I got to see a little more of Ethiopa this morning before we had to leave for the airport. First of all, coffee with hot milk in the hotel café….seriously delicious. Then, on our trip back to the airport I got to really see downtown Addis Ababa. Shelley tells me that it is against the law in Ethiopia to be in debt. So, there are a LOT of buildings downtown that are in various stages of completeness. Like, maybe half. She says that the people get some money and start building and then run out of money and have to stop until they can get more. And there are just people everywhere. It is a bustling city.
Our flight went smoothly to Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, and we got our visas with no problem. Steve Larmey (vice president of Young Life Africa) picked us up at the airport and about 10 minutes outside his home, had a little surprise for us. He stopped the car and told us that he had arranged for tuktuks (a local mode of transportation…think a golf cart meets a jeep) to take us the rest of the way. We jumped in and bumped our way to his AMAZING home.
He and his wife Dyan (and their 4 kids Tasfye, Zoe, Caleb, and Epiphany) live in what they call “The Conference Center.” Basically, when they moved here, they tried to find a place big enough to live in as well as host trainings, conferences, YL staff, etc. year round). It’s a big place, right on the ocean, and that, coupled with their generosity and big open hearts, make it a haven for staff all over Africa. Dyan greeted us with hibiscus juice (yum!) and we all chatted it up for a couple of hours. At that point, my brain went a little fuzzy and I knew I needed a nap before dinner. I guess that’s jet lag, right?
Sangria on the veranda, and a toast at sunset, before a lovely dinner tonight and now we are unpacking the 12 (!) extra bags of goodies we brought.
Here are some of my thoughts today. First, I used to imagine Africa as all rural. Villages, farms, tribal, etc. Then, when I read up on Dar es Salaam, where we are, I thought it would be more city-like. The funny thing is, it isn’t really one or the other. It is BOTH at the same time, all smooshed together. We drove in bumper to bumper traffic today and waited as a herd of goats crossed the highway. There are high end wedding dress shops, next to produce stands. Huts and “lean-to” type homes, next to colonial mansions. Traditional African dressed people, next to people in stilettos and skinny jeans. All of it…together. And there’s something I really like about that.
Secondly, the heat. Think Houston in the middle of summer minus the breeze. Wow! Seriously hot. But, I’m already adjusting and getting used to it. Lots of water, loose clothing, flip flops. I’m soaking up the sun and it is making me extra excited to jump in the ocean at the first chance I get.
Third, as we’ve talked to Dyan today about her hopes and dreams for this Women’s Summit, I’m struck by how huge this feels for her. On this continent, where women are not appreciated, where they are paid for when they marry, where they are often looked at as liabilities rather than leaders, to have a place where their leadership in ministry is acknowledged, celebrated, and encouraged has the potential to be a serious gift. And our coming and giving them ministry advice, or trinkets, or a high five for the work they do is NOT the gift. The gift is for them to be amongst other African women, and to share their stories, and to connect in ways that have the potential to break down the walls that divide them so that authentic friendships can develop. Friendships that will have a far greater impact in the long run, than the 4 days they spend with the 5 of us Americans.
Pray, pray, pray for these women during this time. There are walls of division among peoples and tribes here, even among these Christian women, and it is a hindrance to them developing the kind of community that will further the work they do so faithfully. Pray they will be open to receive what the Lord has, and open to receive each other in authentic community.
I feel like, right now, I am still taking it all in. There is too much to remember, too much to hold in my heart, and I’m not certain what to do with it all right now. So, I’m just trying to stay alert to what God has for me here. And that’s a lot of work…a lot of stimulation for a tired lady. But, His presence is palpable. So tonight, I’m resting in that. And in a peace that passes all understanding.