Update 1 // Culture, Jesus, and a Book

Being in a foreign country always presents itself with adjustments to new things, new cultures. Some of them you anticipate. Some of them you do not. Some you love. Some it is more of a struggle.

I’m currently staying at a hotel about a mile from the school I’m documenting. It is certainly within walking distance, but often with my camera gear I feel it’s better to call a taxi. Now when I’m with an Ethiopian friend and they take care of getting a taxi we pay 1-2 birr for that little route one way. When I try and secure a taxi myself, people want to charge me up to 100 birr for the same route. The lowest I’ve been able to get on my own has been for 10 birr. Luckily, with the help of a friend, I’ve arranged a deal with a driver who will take me back and forth to the school in the morning, lunch and at the end of the day for 15 birr a day. It works out pretty well.

My first experience overseas was working a summer camp in the bush of southern Kenya with the Maasai. It was an incredible experience and holds a very dear spot in my heart. One of the customs I came to love was tea time every mid morning and mid afternoon. It was, if nothing else, a little break where we could relax a little, spend some quality time with our translators (without 100 kids running around) and where my friend Mike McGuire could get his nap in. I wasn’t expecting morning tea in Ethiopia since they had never been colonialized and not had the same influence by the british as Kenya. In my past travels to Ethiopia, I had not experienced this either. There was always tea around at meals… But why get tea when you have real Ethiopian coffee right there as well! Yet, on this trip, every morning at the school we have tea. It’s a welcomed custom, that I can get used to very easily.

Ethiopia has several unique customs. One is their calendar and time. In Ethiopia, it is year 2002. I was told why on my last visit here but have since forgotten. I will ask again. They also have a different time schedule than we do. Our time works on two 12 hour sections to make up a full 24 hours just like theirs. However, in Ethiopia you have a day section and a night section. Thus noon is really 6:00 in the day in Ethiopia. So 1:00 in the morning is 7am, 2:00 is 8am and so forth. Then 1:00 at night would be 7pm. This takes a little getting used to when scheduling things.
I had forgotten about this difference until I was telling my driver what time I needed to be at the airport in the morning to make my connection to Gondar when I first arrived. When I said I needed to leave at 4:30 in the morning and there was a look of confusion on his face, I knew I for sure was gonna miss my flight. But he came through.
My first morning in Gondar I was to meet the vice principal of the school in the lobby of my hotel at 2 to take me to the school. I hadn’t really figured out the difference in the time deal yet. For some reason I was thinking this was 7am and not 8am and so I called poor Agemas at 7:30 wondering where he was. It wasn’t till later that day that I put it all together.

I’ve been in other countries who have a morning call to prayer. However, Ethiopia has been a little different. Here in Gondar, the call starts about 4AM. For those of you who have never heard a masque call to prayer, it’s hard to explain. To an east Texan it would sound like someone singing arabic over a loud speaker. About 20-30 min into the call the Ethiopian Eastern Orthodox Church begins a call to prayer itself. So until 7:30AM, you have what appears to the outsider as two religions competing over who’s more spiritual. It’s quite lovely, really. Honestly, who sleeps in past 4AM anyway.

Regardless of how different cultures may be, there is still somehow an element that makes it intriguing, unique and often times enchanting. You have 1 of 2 choices when you encounter a custom that doesn’t easily grab your heart. You can become bitter and wonder why they must do this or that, or why they do it that way and not how we do it, this route easily lends itself to becoming dangerously judgmental and considering yourself better than others. The other option you have is to embrace it, learn from it, and ultimately decide to respect their culture. Sometimes that’s a daily choice.

Yesterday I was sitting under a tree with one of the security guards from the school. He was doing his best to teach this Texan a little Amharic with the little broken english he knew. At one point in our conversation my friend asked:
“Are you protestant?”
“Yes” I answered, “are you?”
“Yes. I go to this church.” pointing to the church adjacent the school grounds. “Before I worked, worked, worked… No change. But after Jesus… Change. Happy.” pointing to his heart with a smile across his face.

Seriously, how beautiful and yet simple is the Gospel? May we not lose sight of that in our complex, busy western lives.

On the way over here I read Donald Miller’s latest book A Million Miles in a Thousand Years. Do yourself a favor and go down to the bookstore and pick up a copy or go to amazon or iTunes and put it on your Kindle or iPad. Whichever way. Just get it. It’s a great book, I couldn’t put it down.
In the book he talks about his journey writing a screenplay for a book he had written several years ago and he begins to explore the concept of what makes up a great story in a movie or a book. He then asks what would it take to live a great story in your own life.

That’s all I have for now. I’m working on some fun media projects with a local school, a feeding center for widows, and a micro-enterprise. Look forward to sharing it with you when they are completed and we have fast enough internet to post.

show hide 14 comments

Sara Garza Lane!!! So excited to see the first post. Thank you for
updating us. Very excited to hear more about it all friend!!

Karen Hinkley Thanks so much for the update Lane! We love and miss you and are praying for you!

Mike McGuire Love the write up Lane, thanks for the shout out! Praying for you brother. So cool to hear about the security guard, what a great reminder indeed.

Josh Patton Absolutely Beautiful! Press on bro, press on!

Kay Stroud So enjoyed reading this! I know you will have an experience of a lifetime!

Deanne Green Lane,
We love you and are praying for you….Keep us posted. We really dont know how blessed we are here in the USA.

Cooper Strange Oh man, I do not know about the tea, but you can get some killer coffees from around there. I know they know how to grow them, but I do not know how well they would make it.

The Muslim call to prayer would be interesting, but I would be the first to high tail it into the Orthodox prayers. I would not be in English, though, so you would pretty much need to know what they were saying (from reading the prayers yourself in English) to know what was going on. There are some powerful prayers in the mornings.

Pam Barnard Lane, what a beautiful job you are doing of bringing your experiences to life! I can almost visualize the details you discuss in your update! Thank you so much for sharing with us and allowing us to share with you. What a joy to see God at work in so many ways – maybe ways we would see in our own lives if we just truly opened our eyes! You are in our prayers many times a day.


holly This is so good. I can’t imagine all that we’re going to learn from you. Thank you!

Brenton “After Jesus. Change. Happy.” I LOVE THIS!!! Lane what a cool story. I also love your quote about embracing a different culture…there is so much wisdom in that. Thanks for the update bro. Praying for you daily…

Missy Becton Loved the story about your conversation with the security guard! Our Jesus is so amazing!

John Durham Lane, great update. We enjoy praying for you and over you and love reading the stories. I preached in a Masai church once in central Kenya – my legs were so sore from jumping/worshipping for 2 hours…I was out of breath when it came time for me to preach. Love you bro…keep telling His story.

jstanley Lane, I love your writing style! Give us more!!!

Kristin Biggs Simply amazing!

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