Monday, August 23, 2010

50th Wedding Anniversary, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, August 7, 2010

August 7, 1960, fifty years ago, on a hot August afternoon in Gainesville, we were married in the Baptist Student Union on the campus of the University of Florida. Following the reception, and with a cowbell locked around Don’s leg, (thanks to Don’s fraternity brothers!), we drove off in our gray and white 1956 Chevrolet to begin our journey of married life.
    We are quite sure we never dreamed we would be celebrating our 50th wedding anniversary in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Our journey together has had many unexpected and surprising events and experiences we never dreamed we would have. Most of those have been joyous ones.
    Along the way God blessed us with four wonderful children and one grandchild. We couldn’t ask for them to be any more supportive of our journey here in Addis and at MCM. They think it is “kind of neat” to have parents our age off in a far distant country, and they proudly share with friends and colleagues where we are and what we are doing. Perhaps they are just happy to have us over 8,000 miles away so they don’t have to listen to any well-meaning advice from us!
    For some 40 years we have had the privilege for Don to work in hospitals in a number of developing countries. These were always short-term stays as he could not be away from his practice for long periods of time. All our children have been with us on some of these trips, and on our 25th wedding anniversary we celebrated with all of them in Bangalore, India, where Don was working in the Bangalore Baptist Hospital and the kids and I were involved in other projects.  Our children say that making these trips with us was the greatest gift we could give them.
    The longer we live, the more we realize that life is a gift and each day an opportunity. We are grateful for this precious God-given gift and pray that we will continue to live in its wonder and mystery.
    Along with this thought is recognizing the joy of sharing life together. Our journey of 50 years has been filled with great high moments and also some deep valleys. Few of us escape the days that can sometimes be dark. We believe, through the struggles and difficulties, we have all learned priceless lessons we would have learned in no other way. We have become as Henri Nouwen says, “Wounded Healers.” We have greater understanding, compassion, and empathy for others and have drawn closer as a family because of the times of pain.
    The journey has helped us realize how important relationships are in our lives. First, for us, is our relationship to God, and then, the love between us as husband and wife, spreading to our children, family, friends, and co-workers. We need to continue to nurture these relationships.
    We missed having our children with us to celebrate this special occasion, but our friends here came together to honor us with a lovely dinner party. We were overwhelmed at the love that evidently went into each detail of this wonderful event. The Korean pastor’s wife is a “balloon artist” and had creative art from the entrance to the apartments, down the hallways, on the ceiling and walls, climaxing with almost life-sized replicas of us, complete with a bridal veil. The food, Korean and Ethiopian, under the direction of our dining room manager, was both delicious and beautiful. Mr. and Mrs. Kim very ably arranged all the details, even to placing a floppy hat, something like a sombrero, on Don’s head, along with a shawl around his neck, and then to the strains of the wedding march we were to enter the festive room.
    Arrangements of roses were everywhere. Several of them contained at least 50 roses or more in each bouquet. We had a cake from the Sheraton Hotel, and all the surgeons in the room were invited along with us, to make the first cut.
    The event was an international affair with guests from Korea, Ethiopia, Finland, Norway, and a few from America. Perhaps it was fitting for us to celebrate with these friends as evidence of the universality of God’s love as it extends to the whole world. We were grateful to all these dear ones who attended and who worked hard to make our 50th wedding anniversary a memorable and unforgettable occasion.
    We do not know what lies ahead, but for now we feel we are where God placed us and are eternally grateful for this opportunity. Before we left our home in Orlando, Florida for our journey of 8,000 miles, some verses from Psalm 139 seemed to express God’s care for us as we began a new chapter.  Inserting “us or we” in place of the “I or me”, the verses would read, “O Lord, you have searched us and know us. If we rise on the wings of the dawn, or settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide us, your right hand will hold us fast.”
    God’s abiding presence has been with us and is ever there each mile of the journey and will be for the road ahead. (See slideshow in sidebar.)
-- Barbara

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Ginchi Church

Mr. Kim asked us to go with them to a church dedication on Sunday afternoon. We drove for 2 hours west of the city through beautiful rolling hills till we arrived at this rural area. It was overcast and sprinkling. We had to traverse a path of stones. They were embedded in gray sticky mud and were as slippery as oil on glass. Many people had turned out for this occasion, and, of course, they asked me to be part of the ribbon cutting team of dignitaries. Following the cutting, we all entered the church. Naturally, they placed Barbara and me on the front row, while the speakers were ushered to the platform.
    A young missionary from Korea had secured this property some 4-5 years prior, and the Myun-Sung missionaries had supported it over the developing years, culminating in this beautiful church dedication today. Some 300 to 400 people packed into the building, filling it to capacity. The preachers preached and the singers sang. The children’s choir was a special feature, and Barbara was “up close and personal” on the front row. They were so proud of this accomplishment. It was a great time of celebration. We were honored to be a part of the festivities. (See slideshow in sidebar.)
-- Don