Then and Now

Many of you have asked for us to share a little more about our Langano station in regards to who we live/work with, what the different ministries are, and also the history of Langano. It is really quite a story of patience and sacrifice. We have a lot to learn in these areas and it’s humbling to think we have become yet another part of the Langano story…

The story of Langano began in 1969 when some SIM men, with a dream for an Ethiopian youth camp, rowed around Lake Langano and found this large piece of forested land for lease. (Our station is on 96 acres and sits right on the shores of Lake Langano.) In 1971, SIM missionaries Norm and Betty Harrison moved to the site. They left lived in a borrowed VW camper van for two months, and then moved into a tent while Norm made cement blocks and Betty ran a bush clinic out of a second tent. Norm built the main camp building and the first youth camp was held in May, 1974.

Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie’s long reign was brutally ended in 1974 and the years of the Communist Derg began. In 1975 a group of Marxist students were sent by the government to Langano to start the “indoctrination program” for the local Oromo people. The Harrisons gave them a warm welcome, but during a meal in their home, one of the students suddenly stood up and tried to shoot Norm and Betty. Norm and Betty ran out their back door and fled for their lives through the bush for hours, until they found shelter in the hut of one of their local Oromo friends.

Shortly after that, Betty became seriously ill with hepatitis – she lapsed into a coma and almost died. Due to Betty’s health, the Harrison family had to return to Canada and the Langano station was vacant until the Ethiopian Air Force took it over to use as a recreation center. God used the Air Force’s presence to protect the Langano property for six years.

In 1991, when the Communist government collapsed, local Oromo community leaders burned the bridge into the property to keep looters and thieves away. They then traveled to Addis Ababa and asked SIM to return to Langano. An agreement was drawn up, and Langano became a joint project of SIM and the Ethiopian Kaleheywitt Church.

In 1993, 17 years after the Harrisons left, a German family came to serve at Langano. Herman and Andrea Buheitel and their three daughters, reopened the property. Herman constructed a new bridge, fences, and cleaned and repaired the buildings. About a year later, while pregnant with their fourth child, Andrea became ill with a virus and died suddenly. Once again, Langano was vacant. (Shane was actually able to meet Herman last month. He has just moved back to Ethiopia to serve in another remote area. And how cool is this – one of Herman and Andrea’s daughters is coming to work at camp this summer!) What a sacrifice this family made for the Lord’s work.

Dan and Kim Scheel, our team leaders, moved here from another station in Ethiopia in 1994. Dan does construction and Kim runs the clinic. (We’ll talk more about their roles later in the blog.) There have been quite a number of other missionaries who have lived at this station and poured their hearts into the Langano ministry. All of them have left an imprint in their own ways. It is such a privilege for us to join in the Langano story.

Currently, there are six established ministries in Langano:

The Clinic

Camp Langano and Sports Friends Camps

Manna Adbil (House of Hope Crisis Nursery)

Langano School

The Garden Project (microfinance)

Langano Church

Here is a little overview of our team and their roles:

Jake and Sarah Wetzel are heading up the Sports Friends camp ministry. Shane is working with Sports Friends alongside Jake. Sports Friends is a ministry of SIM that uses sports as a tool for evangelism and discipleship. There have been over 150 churches planted in Ethiopia through sports evangelism, many of these with difficult to reach people groups. Allyson went on her first mission trip to Bolivia when she was 15 and worked with the Wetzels there! Who would have dreamed we would be working with them 20 years later in Ethiopia…

Dan and Kim Scheel are our team leaders and they have been at Langano for 15 years. Dan actually grew up in Ethiopia. Dan is the main builder/fixer on the station and is one of the most creative people I have met. He has been working really hard on our house. Allyson is working with Kim who heads up the very busy clinic (averages 100 patients a day). Kim and Allyson met in Texas and were in nurse practitioner school together.

Soon Laura Niblack (another nurse) will be joining us to work at the clinic and in community health. The clinic will be expanding significantly this year to also include HIV testing and counseling. Right now Laura is finishing up Oromo language school. She is incredible with language! Laura has also been a huge help to us when we are in Addis. She is always willing to take the time to show us where places are and to orient us to life in Ethiopia. We are really looking forward to Laura moving down… hopefully by the end of June.

Hannah, Mia and Mo are being home-schooled by Mary Wilson. She has already been such a blessing to our family! She is a great fit and we all love her. You should see the classroom she has set up for the kids – it is fun like a real school room. Mary is great at coming up with creative crafts with scraps of things she finds around Langano. We all know not to throw anything out before we check with Mary to see if she wants it! In addition to teaching our kids, Mary helps with the children’s program at our church and also helps Joan at the school.

Joan Smith coaches local teachers and teaches English at Langano Elementary School. About 300 Oromo children attend. She is incredibly gifted at what she does and she has done an especially great job of helping the Ethiopian teachers run the school by themselves. Right now Joan is working on adding a library to the school. The biggest challenge has been finding picture books in Oromo – there aren’t many at all. Joan is also very involved in the community and has great relationships with her students and their families.

Mike Rodgers manages the micro enterprise projects to help the local Oromo people develop self-sustaining businesses. His first big project is the Garden Project where he is helping the community start growing vegetables to sell locally. We have benefitted from this project since we can also buy some vegetables there! Mike’s wife Amy keeps very busy homeschooling their kids. Amy is known for her decorating and great cooking. She is still a southern belle, just living in Ethiopia. The Rodgers also just completed their adoption of a little baby named Hannah. She is one of the happiest babies we have ever known!

Mulatu is the pastor of the church on our property. He is an Ethiopian evangelist which means he is from another area of Ethiopia and has also come here as a missionary to the Oromo people. Just like us, Mulatu and his wife Kalkidan and their 3 kids have had to learn a new language. Mulatu and Kalkidan always have smiles on their faces and the whole community really loves them. Mulatu also preaches to the patients waiting at the clinic each morning. Our kids enjoy playing with Clinton, Ebenezer, and Yaruch and Allyson practices her Amharic with Kalkidan.

Little snippets from the last month…

Here we are all packed up and headed down to Langano from Addis

Shane has been really busy getting ready for Sports Friends camps this summer. It has been quite the learning curve to get up to speed on managing a camp – especially in a new culture. He is really enjoying his work, though. All of his years in the business world are a huge help. It’s getting down to the wire (camps start in mid June) and there is still so much to be done. The main bathhouse is still under construction and for some reason, the lights in the main dining hall won’t come on. Each day seems to bring more challenges and time keeps ticking away. Jake and Shane make a great team and work really well together. Pray that everything gets done in time and that Jake and Shane don’t die of exhaustion before camps start!

Home Sweet Home

We are living in our “new” house and we are so happy to have a place to finally settle into despite the fact that it is pretty much a construction site!! When we moved in we had no fridge, no water for showers, no windows in the bedrooms, no kitchen counters, and a cement floor. (Keep in mind our house used to be the clinic, so imagine the floor – yuck!) Oh – we also had an attic full of bat poop about 6 inches deep! Allyson spent an afternoon up there with a shovel and box cleaning it all out. At least now the bat urine smell is gone. We are slowly making progress and our house is starting to come together. Needless to say, we are becoming quite the handy couple! We have learned to do all kinds of things. Dan and Shane have been working really hard to finish up our house, but it is just a BIG project! When we installed our hot water heater, it pretty much brought the whole camp down. It turns out it takes a ton of electricity (which we only have 2 hours a day), so now many of our lights don’t work and we have affected our poor neighbors, too. The hot showers are so wonderful, though, after taking many cold ones!

A few weeks ago two guys, Mike and Dave, came from the States to help tile the clinic and camp. They worked so hard and we are so grateful that they came. The clinic and camp floors got a huge facelift! Allyson was able to tile with them a few days so that she could learn the tricks of the trade. Now we are busy tiling our house. So far we have done the kids’ bedroom and almost all of the kitchen. It takes a long time, but it is coming along.

Mike helped us lay out the kids’ room – thanks!

Our kitchen

Dan fixing the drain from our shower…

The kids have gotten into a rhythm with homeschooling with school going from 8-12 each day. Mary is so creative. They are even making a Langano newspaper! Science often includes nature walks and bird-watching since Langano is known for all of it’s beautiful birds. Sarah is also helping Mary teach them art – they have been doing watercolor painting. They are a little behind since we got off to a slow start this fall. We are trying to have them do 2 math lessons a day to catch up. We have also decided to do school year-round so when visitors come they are able to take a break… (hint, hint) In the afternoons they enjoy playing with the local kids and going on cultural adventures. The latest is that they like to buy smoked fish from across the container bridge. It’s a whole fish, eyes and all, and it costs 20 cents. The girls love it!

Our friends the McDaniels sent a sign for Challa to let him know they were praying for him. We took it out to his house and Laura was able to explain to them what it said. Challa’s TB is continuing to improve, but Tayiba (his mom) has not been very compliant with his treatment. Out of everyone in the community, Allyson is probably closest to her, and she is trying to help her understand the importance of continuing his treatment. Tayiba is a very young mom and is still immature in a lot of ways. A few weeks ago Taybia was sick with malaria and we brought her dinner. She took the dinner out of the bag and placed 6 eggs in the bag for us! How sweet is that? She wanted Allyson to spend the night, but we haven’t attempted that one yet. Mary actually wants to go spend the night, so we’ll let her test it out first. Allyson’s biggest concern is where she would go to the bathroom. The locals all pretty much just go wherever outside, but the problem is that we draw a crowd everywhere we go, so she’d have an audience!

Laura explaining the sign to Challa’s family

It was MuluAlem’s birthday (a nurse from the clinic), so we decided to have a birthday party for her. Most Ethiopians don’t celebrate birthdays so they don’t know when their birthdays are, but MuluAlem knew hers, so we took advantage of the situation and threw her a party American style! We had all the nurses and Dan and Kim over for dinner. We sang her “happy birthday” and had a big double decker cake. We even handed out party favors at the end… pens for them to use at the clinic. We had a great time and enjoyed spending time with the nurses outside the clinic.

Then last week, MuluAlem invited our family over for a “cultural” dinner. She had made a huge spread and fed us the Ethiopian feast meal, dorowat. It was very generous of her. Afterwards she did a coffee ceremony for us. So much for Allyson not drinking coffee! MuluAlem is such a sweet girl and she is really opening up to us. She is a new nurse (this is her first job) and she is not from the Langano area, so she is adjusting to rural life, too.

Dan and Kim had the whole Langano team over for dinner one night for a warthog roast. We used wheelbarrows as seats. We just had to include the pictures because it was such a funny sight. We all looked like a bunch of hillbillies.

This little boy showed up at the clinic on the weekend with no clothes. Thankfully he was the same size as Moses, so we were able to send him home all dressed up. He was so excited. We have seen him again out in the community a few times running around in his “new” clothes.

Our friends the Gokcens who live in Addis came down to Langano for a weekend visit. They were so sweet to ask us for a grocery list before they came. Then Corinne had Allyson close her eyes for a surprise. She announced that “God even cares about the little things” and then handed Allyson a 12-pack of Dr. Pepper!!!! You should have seen Hannah’s face. It was priceless. That was about 4 weeks ago and we still have a few Dr. Peppers left. We are trying to make them last, so we only treat ourselves when we are having a really bad day… and it makes our day wonderful!

We have an array of special friends that keep us company at Langano…




Beetles… (that’s Allyson’s hand and, yes, the bug is alive)

More ants…

…but we are getting really good with our slingshots!

I (Allyson) have been working at the clinic about 3 days a week and I also go in for emergencies and deliveries. Of course, there is never a dull moment. We have had all kinds of crazy hospital runs and weird illnesses.

The past three births have all been pretty intense. One was a complete breech, and the head got stuck for a while. Thank goodness I had just read up on breech deliveries and was able to use some newly learned techniques to help deliver the baby. The baby came out not breathing and had to be bagged for about 15 minutes. In the end, the baby girl came around and went home doing well the next day.

The next delivery was a patient who delivered right in front of the clinic before I got there. The baby was about a month premature and had fallen in the dirt when he delivered. He was having trouble breathing, but we thought he would pull through it. As the hours went by, he continued to decline and we debated driving the baby and his mom to Addis to a hospital (4 hour drive) in the morning. In the end we didn’t have to make the decision because he died in the night. The parents were really grateful for all we did to try to save their baby boy which was very humbling. It is so interesting here because the people in the bush seriously don’t expect their babies to live past their first year. They are so comfortable with death. They seemed somber and sad, but didn’t show a lot of emotion. In fact, they even asked if we could just bury their baby for them. I explained to them that it was best for them to bury the baby in an area near their hut so the mom could feel peace about where he was buried. They were very open to the idea and took the baby home. Since Shane and I know what it feels like to go to the hospital, deliver a baby, and leave empty-handed, we wanted to make her return home as pleasant as possible. (Usually the moms walk home the next day after they deliver – it can be a 6 hour walk!!) Shane drove the parents and their baby back to their village. As soon as they arrived, the villagers surrounded the car and began mourning. Shane said he could tell that this family was well supported in their community.

The last delivery was just a few days ago. It had been pouring rain all night long and I got called for a delivery at 5 am. I knew it must be something bad if the patient was carried on foot in the pouring rain for hours in the dark. When I got there, it seemed like the woman was about to deliver. I pulled this woman’s prenatal record she saw that this was her 9th baby and that her last 3 babies were born full term, but stillborn for an unknown reason. Now this was her 4th stillborn baby! After about an hour of trying to deliver the baby, Kim and I decided it was best to transfer the mom to the hospital. The poor woman was so exhausted she would just collapse when we stood her up. We got her loaded up in the car with her family and headed for the hospital which was almost 2 hours away. Occasionally during the ride the people in the back with the patient would start wailing really loud and we would have to pull over to make sure she was still alive. It was crazy. When we finally got to the hospital and got her in the delivery room, they were unable to get a blood pressure or a pulse. She was still conscious, but she was fading fast. Then she started bleeding a LOT so they took her back for an emergency c-section. It turns out her uterus ruptured sometime between the clinic and the hospital. She had lost so much blood that she needed a blood transfusion. Kim and I volunteered to have our blood tested to donate to her. The family was hesitant because they didn’t completely understand what was going on, but they decided that if we were willing to do it, they better we willing, too! THANK GOODNESS Kim was a match and I wasn’t… because the needle was huge!! When we asked what the actual size of the needle was, the nurse said he didn’t know, but it was the same size that he uses on his cow! Go Kim! The mom was in recovery and getting her blood transfusion when we left. We took the husband, their son, and their baby that had died back to their village and got back to Langano right before dinner. It was an exhausting day to say the least.

This has been an extra long blog, so we will leave you with a few quick things… For one, Hannah is doing much better – thanks for your prayers. Since our last update, both Shane and Moses have had malaria, but they are both doing fine now. To all of you who have sent emails, letters, care packages, etc. to us, we are humbled and grateful. Thank you so much. We feel very loved and undeserving. Your support has been our lifeline. We are 6 months in and it has been hard, but okay. We are taking it a day at a time and relying on the Lord big time. Even though it is difficult, we are so thankful to have this opportunity to live among the Oromo people and show them the love of Christ. Thank you all so much for being our senders. You are a part of this journey, too.

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