Hi all. Here’s another brief update on Liasor’s time in Ethiopia on behalf of Uduk Hope.
Thanks for your thoughts, prayers, and continued support!
Hi all. Just want to share a brief update on Liasor's time in Ethiopia as he endeavors to do research and develop partnerships for Uduk Hope Inc. He just completed a long journey from Addis Ababa to Assosa and is resting up before some big meetings tomorrow. He plans to visit Tongo and Sherkole refugee camps and at least one other camp where Uduk people and other Blue Nile refugees currently reside.
Liasor spent the first week and a half of his trip in Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia. Here are a few updates and praise reports from his time there:
So over the past 13-14 hours Liasor traveled by van from Addis Ababa to the town of Assosa (which is the area where he was born in a transit camp called Langkwai). This will be his first time back in this area since his early childhood, and I have to admit I truly wanted to be there with him during this return. His taxi driver friend was not able to come with him on the long journey, but he was accompanied by his new bodyguard. Liasor also got in touch with two Uduk students who live in one of the camps outside of Assosa, one of whom is a close childhood friend. These two students traveled from Assosa to Addis yesterday to meet Liasor in the capital and then accompanied him today from Addis back to Assosa. I'm so happy Liasor has found such great connections and support from friends new and old!
Liasor, his bodyguard, and his two student friends just recently arrived in Assosa today and they are resting in a hotel there for the night. The trip took longer than expected because of youth protests along the border that blocked some of the roads. Tomorrow, Liasor will meet up with one of his uncles and they will go together to the ARRA office in Assosa to request access for Liasor to enter the camps and to conduct research, create partnerships, and potentially build an Uduk Hope team in each camp.
Liasor is nervous about this meeting with ARRA. While he is confident that they'll grant him entry to the camps because he has family there, he is still nervous about whether ARRA will approve his work and research. Please be praying for the officials to be receptive to the work Liasor and others of the Uduk diaspora are attempting to do to support their people and other Blue Nile Refugees through Uduk Hope Inc. And please pray for Liasor's continued safety and for the safety of each and every person he meets. We praise God for all the wonderful connections and friendships Liasor has developed. He hasn't been without great support since he arrived and first entered his hotel back in Addis.
Liasor will have limited internet connectivity once he enters the camps. He'll most likely be able to use apps like Facebook and Whatsapp, but he might not be able to video chat as often as we'd like which is most difficult for us personally so keep us in your prayers as well.
My quick personal updates now that I'm back in the USA: I had a lovely week and a half in Cleveland, Ohio with my side of the family. It was so refreshing spending time with my parents and siblings and extended fam. Tomorrow as Liasor heads to his big meeting with ARRA in Assosa, I'll be traveling back to Rochester, NY where I have my own big job interview. I'm looking forward to seeing Liasor's side of the family in Rochester and connecting with everyone there. See you all soon!
Happy Saturday! I'm back in the USA and Liasor is in Ethiopia, but I want to share some reflections on our last week in Oxford and Liasor's journey in Ethiopia.
I started writing this post while flying over beautiful sights of Greenland and the Labrador Sea! I had embarked on a long journey that started with a 2 hour bus ride from Oxford to London Gatwick Airport. From London I flew to Reykjavik, Iceland for a quick layover, and then it was on my second flight from Iceland to Boston that I got to see the beautiful views of Greenland. I flew with WOW air, a new airline that features purplish-pink aircrafts and incredibly affordable prices.
The last leg of my trip involved a third flight from Boston to Cleveland, Ohio (my hometown) to spend time with my parents for a couple weeks. Liasor had his own long whirlwind journey from Oxford to London Heathrow Airport, then to Hamad International Airport in Qatar, and finally he arrived in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. We had originally planned to go to Ethiopia together, but as I mentioned in my last two posts, there’s been recent unrest in and around the refugee camps we planned to visit. We received multiple messages from family in Ethiopia saying they believed this wasn’t the best time for me to visit the camps. So we decided Liasor would go forward to do research and establish partnerships for Uduk Hope Inc., the nonprofit organization we are currently leading which supports Blue Nile refugees and others in the region (many of whom are friends and family). We believe Liasor will be much better suited to navigate traveling between cities and the refugee camps to accomplish this work in this otherwise uncertain climate. It was such a hard decision for us both (the last thing we want is to experience long distance again!), but God has paved the way and has already opened many doors for Liasor to do this important work (from dear friends gifting us with plane tickets, to important meetings being set up for him with organizational leaders both in England before he left and in Ethiopia once he arrived).
Liasor gave me the following update this weekend: In the first days, he had a chance encounter at his hotel with the leader of an international organization interested in Uduk Hope's education efforts. Next week he will have a meeting with the leadership of that organization, as well as meetings with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and a university in Addis that a few Uduk contacts attend. He is doing well and asked for continued prayer for his upcoming meetings and for his safety.
I am praying for more doors to continue to open in Ethiopia that could hopefully lead to partnerships for Uduk Hope. I’m also praying for successful research to determine how Uduk Hope can support refugees in the Ethiopian camps along the South Sudanese border similar to how we have begun supporting the people in Doro Refugee Camp on the South Sudanese side of the border. Most personally, I want Liasor to stay safe.
Although Liasor and I are in different places and our time in the U.K. has come to a close, I want share a bit about our final week together in Oxford, England, where we were working for the past three months.
In the last week we did as much as we could to wrap up our translation/archival project with Dr. Wendy James before taking off. Much of the work will continue remotely and there’s a great chance we’ll meet together again with Wendy in 2018 either in Rochester, NY or back in Oxford to continue the work we began. We made a lot of progress translating songs on video from Bonga Refugee Camp from 1994 and 2000, and I got to complete a catalogue to organize and categorize the many hours of footage. Liasor began translating songs and conversations from Uduk communities from the 1960s as well. I personally learned so much this past summer with the opportunity to dive into this work and be surrounded by the language and the history. Some of the topics Liasor translated discussed tough subjects like the loss of life and displacement from home. Others were more lighthearted, like love songs or songs poking fun at others. It was very reflective, engaging work that I look forward to tapping into again. In the coming weeks, I look forward to sharing some of Wendy's videos with our family and larger Uduk community in the USA.
This summer, I got a lot of personal work done: I took an online course that I've been wanting to take for over a year now; I redesigned my personal website and blog (check out the different pages!); I began planning for some exciting ventures for 2018 which I’m currently writing grant proposals for; and I reflected on my next career steps and how to plug back into language learning when I return to Rochester. I also got TONS of rest. I think I slept in almost everyday of our time in Oxford, apart from the times when we had early morning meetings or church.
I’m also so thankful for the church family we found in Oxford. Our last day together in the city fell on a Sunday and we heard a very powerful message at church, ending the summer-long series on the Sermon on the Mount. Sunday’s message was about the need for obedient, habitual commitment if we desire to excel at anything in life, including our walk with Christ. To build a spiritual foundation that doesn’t shake when the wind and the storms come (because storms will come in each of our lives), we have to be in the habit of daily constructing our foundation (through reading and putting Scripture into practice daily and through committing to communities where we are growing and loving one another). And none of this should be out of a legalistic desire to simply follow rules and commandments, but rather out of the wonder of the love we have been given and the fact that we have a Father who wants us to know and grow closer to him and to those around us. The church community prayed for us, for our futures, for Uduk Hope, for the struggles the refugee communities are facing, for recent events all around the world, and they prayed for Liasor and me during our time apart. They also asked for ways to support us and our work. The love we felt was overwhelming and it was a very emotional Sunday.
My good friend, LaVonia, also came to visit which brought great fun to an otherwise busy last week in Oxford. It was wonderful catching up and sightseeing with her. We got to show LaVonia our daily lives in Oxford and our favorite places to hang out. One of the best moments was when we took LaVonia to our favorite pub, Rose and Crown, for great conversations together.
We originally planned to visit Ireland and family in Germany, but those trips didn’t work out in the end. I was especially disappointed about not making it to visit my uncle and family in Germany, like I usually do each time I'm in Europe, but I'm determined to save up and make that trip happen next summer, Lord willing!
Now I’ll spend the next week in Cleveland, Ohio while Liasor spends the next week in Addis, the capital of Ethiopia. From then, I’ll travel to Rochester, New York to pursue some career opportunities there and connect with family, and Liasor will travel on to Assosa, Ethiopia (the area where he was born, in a transit camp called Langkwai). In Assosa, Liasor will begin planning to visit the refugee camps close by.
I’m so so thankful for the past three months that we had in Oxford. It was such a sweet time all around. We got to work on an engaging project, build relationships with great scholars and friends, and get to know a new city together. We also got to go on our Spanish honeymoon a couple weeks ago (although this whole time in Oxford felt like an extended honeymoon to me)! I miss Liasor so much, and I can’t wait to see him in December (it seems like an eternity away). In the meantime, I’m looking forward to spending some great time with both our families and making my next career move.
Thank you very much for thinking of us and praying!
P.S. Here are some beautiful aerial night views of Boston and Cleveland. (The first two photos are Boston and the others are Cleveland. In Cleveland you can make out Tower City and Progressive Field). :)