working for a year. He was also excited that I actually knew what the capital of Ethiopia was…it made me miss you all a lot. Then, he proceeded to tell me that tickets to Addis were relatively inexpensive, so maybe I can look into making an appearance down south…. love you all.

    P.S. Bethany, thank you so much for the card…It was so wonderful to get a letter in the mail. Mwuah!

  3. twals says:

    viva meat!

    thoughts on paragraph three…i think there can be good being done through the ministry there, but i think you are right on with the need of a minister to be immersed in or at least very familiar with the culture and traditions of the people they are ministering to. i am more in favor of developing indigenous ministers and maybe that is a part of that church’s ministry there? i affirm the crap out of your critical view. i think americanization through the preaching of the Gospel should be highly suspect. your attitude is being prayed for, but i think there is wisdom in your critical observation.

    i am dreaming of a day that involves you, me, a couple of juicy steaks, and couple brews. a little piece of heaven.


  4. Dave Parisi says:

    Hi Josh,

    I love you and I miss you.

    Please tell Bethany, Sara, and Maren that we (Linda, Dave, Andrew, & Jack) are praying for all of you everyday.


  5. Jon says:

    I am so sorry that you are not able to get the meat you need. When you get back we will have steak for breakfast, lunch and dinner (I’ll let you grill). It seems as if you are settling in more and almost beginning to call Addis home (for now). Love you bro,


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