- TABLE OF CONTENTS
- WAR ROOM -
STUDY - MORAL
ISSUES - KING
JAMES BIBLE - CULTS
CHURCH MUST BE
KILLING TIME AT LANGANO
The first youth camp in Ethiopia-- what a great opportunity. The Sudan Interior Mission had sent several of their men into the Lake Langano area, and they had found an ideal location for a youth camp.
Also, God sent them to a business man and land owner who was looking for someone to develop some of his land he owned on the south shore of Lake Langano. The man offered the SIM the land for a 49 year lease with option to renew for 49 years at 50 cents acre. This was a give away, but it was also a very airtight arrangement, for the Ethiopian government was not eager to sell land to foreigners for permanent use. The long term lease was as good a deal as possible at that time.
Norm and Betty Harrison, SIM missionaries from Canada, had gone into the camp property first, and Norm had to clear the brush and the land and start making it look at least like it was inhabited. The property was in thick forested country, and there were two huge wild fig trees on the property. By huge I mean about 90 feet high and 120 feet across. The surrounding country was rather wild, though the Arussi Gala people herded cattle and goats around us, and there were farms near the lake front.
Elizabeth and I were assigned to Lake Langano to help plan and promote the youth camp concept and generally help where we were needed. There are other discussions about life there in other yarns in this section, but this story is about my last effort to serve the Lord at Lake Langano.
Our time at Langano had been frustrating. We had settled into a very comfortable but small cement block cabin Norm Harrison built for us, and I had planted a garden at once. We had about seven feet of virgin soil, and the garden exploded. We had plenty of water from the rainy season, and from a river nearby from which Norm had arranged a pump and storage water works.
But, the task of promoting a camp that was not finished was troubling. The Ethiopian national church leaders had been unfortunately left out of the early decision making, and Norm Harrison had been sent in to develop it on his own. I had the same problem, but I had no idea how badly the national Christian leaders had felt in being left out of the loop. So, we set about to live with the Harrisons, the local Arussi people, and each other.
There was a clinic on the station run by Betty Harrison who was a nurse. She had an Australian army tent to work in, and things were primitive. But, Betty worked wonders with the drugs available, and many of the Arussie people were cured of Malaria which was a killer in our particular area. She also treated wounds the local men gave each other arguing over land and grass grazing rights. A spear tossed at the legs was enough to settle most altercations, but the wound, in the tropics, soon went ulcerous. Betty had them soak in Epsom Salts and dressed the wounds with antibiotics.
Norm ran out of funds. The SIM had arrangements in which the missionary was asked to raise funds for his ministry needs. The mission helped, but the burden of fund raising often fell on the missionary. We went home on furlough to raise funds, and the Lord provided Christians and groups who saw the youth camp as essential to the preaching of the Gospel in Ethiopia. We returned to the field with enough to finish the basics of the camp and also build a small permanent clinic of cement block.
The photo is the entrance to Camp Langano.
Norm Harrison set to work eagerly, and things progressed. Then, the Harrisons went on furlough, and they stayed in the US for a couple of years while Norm worked. They later returned to Ethiopia. While the Harrisons were gone we were alone in the bush and felt very isolated. We also had little of nothing to do. The funds were gone, the clinic building was up, but things looked bleak. So, we set about to simply keep the work open and try to get to know the Arussie people better. I ran a clinic in a cupboard, which was technically illegal because I was not a nurse.
The Minister of Health, one of the Princes and sons of Emperor Heile Salassie, came to visit our landlord in his vacation home, and he walked up to the mission station to make a courtesy call. I told him I was treating people for malaria, dysentery, and a few other ailments, as well as treating spear wounds. He told me that if I did not continue what I was doing I would be a very cruel man. He said that if I were to move to the capital city, Addis Ababa, and do the same thing, that I would come into conflict with the government Health Department. So, I was given the royal edict to keep being a shade tree clinic operator.
Then, the government of Ethiopia was overthrown in a Marxist coup, which was financed by the US Government under Gerald Ford and Henry Kissinger, and Heile Salassie was assassinated. This was in 1974. All order in Ethiopia went into crisis, mostly out of uncertainty and fear by the Ethiopian people. We were quite safe because the Marxists were following the Mao Tse Tung rule book to never hurt Americans of the British because that would put things into the international news.
So, we were safe, but what would we do next? There was no way the Marxist government would tolerate a youth camp that was not their own. And, the SIM had wisely decided that in such situations they would send most of the missionaries back to their home nations so the African national Christians were not seen as friends of Americans or the British. In those days Americans were called "Imperialist running dogs." The national Christians should not be persecuted for being the friends of Americans, only for being the friend of Jesus Christ.
We had previously been told to look into starting a youth center in another city just before the coup, and Norm Harrison was going to finish the camp and clinic. We had arranged a couple of youth camp events just before this, and the response of city kids to the camp was fantastic. They loved it. While American kids wet their beds when they heard the bears at night, the Ethiopian kids wet theirs listening to leopards cough. We realized going to camp would be great fun and a great place to give the Gospel to city kids.
All this was off now. The mission was asking for missionaries not clearly attached to volunteer to go back to their home country, or find another field or mission organization to serve with so that some could leave Ethiopia at once. Eventually, out of 300 missionaries in Ethiopia, SIM was down to 12. We prepared to leave, and God sent us an invitation to move to Kenya and join the Gospel Furthering Fellowship.
I had lost my deep feelings for Langano almost entirely because of the distraction of the coup. Army trucks rolled through the streets of Addis Ababa at all hours, and in the early morning we woke to machine gun fire outside the city where the Marxists shot 50 to 70 business men and government officials every morning. We were in the SIM headquarters building in Addis Ababa, and leaving the country was about all we could think about. One morning the Field Director, John Cumbers, told me that all the church leaders were going to gather at Lake Langano at the camp. He asked me to speak to them, and he said the topic was, "How do we keep our youth in the Church?"
The reason for the question was rather desperate. The new Marxist government had closed the university, and the youth were sent all over Ethiopia to preach Marxism. They were accompanied by an army soldier with a rifle at their back. The local people they were to propagandize hated them and would possibly be plotting how to poison them. The students were sent far from home and from any area of the country they knew about.
These youth, and the ones not in the propaganda campaign, were under pressure to renounce the Gospel and declare for Marxism. Could the national Christian church keep them from denying the faith and even running away to escape military obligations? How would they keep them loyal to the local church?
That was my assignment, and I did not speak Amheric, the language of Ethiopia, very well. Dr. Mulu, an Ethiopian doctor who worked in the SIM medical ministries, was to be my interpreter.
I went to Langano, and I walked the grounds. It was heart breaking to realize that Norm Harrison's dream of a youth camp would not be possible under Marxism. I walked to the lake and thought for a while. I realized I would never see this place again, and thoughts and emotions went this way and that.
So, I cried out to the Lord for wisdom. As I walked through the camp I saw a bee hive left on the ground by the local Arussia neighbors. The Arussie are great bee keepers. They make bee hives like the one in the photo by cutting a jog in half, hollowing it out, and wrapping ti with banana leaves. A hole is carved in the side for the bees to go in and out.
The Arussie bee keepers loved to put bee hives in these huge fig trees, and our two trees were the largest for many miles around. The tree is a virtual zoo of monkeys and birds of all sorts. But, the figs, which are too tough to eat, were the attraction to the bees.
You can see the figs in the photo below.
I thought of the bee hive and keeping the youth in the local church, or at least making sure they wanted to come home to the local church if they could escape the Marxist machine in some way..... indeed, come home after military service and indoctrination. The Lord gave me light at that point. The bee hive is not a closed colony. It is always open, and the bees can come and go when they wish for any reason.
I asked my main man Borema, an Arussie Christian who worked for us, to find a pint jar and find a bee and put it in the jar with the lid on. I also asked him to tell the Arussie bee keeper that I needed to borrow his bee hive for a few hours the next day.
Then I got blind sided.
Dr. Mulu came to find me and arrange for the interpreting for me when I spoke. I mentioned something about the camp and being delighted to see all the church leaders there to see it. Dr. Mulu, a bit bluntly, told me that it was rather late to be doing that. I asked why. Then he told me that the church leaders had never been brought into the original planning of the camp, and being the first youth camp in Ethiopia, literally, they had no idea what a youth camp was.
I was horrified. I had no idea this was the case, and I realized these men were doing two things on their visit to the camp.
One, they were trying to figure out how to keep their youth in the local church,
Two, they were trying to determine what this camp was all about.
Dr. Mulu was a very wise man. He saw from the expression on my face that I had no idea what had gone before. So, he told me that I was not to blame, and we both needed to make the best of this to the glory of God.
I do not know what Dr. Mulu said before I spoke and he introduced me, but every church leader was totally concentrating on me as I started to speak. I cried out to God, for this was a gathering of godly men who were all my seniors humanly speaking, but also in the faith and in wisdom. Some had endured horrible persecution from the Italian Army during WW II, and they seemed to me like giants listening to a novice.
I had Borema bring the bee hive, which is called a Keuffo in Ethiopia. I talked about my bee in the bottle. I told them that I could actually feed the bee and give it water because I had seen that done by others. That way, I could keep the bee in the bottle for a long time.
I also showed them the bee hive, the Keuffo, and explained that it was from our own fig tree and belonged to our Arussie neighbor. And, I told them how the bee keeper insisted he pay us rent by giving us a pint of honey every time he harvested the honey.
Then, I asked them if the bee would stay in the jar if I took the lid off. They said no way. I then took the lid off, and sure enough, the bee flew away. I then asked the church leaders if the bee would ever come back. They said absolutely not. I then told them to look at the side of the bee hive, the Keuffo. It had a hole in it, and it was open all the time. The bees were free to leave anytime, and come back when they wished.
I asked them if the bees would come back. There were exclamations of understanding, and they said the bees would always come back. I made some references to the Word of God, but the men were all grunting and looking this way and that at each other with knowing nods. They had got it at once. The Lord's Church is not a prison-- it is a gathering place for the people of God, and all of us need to allow each other to come and go as the Lord leads us. There are a lot of jack boot preachers in the USA who have never learned this.
I thanked the Lord because I could see that, at least, they had understood what I was trying to talk about. I was not sure I had made sense of it the way I intended to. Dr. Mulu was deeply moved, and he told me the church leaders were totally absorbed with the presentation.
Later, we left Ethiopia and went to Kenya. We joined another mission, and the SIM leader, John Cumbers, asked me to look at the possibilities for other SIM missionaries leaving Ethiopia to come to Kenya. Was there a need for them? After about two months, John Cumbers came south to visit Kenya and to learn my impressions, and he talked to a couple of missions in Kenya to arrange for SIM to loan missionaries to these missions.
We were sitting in our living room with John Cumbers talking about the work in Ethiopia and the situation for the local churches who were already receiving persecution from the Marxist regime. John then told me, "Steve, our church leaders all talk about the Keuffo. The word comes up over and over when any question about how to keep the youth comes up."
I about cried. Elizabeth and I had wondered many times what our time in Ethiopia was all about. It seemed we were place keepers almost all of the era we were in Ethiopia. Did we have any real spiritual fruit to show for? We simply had to accept that we were where God had placed us.
Later, sitting in Nairobi, Kenya in our living room, I realized that, if for no other reason, one thirty minute talk in the woods of Ethiopia was used by our Lord to challenge the leaders of the national churches in Ethiopia to follow a truly biblical principle. And, this was against their culture. Ethiopia is really Middle Eastern in culture, and the leaders of the home, the mosque, the market place, and the local church where there is one, exercise absolute rule.
The Ethiopian church suffered much persecution, but the youth of those churches were very faithful. They did come home if they had to run from the Marxists, and they did come home after the Marxist regime fell twelve years later.
Nothing ventured, nothing gained.
God is not wasting our time as he leads us along, and he is not just trying to see how much misery we can endure. God has a plan, and he knows the end. God is standing on down the road waiting for you, and when you get where he is, he will show you all the things he was doing with you while you thought you were spinning your wheels.
God was telling Jeremiah that Judah will go into captivity in Babylon for seventy years. God warns them not to listen to prophets who try to explain what God is doing. God then tells his people what they can expect:
29:11 For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts
of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.
12 Then shall ye call upon me, and ye shall go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you.
13 And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart.
Verse 11 is priceless my friend. God knows his thought for you-- only thoughts of peace, not evil. You may find the road rough, and you may run down some dead ends and have to back track, and you may have to sit by the road and not even make any progress at all for a while. You may be stove up with some ailment that keeps you from doing anything for the Lord. You may have been thrown away by some jack boot prophet who declares you useless to God.
But, God wants you to know that he plans "to give you an expected end."
Now, God knows that end. So, what do you expect of God?
It will be good my friend. Keep moving, and never give up on God.
There is some added drama in this story.
At this point I went to Google, out of curiosity, and I entered, "SIM camp langano".
Here is what happened, and I must say, I had to start all over emotionally to do what I just told YOU to do above.
What about our time as "place holders" at Lake Langano? Was God down the road there also, or was that all lost time or only some sort of testing?
I had heard the there was a Camp Langano, and that SIM had been able to keep the camp in spite of the Marxist regime. I had not learned how the transition went after the Marxists lost power, and I have not Googled this for several years.
So, I Googled Camp Langano. I was astounded at what I learned. Then, I cried again. There was God standing there in the present, and he had been there all along.
I DREAMED OF HELPING THE LOCAL FARMERS GET BETTER CROPS. WHEN WE LIVED THERE ALL THE LAND WAS OWNED BY LAND LORDS WHO TOOK SO MUCH SHARE OF THE CROPS THAT THEY HAD NO MOTIVATION TO DO BETTER. THE MARXIST REGIME, EVIL AS IT WAS, DID AWAY WITH THE FEUDAL SYSTEM, AND THIS SITE SHOWS, AMONG OTHER THINGS, A FARM PROGRAM FOR THE LOCAL ARUSSIE FARMERS-- PART OF THE SIM MINISTRY AT LANGANO.