Thursday, December 5, 2013


By Rev. Joe Bumbulis, First Baptist Church of Austin Minister to Students and Missions


Dirt is everywhere. But life here is not dirty. Dirt is a part of life. Life is found in the dirt, the soil. Farming is an essential part of life and an essential economic power. 

Driving is dangerous. Nighttime driving is most dangerous. There are truckers, high on chat (a stimulant similar to tobacco or marijuana from what I understand, or maybe both). Roads are full of carts powered by donkeys and horses driven by children (and adults too). Children dart into the streets, chasing a ball. Terror. Relief. No one gets hit, but witnessing even a close call is somewhat terrorizing. Humans, people, Africans, Ethiopians are walking, everywhere. We sometimes go 50 or 60 mph, but mostly we go much slower. Once we are off the highways, which are few, we drive on dirt roads. Ungrated, uneven, roads...full of livestock and people. Children run alongside the car. Waving. Begging.  

Mickey our driver is very skilled. We are thankful.

Nostalgia. The complaints of those in Entebbe, the capital city of Ethiopia, mirror those of lifelong "Austinites" in the capital city of Texas. In the past five years, the Ethiopian capital city has drastically changed. China is developing and investing in the infrastructure here. China is building roads and high rises. The city has changed, and old-timers don't like it.  

Children are joyful. They laugh. They smile. Few get a chance to see themselves, so they like to have their picture taken and then to see themselves on the tiny digital screen. They only get to see themselves when someone else comes, with a tiny digital screen. Many go to school for a better life. There are no jobs. Most people stay in their village and do whatever their parents did. 

The sun is hot. Being near the equator, I am a little sunburned even though I was never hot. 

Everything feels old. Not “old” like we mean in the USA when things are old and need to be replaced…but “old” like there are things that have been like this for thousands of years. It’s as if I'm watching people embody what it means to live in biblical times. Farming. Food preparation. Family care. Tribal identity. Walking. All very much the same. 

Medical Care. Ethiopians want good, affordable care. They will walk a four-day round trip to a Christian clinic instead of a two-hour round trip to a government clinic. Affordability is part of the equation. The care and relationships are the main reason. 

Jerry Cans. These small, three liter, yellow cans sprinkle the landscape. Strapped to donkeys and carts, carried by women and children, they provide life. They carry water. Everywhere we turn we see small yellow speckles. This is a pervasive technology. 

Cell Phones. Also a pervasive technology. Many people, no matter their class or area, in the remote village and city have cell phones. Technology shapes us and our societies. How will the prevalence of cell phones shape the development of infrastructures? Of a developing society? 

Pride. Ethiopians are incredibly proud people. They have never been colonized. They have an ancient history. Christianity has been a part of Ethiopia since the beginning (of Christianity). 

CBF and David Harding. I am incredibly proud to be a Cooperative Baptist Fellowship church and have people like David serving in Ethiopia. His relationships are deep. One Ethiopian bell hop told me that David is "an Ethiopian." He belongs here. He belongs here because he understands that Ethiopia doesn't need him. The model for ministry and mission here is both crisis and sustainable development.

Crisis. While Ethiopia has one of the fastest growing economies in the world, it's one of the poorest countries also. While visiting the clinic, the chief nurse (doctor) told us that most of the patients are being treated for water born illnesses and disease. Ethiopia is a water rich country. Most people die of lack of clean water and sanitation. 

Sustainable. Our CBF missionaries are focused on alleviating poverty in the long-term. Water is both an immediate and a long-term issue. People need water now. People need to understand sanitation and hygiene as well as maintenance and care. Long-term solutions are community transformation and education solutions.

Beauty. Everywhere. Flowers. Smiles. Handshakes. Genuine hugs. The Ethiopian hospitality has been joyful and warm. The food is delicious. 

Hope. Through the work of CBF and SLC (Sustainable Livelihood Groups), communities are working on long-term, sustainable change. The poorest of the poor are seeing that they have a future for the first time. This is hope. The names of the SLC groups we met with are names like Open Future, God is Alive, Green Fields/Garden of Eden/ Run Ray, and Hope in Cross.

Life. Water is life. The work of wells and support are an essential piece of life here. 

Dignity. Every person is worthy of love and work. The SLC model is about dignity first and foremost, not charity, not enabling, but empowering. 


An old world land with the new world bursting and sprawling around, for good and ill. A place of deep pride and dignity. A place of partnership and hope. 

Together, we will open our futures to God's coming kingdom of new life. Hope. Resurrection. Life. 
First Baptist Church of Austin's money from the Advent Conspiracy campaign in 2013 helped fix this well
in the backcountry of Ethiopia. It is used by more than 150 to 200 households per day.



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