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  • Writer's pictureSamantha Brueggeman

Goederts in Ethiopia Week 1: Christmas with the Goederts

We really enjoyed spending the Christmas season at home before heading back to Ethiopia on December 29th. Martha’s family hosted us for Christmas and received the same lovely, always energetic welcome from that Missouri group. They created small miracles amidst moving home, even taking in a young PhD student we brought from UNMC who had ‘no home’ for the holidays. Thanks family for always accommodating!

Two weeks preceding Christmas we hosted parties to bring together people we think ‘will become friends’. The first party was a bit challenging, required ‘fasting foods’ and the introduction of four priests from three different countries representing two faith traditions. It all worked out well, and the conversation was inspiring.

A few days after this party he was dedicating a new church, one that was gifted to this Omaha Ethiopian community. Who gets gifted a church for Christmas? Apparently the congregation has been praying and expecting just this. As his mentor (in the blue hat), the head of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church in Bahir Dar Region applied for and received a Visa in advance of the news. He came to bless the church. Although all of the priests have roots in Africa, you might be able to identify the Austrian Priest, who is a medical anthropologist, working with HIV in Zimbabwe and now department head at Creighton University. He will be a major support for Abba and was so entertained by how hungry the Ethiopians were the minute the sun set!

Father Michael Mukasa is at the end of the table. He is an Ugandan who spent a decade working in Omaha getting his graduate degree and preparing for a return to Uganda. He has dozens of children (not literally) whom he educates and pays tuition for their degrees including beyond secondary school. He ‘farms’ when he is not teaching at the seminary in Kampala, or counseling the many youth who come his way. You might remember that his niece Caroline stayed with us as she started her undergraduate degree at Creighton. Father Michael has linked us with partnerships for Engineers Without Borders for rainwater harvesting, water storage, and sanitation projects in rural regions of Uganda. He is salt and light, and if we could get a hardy variety of the Missouri sweet corn to grow in Uganda, we would be his favorites!

We had several last-minute requests, used laptops, supplies, cloth, transporting goods, and more. We always scramble before international flights to make sure that every bag weighs 50 pounds exactly (engineering)! We prioritized the night before departure, meeting with Dr. Coleen Stice and a young surgical resident, Dr. Yang, concerning a mid-January planning trip for surgical outreach to Ethiopia. It is a huge gift to Bahir Dar University to have these experts come and partner with in-country health care providers, teaching and working elbow to elbow with updates and encouragement for the work in Ethiopia. And during this mildly ‘frantic’ time, the phone kept ringing, wanting us to take packages here and there, until 2:30 in the morning (yes, Martha was still up)! Two hours before our departure, we were standing in the airport coffee line, greeting our Ethiopian cashier in Amharic. She said to us after taking the order, “Abba has some packages for you to take!” Are you laughing yet? Probably just the Peace Corps alumni and missionaries! Once we remember shipping a car part to Togo for Laura (Peace Corps daughter) who did not, of course, have a car! We put on our check list for the next venture a note to call the Ethiopians a week before departure!

We arrived on the 29th of December, just in time to defend our international dance competition title. Some of you may recall that last New Years Eve Martha and I won a dance competition at a pretty fancy resort. We attended the celebration this year, taking guests, and originally were intent on defending our title. This year was a Zumba competition and we decided it was time to pass our legacy to another. We could see the competition was stiff. John Travolta appeared from nowhere (One Acre Fund we found out, originally from Ohio, really!). We also saw that the 2nd place winners from 2018 were there, and our invited guests were not the type to add applause to our twirls and fancy moves to influence judges. So we went home, happy to be on day three, or at least 9 hours ahead of Omaha and knowing that it was midnight somewhere!

We feel very fortunate, and will keep up the communication. More next time…rats, cockroaches, and Martha’s mild reaction.

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