Thursday, April 27, 2017


(Scroll down for parts 1-5)

In my first post concerning this trip to Ethiopia, I mentioned that there was more than one issue that had come up that complicated my simple desire to go and see Levi. Another one of these was that our schedule for the trip was upset even before I got on the plane – weeks before.

The plan of Levi and me was to schedule my time in Ethiopia to fall either before or after a week-long training that Levi was to have in Addis Ababa. Levi is about half-way through his service, so this was to be his mid-term conference. Once Peace Corps set the dates for their conference, I bought my plane ticket so I would arrive on the weekend that the conference would have been over. Sounded great!

However, just as I had waited for Peace Corps to set their dates, I guess they must have been waiting for Levi and I to set our dates, because once I had bought the tickets, Peace Corps rescheduled the conference. It would now begin the day I arrive. It is because of this I have stayed in Addis Ababa so long. I am waiting for his week-long conference to be over.

Nevertheless, when I was presented with the need from the church in Kenya, I thought that perhaps this week could be an opportunity for me to go there and to see what the need might be. I have already written of this situation in earlier posts. (I think I especially talk about this in parts two and three of this Ethiopia series of posts).

It is now Wednesday evening as I write this, and I have not yet heard from the people in Kenya if it is advisable for me to go. I am now thinking that even if I were to hear today and able to leave first thing tomorrow morning, it would be too late in my time here to make the trip. The way that I figure it, it is a five-day trip at the minimum, and for Levi and I to even get to his place of work and have any amount of time there, we cannot now spare even one day. Please pray about that Kenya thing.

This whole situation has caused me to consider it in terms of my own personal history. In thinking about it, it occurred to me that I have had this same type of financial need situation presented to me in a steady stream for the past forty-five years from five different continents, or I suppose you could say, five parts of the world.

In four of these areas, I have lived and worked. In this fifth one, Africa, I have never before lived or worked, or even have ever visited. However, thanks to the internet coupled with my near obsessions to write, I also now have began to develop a relationship with someone here.

In the past, most of the needs that have been presented to me, I am sure were legitimate. However, I know for a fact that some of them were not. Whether legitimate or deceptive, the easy thing to do would be to put them all into the same pile and then into the rubbish bin. It would be easy if I simply did not care. I could quickly and painlessly dismiss them all.

But the problem is, I do care. I want to help if I can.

Maybe you are accustomed to getting many requests for money in your mail box, either the box at the end of your driveway or in your email inbox. “Junk mail," you may call it. There is even a little icon of a trash can on your computer screen that you can click to send the email into cyberspace ether never to be seen by anyone again except perhaps the NSA.

Mail in the mailbox – you can throw away without evening opening it. “Junk mail.”
People  you cannot dismiss so easily. There are no “junk people.”

The appeals that come to me are usually from people that I have long known. This one from Kenya is different in nature. This appeal that came from Kenya is the first from someone whom I did not before know and had never met. It came about because of this very web page. However, even with this one, my gut tells me that it is legitimate.

Perhaps you can see that every time I have to deal with this, I honestly consider if it is indeed a good cause and if there is something that I can do. With each one, a small toll is taken from me. I told Vivian before I left, that I have grown weary. I am tired. Forty-five years of having these appeals from people I know have worn me out.

I said to her that I am tired of being somebody. I just want to stay on my little farm and be nobody.

I am not some sort of wealthy philanthropist who has millions to give to people and causes. The thought is laughable! I have worked most of my life as a missionary where we had to watch our funds very closely. Now I am a retiree, and it seems like I have to watch them even more closely.

So what will I do about Kenya? I do not yet know, but I have an idea.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017


(Scroll down for parts 1-4)

I was able to give my youngest son a hug! That was the reason for this entire trip to Ethiopia, so whatever else happens, it almost does not matter to me. Levi met me at the airport and he is looking well and fit.

Ethiopia is definitely a unique country. There are many ways in which this probably is true, but it is in even small things such as I noticed when I was filling out the registration for the hotel. As normal, there was a place on the form where I was supposed to write the date, which I thought was April 24, 2017. The clerk stopped me when he saw what I was writing and told me that he would fill out that part.

“Just sign your name here,” he told me, running his finger along the line at the bottom of the form.

The reason that he stopped me was because that was not the date in Ethiopia. Here, it is not April at all, but yesterday was 16 Miaziah. And it is not 2017, but only 2009.

Ethiopia has a unique calendar, which I think is used only here. Instead of following what we know as the Gregorian calendar, theirs is based on the ancient Coptic calendar, except that the months have names in a local historical language. Besides this distinction, it is 2009 instead of 2017 because they place a different specific time when Jesus was born. Truthfully, within the span of a decade, the exact year when Christ was born on earth is a bit of an open question.

So the clerk wanted to fill that part out. 16 Miaziah, 2009.  I am not sure how long they will be able to maintain this distinction, however. I just looked at the cash receipt for my coffee that I bought while sitting here now and see that the printed out copy, in conformity with the rest of the world, says 25/04/2017.

But if you notice, even that is not in conformity with the United States. It seems we also have that streak about us that wants to keep some distinctions. Our receipt would say 04/25/2017.

Besides this, we in the U.S. still prefer our gallons, quarts and pints, our pounds and our miles per hour. I suppose that it could almost be called a victory in this globally connected and digital age when a culture can still manage to maintain some of these distinctions.

Getting back to the hotel check in, after we worked our way through the registration form, the clerk then informed me that there was a breakfast to be included with the price.

“Great,” I said. “What time does in begin?”

“One o’clock.”

I thought I misunderstood. One o’clock is either too early or way too late to eat breakfast.

But here is another unique aspect of Ethiopia. They do not begin the twelve o’clock hour in the middle of the night. In their way of thinking, that cannot be the first hour of the day. Twelve o’clock here, the one that we would start our clocks for the day at midnight, is what our watches or cell phones would call six o’clock AM. In this way of thinking, this is when the day truly begins. In other words, our Zero hour is twelve o’clock midnight. Ethiopia’s Zero hour is the equivalent to our six o’clock AM.

When the clerk told me one o’clock, he meant their one o’clock. That is our seven o’clock in the morning.

Of course, this is similar to the way it is in the Bible. When Jesus told the story about the workers going to work in the vineyard in the third and sixth hours, these times where not 3:00 AM and 6:00 AM, but what we would call 9:00 and 12:00 noon.

This morning, true to the Coptic perspective on time here, when my watch pointed at 6:00, I heard the bell ring in the Coptic Christian church down the street. The new day had begun on this 17th day of the month of Miaziah, in the two thousand and ninth year of our Lord. 

I waited an hour and then went down to begin my breakfast at one o’clock AM.

Sunday, April 23, 2017


(scroll down for parts 1-3)

According the information on the flight monitor on the screen on the back of the airplane seat in front of me, the flight time from Seattle to Dubai is about 15 hours – 8200+ miles non-stop. I am pretty sure that this is the longest non-stop flight that I have ever been on. I think New Zealand from Los Angeles was about two hours and at least fifteen hundred miles less than this. That was a trip that Vivian and I made a few times. Whatever the actual duration, it is a long time in an airplane.

I have never been nor do I ever wish to be a travel consultant, and there are many others who have made long haul flights much more than I, but I do have a little advice for any who need to make a long flight. I give this advice because several people, before my trip, commented on this aspect of it with the single syllable of “Ugg!”

Neither is it my preference to make these long flights (or any flights), but I actually do not mind it so much. Here is why: These long trips, in some regards, are the same as the wagon trains of the 1800’s when the settlers made their way out to the western United State. Of necessity, the days and nights and weeks that these people spent on the trail had to become more than simply a mode of transportation to get from one place on the map to another. For the time that they were on the trail, it had to become also a lifestyle and a home. Their address was: Wagon Train, Western United States.

These people had to learn to live in their new neighborhood. This neighborhood consisted of the other wagons who rolled over the ground and then circled around a fire at night. Like any situation in life, there are negative aspects in it, but there are also some things that are pretty good. The people in the wagon in front of you may be a little strange, but those in back of you are wonderful neighbors. Sure, you may lose some of your freedom because you may want to stop in one place for a few days instead of continually pushing on, but on the other hand, you enjoy seeing new things each day and wondering what is over the next hill.

Long-haul flights are something like that. There are definitely disadvantages. Most of the advice given by people is how to minimize those disadvantages. Stretch your legs. Get up and walk around from time to time. Keep yourself hydrated. Try not to become stressed out.

Of course there are negative things about this new neighborhood of your flight. The bathrooms could use an expansion. Personal space almost disappears. If you are looking for solitude, you will probably be disappointed. But there are some other things that are not too bad. No cooking or washing dishes, for instance. No house cleaning. Make a mess and someone else cleans it up. There may be a movie that you kind of wanted to see when it came out, but you did not want to see it bad enough to drop seven dollars on it. Here you get it for free (after you pay your $1200 economy ticket). Many times the view out the window is stupendous.

Can’t sleep well on the plane? I frequently doze off in my recliner when I am at home. The seats on the plane do not approach that of my recliner, but I manage to catch little naps from time to time.  All of these little rests help, and since they are usually short, many times I remember what I was dreaming.

Some of the people in the plane may be less than ideal neighbors. There are sometimes those who face these long flights by making sure that they are good and drunk. Some are loud or rude. Some smell badly (I may have been one of these from time to time). But then there are many others that are nice. They are pleasant. They are excited because they are on holiday or just coming back from holiday and want to talk all about it.

Perhaps sometimes you don’t really want to hear about it, but c’mon, don’t be a bad neighbor!

For these 15 hours, my address is Emirates, flight 320, Seat 32H, I think at the moment somewhere above the Arabian Peninsula.

I am going to make myself at home.

Saturday, April 22, 2017


(Continued from the two previous posts, parts 1 and 2 – scroll down to see these)

In the previous post about my trip to Ethiopia to see our son Levi, I asked you to go back in time with me to last December so that I could give you a little historical context as to why I was considering whether or not to go also to Kenya. Now, in this post, I am going to ask you back in time to the year 1993 or ‘94; (perhaps it is even ’96, if Vivian were here she could give you the exact year). Whatever the year, our family was in Spanish Language School in Costa Rica.

While there at school, we became friends with another missionary family, who were from California. They also were learning Spanish to work later in some county in Latin America. They did serve for a time in Central America, but later shifted their entire focus of service and moved to Kenya. We have not had contact with them for years, but I knew the mission board that they worked under, so I found their contact information on the website and wrote an email to them.

Their work of all these years in Kenya has been a ministry to the many orphans or otherwise abandoned children of that country. As it turns out, their center of ministry has been in the same general area of Kenya as the pastor who had been writing to me, perhaps one hundred miles away or less. I wrote to my long estranged friend, and found out that they had recently retired (of sorts) and moved back to California. However, as it turns out, they were about to return to Kenya for a short time.

I learned from our friends that the type of letter that I received from this man in Kenya is not unique, and sometimes they setups for a scam. These scams are directed at pastors and churches by people who hope that someone will send them money, even though none of what they say about their orphanages is correct. Like a trout fisherman floating an artificial fly just above the eyes of a likely trout in a stream, they are hoping the pastor or the church will take a bite.

Pastors and churches in the United States and other wealthy countries are often easy targets, because if we are true to the teachings of Jesus, we try and do good for people in need. And there are also those words that I mentioned in the previous post that were written by the Apostle John about possessing the goods of the world but refusing to share them with those in need. But the love of Christ does not require us to be gullible, which is why Jesus also instructed his disciples to be “shrewd as serpents,” as well as “innocent as doves.”

I myself may be even an easier target than many others because much of my work in my life has actually been with brothers such as this one. I have seen and served with many who have hearts to help their own people who are in need, and who serve in churches with few resources. I know their struggle. I have had too many similar experiences with men of various countries to allow me to just dismiss them all as “charlatans” or “scammers.” There are many who are “servants.”

So this is where I am in this process right now. I just got an email from our Californian friends last night, and they had just arrived in Kenya the day before. As you can imagine, they are very busy with their own tasks, but they hope to be able to send a national Kenyan brother to this town to see if he can tell if this is a legitimate need.

I myself am enroute to Ethiopia. At the moment I am in a l-o-n-g layover in Seattle, and I spend tonight if Dubai (or is it tomorrow night there?). Anyway, I will not find out what my friends learned about my Kenyan friend until after I arrive in Ethiopia.

To be truthful, there is a part of me that almost hopes that this is a set-up for a scam so that I don’t have to think more about it. After all, the whole purpose of this trip was that I just wanted to see Levi. I want to give this big guy a hug and hang out with him for a couple of weeks. I am sure that Kenya is a very nice place to visit, but I have no desire to go there at this time.

However, I have also learned in the past that if one forgoes a task that the Lord has given, he also loses the great blessing that accompanies that task. And then there is the fact that many in our world live with severe difficulties – and of course, there are also those words by John (see part 2).
(To be continued when I can)

Thursday, April 20, 2017


(Post continued from previous post – Part 1)

To understand the principle reason that my simple and straightforward plan to go to Ethiopia and see Levi has become a little complicated, I must take you back in time to the month of December of last year. One day in about the middle of the month, there was a letter in my email box from someone in Kenya. The man was a fellow pastor, and in part, his letter read:

"Dear Servant of God Pastor Don ,
We are glad for your faith and truth which you have posted on your website which indicate that God has inspired you more about the word of God.

[For those of you who are regular readers of my blog, you know that I have been posting my Sunday sermons. In this brother’s subsequent letters, he told me that they use those sermons for teachings in their own church.]

Wednesday, April 19, 2017


All that I actually wanted to do was to go and see our son Levi, but there are already some things about the trip that are beginning to become a little complicated. This trip is no bucket-list kind of thing. I don’t even have a bucket list. And as far as travel – I like our little farm. Walking through our fields and in our woods is enough travel for me.

When Vivian and I returned here about five years ago after living mostly overseas for the past couple decades, I did not care if I ever got on an airplane again. But for the past year or more, Levi has been living and working in Ethiopia. He will be there for at least another year.

Levi lives in a remote part of the country where he has no phone, no internet, and not even any dependable mail service. For Vivian and I, after about a year of this forced estrangement from our son, we miss him so much that we felt that we had to go and see him.

But this would be no pre-packaged holiday travel vacation. As I said, Levi lives in a very remote part of Ethiopia. The last leg of the journey to his home village requires a five-hour trek over mountain paths. Actually, Levi told me once that it was three hours, but I am thinking three hours of walking for Levi should equal about five hours of walking for me – if I’m lucky.

But I am even confused about that aspect of the trip. Once, when he was in the capital of Addis Ababa and we were able to talk with him on the telephone, I tried to get him to clarify it for me.

“Levi,” I asked him, “Just to help me understand – from that point where the last bus drops you off, from that point to your village, about how many miles is it?”