Ethiopia in Crisis - Everything since Day 2

Hi everyone.  I hope you'll forgive this long, stream-of-consciousness post.  I've been on many, many mission trips.  This one is unlike any I've ever done.  I'm grieved we couldn't finish what we started in Ethiopia, but I'm trying to play the long game by making a good choice now so that we can return later.  If we ignore the counsel of those who told us to leave, would they trust us enough to return later?  There will be other opportunities to serve 

SUNDAY – June 23

It’s Sunday morning and I’m up getting ready for church.  I can hear the Muslim call to prayer being sung somewhere in the distance.  I don’t know how long it is, but that was what woke me around 6:25 am and It’s 7:06 now.  And he’s still trucking. 

It was a strange night.  I fell asleep quickly around 9 – esp since we didn’t have any internet – but about 1:45 AM, I was awakened to the sound of a man and a woman arguing.  LOUDLY!  Shouting and screaming at one another.  I couldn’t tell where it was exactly – in or out of the hotel – and it was jn Amharic so I couldn’t understand what they were angry about, but they were plenty mad!  They argued and slammed doors for almost an hour.  I thought of calling the hotel desk, but I couldn’t tell where it was to send them.  Instead, I turned my “white noise” app on, read and tried to go back to sleep.  Around 3 AM I guess, I feel back asleep.

It’s later now – about 9:45 AM.  Things have changed a lot since I finished that last paragraph.  It seems the coup d’état last night was a bigger deal than we realized.  The regional president of the Amhara state, the chief of staff for the Ethiopian Army and his staff and security forces were attacked last night right here in Bahir Dar.  The president was killed as one of his spokeman.  The General of the Ethiopian Army was killed as well.  The government caught the killers but they have shut down everything from the internet to cell service to most activities.  It’s surreal.  Thus, we’re not going to church today which breaks my heart.  This was to be Christian’s only Sunday in Africa and we’ve missed the chance.  Instead, Getaneh is at the airport trying to change our flights back to Addis from tomorrow to today.  Our hosts assure us there’s no danger – this all precautionary – but the serious looks on their faces, the hushed tones of their voices and their concerned expressions make it clear to me they’re trying to be confident for our sake.  I was able to get a call out to Julie and to Larry Grimes to let them know – just in case someone sees it on CNN – it’s there front and center – that we’re all good and that we’re in safe care.  Our plans are shifting but we’re safe and well.  Including us, there are 12 Americans in our hotel.  I’ll write again when we have better information on what happens next. 

It’s 8:19 PM now.  The situation has changed at lot for us.  We’re back at the Nexus hotel in Addis where we were before we left to go to Bahir Dar.  It wasn’t easy getting back here.  After a long wait at the Bahir Dar airport, Getaneh was able to secure enough seats to get us back to Addis.  On the way back to the airport, we saw hundreds of troops mobilized and awaiting further orders.  The plane we rode out on brought additional troops to the area.  The military we’d been seeing since we arrived were security force type – blue camo uniforms with billy clubs mostly.  These today, however, were green camo with M-4s and M-16s.  I couldn’t tell for sure, but it looked like a couple of 50cals as well.  They are prepared for trouble. 

The flight back was packed.  Not a seat open.  It was bumpy and yucky.  I was really glad I had taken my air sickness meds.  We landed in the rain and went inside to find an absolute zoo.  People everywhere trying to either get in from the outer regions or out from Ethiopia.  It was a madhouse. 

We called the US Embassy here.  No answer.  Just an answering machine.  Leave a message and we'll get back with you.  That's great, but we only had one working cell phone (an iPhone 5!  My iPhone XMax was worthless!) m We called the Office of Crisis Management in Washington like our passports say we should.  No answer.  Just a phone tree.  We watched the news and realized CNN, France 24 (French CNN) and the BBC were covering the story, clearly expecting more developments.  I hope not, but we cannot afford to take that risk.  We called our friend and FBC member Congressman Mike Conaway and got him to ask around in the state department.  He recommended us to stay in Addis if we are going to remain in Ethiopia.  But that’s not what our plans are.  We’re supposed to fly to Dire Dawa tomorrow, return on Thursday and then drive 60Km south to Adama later in the week.  Both are outside of Addis.  That means our time here is complete.

So what now?  Good question.  After much discussion and prayer, we’ve decided to leave Ethiopia.  I can tell Getaneh is disappointed but we have far too much at stake to be foolish and he agrees.  Choosing well now enables us to return here later.  If we choose poorly, the appetite for a return with our safety and security teams will be difficult at best.  Our friend Mike Conaway has been clear – to ignore his instruction is foolish at best.  So tomorrow morning, we will go back to the airport (since we have no internet) and try to determine what our options are and we do next.  We asked Getaneh to call Jeremiah Kibbobi in Nairobi and see if we could come there. 

MONDAY - June 24

It’s early – 1:29 AM.  I slept hard for several hours now, but woke with an upset stomach.  Little wonder, isn’t it?  Our challenges are numerous from here.  I wish we could’ve settled everything last night before bed, but that would require more than we have and I don’t mean money.  Without the internet to look at flights or see what’s going on in the outside world, we are driving without a windshield.  At least that’s how it feels.  We must make choices based on what little we know.  Or what we think we know.  The story about this coup seems to shift a little every time we hear about it. 
It’s 3:31 AM now.  For the last hour, I’ve been playing one of my favorite games “Railroad Tycoon.”  It’s an entrepreneur game where you compete against the computer to build a better, more productive and more profitable railroad.  The winner is the last man standing once all the stock is bought.  A fun distraction from the drama of the day.

At breakfast today, we learned a little more about what was happening with the coup.  The plan was to kill the regional president, his chief of staff and a primary general in the army thus weakening them to impotence and be able to overthrow the prime minister.  Fortunately, that failed.  If the military had gone with the coup, there would be no stopping it and we would be stuck here in Ethiopia for an extended stay.   Instead, it failed.  Yet Ethiopia is a hot mess.  A state funeral for the victims will be held on Tuesday.

We spent the day at the hotel, awaiting our flight time at 4:20 PM to Nairobi.  Finally, we took off.  It’s a short flight from Addis to Nairobi – about 1.5 hours.  We landed and got through customs and immigration and were met by our dear friend Jeremiah Kibobbi and his son Barracha.  Jermiah had arranged accommodations for us at The Mary Magdalene retreat center in the southern part of the city.  It was a long drive to get here – about an hour – but worth it.  It’s quiet and very secluded.  Every once in a while, I can hear the sound of a departing plane from Kenyatta Intl but otherwise, very quiet.  The opposite o the hotels we’ve been staying at. 

TUESDAY MORNING - June 25 2019
When we arrived in Kenya, our phones came to life again!  I had well over 300 emails awaiting me.  I called Julie to let her know where we were. 

I underestimated how tired I was.  When we were driving here last night, I could hardly keep my eyes open!  When we got here, the staff had made supper for us and we ate it gladly.  I came to bed immediately.  I was so spent, I laid down with my clothes on thinking I’ll just rest a moment and then change.  That was about 9 PM.  I woke up at 1:45 AM still laying exactly where I had been.  I decided to skip changing and just go back to sleep and thus I did.  Just woke up a few minutes ago around 6.  This was definitely the best night of sleep I’ve had since we got here and I’m deeply grateful to the Lord for it. 

Today, we will go visit a work we’ve partnered in.  It’s not close.  In Subukia, Kenya, about a 3 hour drive from here, we’ve helped with an orphanage.  Both Mike and I wanted to see the work in person, esp since we are this close (as opposed to when we are in Texas that is).  Jeremiah has graciously agreed to take us there.  Thus, in just about an hour and half, we will join for breakfast and then depart.  This will be a remarkable journey!  We are below the equator here.  Subukia sits right on top of it.  Their latitude is 0.0019.  That’s about as close as you can get to being right on top of it! 


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