Taking books for granted (day not sure – Dean in Ethiopia)


On my last visit to Ethiopia, the Academic Vice Dean (basically the head man under the bishop) told me they have great difficulty obtaining theological books for themselves and their students. 

Levi and I made a serious effort to bring them books. But our boxing job was pretty lame. (Two boxes, actually.) Would they make the two-leg transnational trip?

Boxes were very suspect. Would they make it?

The Ethiopians can’t even obtain these theological books online. Ethiopia is treated differently by the Amazons of the world, as the government doesn’t always play ball with the global corporations. (You don’t see Starbucks or McDonalds either, although Levi has scored several bottles of Coke so far.)

Protestant and Catholic books can be obtained, but not Orthodox theological books. They particularly want books by Russian mystical theologians, and more particularly a group of scholars who fled Russia after the Bolshevik Revolution and set up shop in Paris for a generation before landing in St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Seminary 45 minutes north of New York City. Some of you may know the names: Schmemann, Meyendorff, Lossky, Florovsky, and others.  Continue reading “Taking books for granted (day not sure – Dean in Ethiopia)”

Church, struggle, and Ethiopian families (day 8 – Dean in Ethiopia)

Gabriel is 19, and finishing up his civil engineering degree after studying algebra, trig, and advanced calculus. He attends University of Axum, 15,000 students. They speak exclusively English in their classrooms. 


When he was 8 years old, he began shining shoes on the street to help bring in money for his family to survive. They used to run a vegetable stand but it became unprofitable. His father lost an arm in the war to overthrow the communists. 

They added to their compound over the years by building a few rooms to their living quarters. Family members did the work, using stones and mud for the walls with a metal roof.

He lives in one room with his parents and his brother. (Two older siblings have moved on.) He sleeps on the floor. In the larger compound, there are three other rooms serving 12 or so people. They all share one toilet. There is no running water.  Continue reading “Church, struggle, and Ethiopian families (day 8 – Dean in Ethiopia)”

Christ is baptized! Timkat 2018 (day 3 – Dean in Ethiopia)

Levi and I just finished up the biggest festival of the year in Ethiopia—well, the eve of the feast. More tomorrow.

Timkat is Theophany (sometimes called Epiphany) when Christ was baptized by John the Forerunner. Millions turn out all over the city to head to a water source to recreate the drama and also the event of the Ark of the Covenant being brought into the Jordan River to cause it to recede and allow the children of Israel to proceed into the promised land.

Continue reading “Christ is baptized! Timkat 2018 (day 3 – Dean in Ethiopia)”

The secret of Ethiopia’s greatness (day 2 – Dean in Ethiopia)

“I sought for the greatness and genius of America in her commodious harbors and her ample rivers – and it was not there . . . in her fertile fields and boundless forests and it was not there . . . in her rich mines – and it was not there. Not until I went into the churches of America and heard her pulpits aflame with righteousness did I understand the secret of her genius.”

Alex de Tocqueville

This famous quote about America in 1835 could be written about Ethiopia in 2018. 

For the next several days, we will be visiting those churches. 

French scholar Alex de Tocqueville’s words about America pinpoints pulpits, and while many Ethiopian leaders speak out for righteousness, it is the 2000 year traditional practices of the church that so inflames the populace of Ethiopia with righteousness. Continue reading “The secret of Ethiopia’s greatness (day 2 – Dean in Ethiopia)”

1st and 3rd worlds (day 1 – Dean in Ethiopia)

This is what the walk to our BnB looks like.

We have arrived in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. 

It is too soon to say much. We arrived at 2 a.m. their time, found our AirBnB, slept a bit and are just now emerging. 

The morning started with asking “Momma Gennett” to make us coffee. Levi and I wanted to cut out of this small apartment and find some wi-fi so I can connect with my people here by email (phones not working yet), and wanted some caffeine first. But in Ethiopia, coffee means a ceremony, a ritual, and “let’s kick back and take forever and roast and brew coffee for a long time and then drink it” mentality.  Continue reading “1st and 3rd worlds (day 1 – Dean in Ethiopia)”

Soaring with the Turks (pre-day 1/2 – Dean in Ethiopia)


During our flight tonight, Levi could have been getting his first experience with Ethiopia. I’ve flown Ethiopian airlines several times, once or twice overseas. Great airline. Great people. Great experience.

Our last chance for an egg mcmuffin and mclatte before Turkish and Ethiopian cuisine.

But tonight we are on Turkish Airlines. It’s Turks for Levi, and our assessment for this cultural experience will have to come in a later post. 

It’s been a stormy road with the Turks over the centuries. Our great Orthodox Byzantine empire fell after 1000 years of Roman greatness when the Ottoman Turks sacked Constantinople (now Istanbul) in 1453.

Martyrs at the fall of Byzantium

We have a lot of saints who are honored for being martyrs, for being tortured and impaled for the cause of Christ. Perhaps the greatest cathedral ever built, Constantinople’s Hagia Sophia, was taken over and turned into a mosque. 

Hagia Sophia

Today, things aren’t so swell with the Turks either. They used to be a solid NATO ally, but their leader has been dancing too much lately with the Russians. Then an attempted coup happened there about a year ago and President Erdogan blamed it on U.S. intelligence operatives. He purged the place of Western intelligence, and American did something bad back in return. I can’t remember what it was, but now Turkey doesn’t honor U.S. passports. 

Putin and Turkey’s Erdogan

Too bad, because Levi and I have an eight hour layover in Istanbul on the way back (it’s one of the reasons we booked this particular flight and accepted the idea of a Turkish cultural experience). We had hoped to visit the Hagia Sophia, which has now been turned into a museum, some of the Christian icons recovered from being painted over centuries ago, and available for tourists to visit. 

However … just a few weeks ago there was some news about Trump and Erdogan having some nice nice talk. I’ve been watching the Turkish and U.S. state department sites like a hawk, hoping something thaws for us just in time. 

If nothing else, we’ll learn more about Turks. 

The time is now (pre-day 1 – Dean in Ethiopia)

One day away. Sort of.

Yes, tomorrow Levi and I fly out of Dulles airport in D.C. toward Ethiopia. We leave Monday night but don’t arrive until early Wednesday morning. So it’s pre-day one for leaving but still three days from actually arriving. Whatever. I’ll try to get you a blog every day regardless. Maybe I’ll start using fractions.

It’s only a 20 hour flight. But when you add in the time zones, it takes over 48 hours by the clock. The good news is, it will take about one hour by the clock on the way back. I wonder if you just flew that direction non-stop, could you defy time and never age?  Continue reading “The time is now (pre-day 1 – Dean in Ethiopia)”

Angels I met in Ethiopia (pre-day 2 – Dean in Ethiopia)

First encounter with angels: Tadu and Tsega

My last trip to Ethiopia, several “angels” crossed my path.

Firstly, on my way to Axum, the Northern ancient capital (where the Ark of the Covenant is preserved), I was going by myself, with no translator or guide, with no place booked to stay that night.

A lot of people there do speak English, but I’d say about 90 percent of them speak broken English. The ones who don’t have such a thick accent you can only decipher about half of it. It’s not easy. Continue reading “Angels I met in Ethiopia (pre-day 2 – Dean in Ethiopia)”

Ethiopians are beautiful people (pre-day 4 – Dean in Ethiopia)

Today’s blog post will focus on the average Ethiopian.

In terms of appearance:
– They are beautiful people. Truly striking.
– They are generally tall and thin, with sharp features.
– They are a bit lighter skinned, more resembling their Egyptian neighbors.
– They have large families
– They wear western clothing (actually Chinese made), although in church they are more traditional. Old people in the country may sometimes wear traditional garb—something you are likely to see in Western reporting, because what’s so interesting about a guy in jeans and a polo shirt?
Continue reading “Ethiopians are beautiful people (pre-day 4 – Dean in Ethiopia)”