Dear Family and Friends,
A lot has happened over the past few weeks, and before July escapes us, we need to let you know about some of those activities. Toward the end of June we had the School Closing Program (also called Parents' Day) for each of the three campuses. They were all very touching with all the skits, songs, stories, awards, etc. In Primary School (grades 1 to 5 this past year) each student was required to memorize one Bible verse each week, both in English and in Amharic. At the School Closing Program they recited all 36 verses in both languages.
It was also very inspiring to be personally involved in awarding the top students for academic performance, for good behavior, and for Bible memory. Most of these students are trying very hard to succeed and are very happy to be in such nice schools that they really put forth a great deal of extra effort. For example, in the U. S., going to summer school is considered a kind of punishment, or at least something required for the students who are lagging behind.
Here, our teachers offer summer school for the month of July. Any student that can afford it, is eager to attend summer school. They come early, they sit in the front row, and they are well-behaved. One comment we often receive from Western visitors is how well-disciplined the Ethiopian students are compared to what a large campus of American or European students this age would be like. These kids know that it is a privilege to attend the Lifesong-Meserete Kristos and Misgana Ministries schools and would never want to disgrace their families by being expelled. As difficult as it is to be able to enroll, getting kicked out would be the ultimate shame.
Of all the School Closing programs, one skit was particularly impressive. It made Peggy and me really sit up and take notice. It was at the Adami Tulu Pre-School. (Remember these are 4, 5, and 6 year old Nursery and Kindergarten students). The skit was about two "bad boys" who were just out to cause trouble. They attacked a woman (one of the girl students) on the street, hurt her, and took her mobile phone and money. Now the boys' parents were very concerned about them and were continually harping on them to stop causing trouble. The girl forgave the boys, prayed for them, and eventually was able to win them to Jesus. When one of the boys went home and told his parents he had become a Christian they kicked him out of the house. However, now it was time for the boys to forgive and pray for their parents. Eventually they were able to lead them to Jesus. It was extremely touching when the boys prayed "the sinners' prayer" over their parents.
There is a picture attached showing the students in the act of praying over other actors in the skit.
Peggy and I sat in amazement, wondering how many kindergarteners in America would know how to lead someone to Jesus and pray with them. But the events portrayed in this skit are real-life things that these kids face every day-including being kicked out of their homes for professing Jesus.
We also had our registration for next school year. It, too, was a very emotional time-I would much rather deal with computers and machines. For example, in Adami Tulu we had 120 openings for next school year. After over 300 students registered, we had to tell the guard to not let anyone else in. We took the orphans, the children of widows, and some vulnerable children. The rest of the spaces had to be filled by lottery, where the child drew a slip of paper from a bowl. If they got the paper with an "X" on it, the family was elated. For those who drew a blank piece of paper, there was a lot of crying. It just is not easy, and it's not comfortable.
There is a picture below of the sight that greeted us one cold, rainy morning as we arrived at the school for registration. The line of students and parents extended well off to the left of the picture around the big mud puddle.
This past Saturday was another special day for us. We went to the town of Meki which is where our School Director Solomon lives. He invited us to come for baptisms on that Saturday morning. We had no idea what we were in for. We went out to a small river which flows into Lake Ziway and witnessed the baptism of 85 new believers. When I congratulated the elders of the church for such a large addition to their congregation this year, they told us that in January they had 120 baptisms and a couple of months before that, 71. The Meki Meserete Kristos Church is very active in its outreach and there was much joy at the river site (and in heaven) as a result. When asked about what the background of most of these new Christians was, they responded that probably most came from pagan religions, then the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, and following that, from Islam.
I have attached a couple of pictures of the baptism ceremony. One shows the pastor giving instructions to the group prior to baptism. The other shows the constant line of new Christians going into the river to be baptized. The oldest "baptizee" was 60 and the youngest, 13.
And before I forget-an update on our construction projects. Samuel's Home, our Misgana Ministries home for vulnerable children, is ready to go. The houseparents and the two helpers have been selected. The houseparents will move in next weekend, and soon thereafter we will begin taking in orphans and vulnerable kids. The maximum number that we can accommodate is 12 kids.
The Adami Tulu Pre-school addition of four classrooms is also nearing completion, and soon will be awaiting the arrival of the sponsoring team to do some final touch-up work, conduct Vacation Bible School, and help out in a number of other ways.
And, finally, the Misgana Ministries Pre-school in Ziway is also moving along according to schedule and will accommodate approximately 225 needy Nursery and Kindergarten kids starting in September. Maybe next month I will be able to add pictures of these new facilities.
Gary and Peggy
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