Monday, December 25, 2006

my correct cell number


This is what you dial with a calling card.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

The Spiritual Doctor

This morning I went to a girl's house with a physical therapist and a nurse. The girl's legs were basically nothing but bones due to lack of use. She is in a lot of pain when she tries to stand up or move her feet. The therapist showed her and her mother some exerices that she needs to do everyday in order to regain muscle mass. She has nerve damage in her legs, which could be a side effect from an ARV drug. We do not know. I read from sections of 2 Corinthians 1 where Paul emphasizes the comforting nature of God. "who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God." The women don't know why they are in this state, but some recognize the opportunity to comfort each other, which is one reason we do support groups.

This afternoon I saw two more women. The first named Elsa. She has similar problems with her legs in that there is pain that is hard to control. I shared with her from Hebrews 2:17-18 where the author gives a reason for the incarnation of Christ. Since he became flesh, he can sympathize with our suffering and understands. We can talk to him about it. He loves us, as he showed by entering our suffering and ultimately dying for us. Our Ethiopian nurse, Alamu, introduced me as a spiritual doctor, which I thought was interesting.

The last woman was the toughest. She has congestive heart failure and we basically had to explain to her that there was nothing else that could be done medically. She cried a lot while we were there. She hurts for her sister and children who have to watch her suffer each night. She prays that she would just die for their sake and doesn't think about living. One of our nurses shared many passages from John about how we want her to have a relationship with Jesus so she can live in eternity free from pain with Him. I think she was somewhat encouraged. We're not sure how much longer she will be with us, but I hope to go to her funeral.

While I was in this last woman's house, I was struck by the smell of smoke and then human waste. These are common combinations in the communities. People burn their trash since there is obviously no trashmen, and the waste often is poured out by the houses along trenches. Alamu emphasized the me not to carry my Bible in my hand. This is because many here are Ethiopian Orthodox and when we visit people they suspect we are Protestants who are witnessing. Seeing the Bible confirms this, and our patients will be socially ostracized for believing something that is backwards and not orthodox.

Grace is also very hard for the orthodox to accept. Works is simply engrained into the tradition. Even when someone dies the relatives try to do things to help the soul. I'm still trying to understand how deep the works doctrine goes and will get back to you on that. What a day.

Thursday, December 14, 2006



Street in Lideta.

Women grinding grain.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

The City I Live In

Ethiopia: Over 80 Percent of Urban Population Dwells in 'Slums', New Study Reveals

Also, my new cell number is: 251 91 061899.

December 06 Update

December 06 Update

Matthew 14: 28-31

It seems pointless and irrational for Peter to try to walk on the water. I have thought about this passage the first few times I walked through the poor communities we serve to do home visits. Why am I here? I couldn’t be more out of place. This is irrational. And then I realize it really doesn’t make sense outside of Jesus. Without Him I am to only look out for myself, and this is not exactly accomplishing that goal. He is the only reason. As I assimilate into this place, I deal with a lot of fear and see how much I am merely walking on water and can fall easily. But that is actually a picture of the reality of being a pilgrim on earth, you just see it easier here than in America.

I arrived here safely with all my bags on December 3rd. My job description will change, but I have already sat in on support groups for both the men and women where they hear the Gospel and encourage each other. I will eventually lead devotions for these groups. I sat in on adherence groups where they learn more about their medicines and how to adhere to drug plans. I have done home visits where you meet the people where they live and show your love and care for them. That’s an experience. There is also counseling available for couples and singles dealing with depression, spiritual questions, and general family issues that come with AIDS. I sat in on those discussions as well. I will also be coaching a soccer team soon.

I like the food, but they eat with their fingers and only with their right-hand. I’m left-handed it’s comical. The streets are very interesting with hardly any lines for lanes and no lights. There aren’t many wrecks, however, because the drivers know so many implicit rules. The streets also provide a good base for cultural examination. The Ethiopians are extremely nice and thoughtful people. This is probably the safest city in Africa for missionaries to work. However, this courtesy is usually tied with a personal relationship. So the kindness diminishes when they get in cars and drive. It’s mayhem.

I’m slowly getting used to the muslim mullahs calling for pray at 5 a.m. I did not know, however, that the Ethiopian Orthodox Church (EOC) does the same thing. But they sound better because its more of singing or something. I can’t tell. The EOC does not seem evangelical, but more Catholic in many of their beliefs. They only pray at church or if they burn incense in their homes. They also don’t pray to God directly, but to Mary or a saint to not demote God. They believe that a springs next to the church are Holy Water and drink, bath and wash in it to cure them. This is absolute poison and shows the importance/power beliefs have. Many of our patients do this and get very sick because the water here is bad. The real problem comes when they decide to trade ARVs for Holy Water. We must peal back all these cultural/spiritual issues as we meet with them.

Home visits are where you see the reality of the situation. As you walk through the alleys you see how people really live, in 5 ft. by 15 hovels. But even as we walk to visit 4-5 women in their homes, we see others who walk by us in obvious pain due to AIDS who have yet to come to us. The beneficiaries have very little, but always find a stool or bench so you can sit in their house as they squat. Many weep in front of us when we tell them that God loves them and will never desert them. Most of them are women who have been raped and/or lost their husband. They are very brave in that they openly tell us their entire story.

Even as we fight the AIDS problem, so many others arise. Multiple-drug resistant tuberculosis is an increasing problem with our patients. Many are getting first line treatments but once resistant to that there is little else they can do. The next round is much more expensive/invasive with shots involved.

Prayer requests

1. Thanksgiving for such a great team of nationals. They are incredibly strong and mature believers who are very accepting.
2. Thanksgiving for company coming. Derrick, a microbiologist is coming in January and we will live together for a year. I couldn’t make it here for a year with company. This was my greatest need and the Lord has provided through Derrick and my team.
3. Perseverance as I assimilate. I am still getting use to so many things. I’m living at the SIM compound and will move to another house in a month with Derrick next to the office in the poor community. I start language school in late January.
4. My family and I through the holidays. I have been homesick and wish that wasn’t part of this job. It helps to know that this is short-term and gives me a lot of respect for long-termers.
5. For the faith of the beneficiaries. Many have a very basic and even skewed view of personal salvation due to (EOC) background. Some are also Muslim, and they actually come to the support groups where they hear the gospel!! But they haven’t responded.
6. Pray especially for a woman whose name I can’t remember. She is a new beneficiary from Bole, has one infected daughter, and her husband left her not long ago. She has a lot to deal with. Pray for her health as she battles HIV and for the growing maturity of her daughter.
7. Pray for Alematu. She was raped while unconscious after a car wreck, got HIV, then was kicked out of Yemen for this. Her husband has left her and she has two daughters and used to live a middle class life in Yemen. Now her poverty would startle you. She wept openly at the thought of your prayers.
8. Pray for Danny, our 24 yr old team member. If a war with Somalia ensues, the army will kidnap young Ethiopian men to fight, which is a death sentence.

New Address:

Care of SIM
PO Box 127
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Attn: Jim Plunk

Friday, December 08, 2006

I'm here

Thanks for praying. The transition is going well and I've already seen and done many things that I will post soon as well as pictures. It's hard to access blogger from this country since the government denies the IP address. But I've found ways. I will have a cell phone soon and will post that number. Also, my new mailing address is:

Care of SIM
PO Box 127
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Attn: Jim Plunk

please email me with questions.