Happy Fasika!

Tracy with some students from the Comboni high school.

I know that most of the world celebrated Easter in early April, but here in Ethiopia we just celebrated Fasika, or Easter, on May 5. Holy week was very busy here – everyone in the Orthodox and Catholic churches attends all of the services from Thursday through the Easter Vigil. For the Ethiopian Orthodox Christians their Easter Vigil lasted until about 3 a.m. and then people were allowed to break the strict fast they had been on for 50 days. For the previous 7 weeks all goats, chickens and cows had been safe, but there was a huge slaughter for Easter Sunday and massive amounts of meat were served and consumed.

During Lent I went to a beautiful Stations of the Cross with the Catholic University students. It was held at a small, very poor chapel where we used stations we had gotten from Maryknoll. They were large, poster-size pictures for each station along with written reflections. The pictures represent the poor and suffering all over the world (such as a Bangladeshi woman holding her dying husband) along with reflections that help us to think about Jesus and his suffering, and how Jesus and the cross are present to us in our world today. The local priests here don’t have much time to devote to youth ministry, so the University students did the whole program. It was really beautiful to see over 30 kids gathered for almost 2 hours praying silently, doing the stations, and then sharing their thoughts and feelings. Of course it was all in Amharic so I couldn’t follow a lot of it but it was one of those times where you just feel the presence of God.

As I reflect on my two years of mission in Ethiopia, I feel like God has pushed me out of my comfort zone. It’s amazing to realize how I really have always stuck to what I knew I would be successful or the ‘best’ at. But here in Ethiopia I’ll never be the best at anything – teaching, patience, faith, endurance. I’m in an environment that challenges me every day, and a lot of days I feel like I barely make it. Yet, there are times, like at the Stations of the Cross, when I feel whole and complete. By ourselves we are small and imperfect but when we come together as a community in God’s loving presence, we are somehow made whole.

Henri Nouwen writes that “when we live our lives as missions, we become aware that there is a home from where we are sent and to where we have to return. We start thinking about ourselves as people who are in a faraway country to bring a message or work on a project, but only for a certain amount of time. When the message has been delivered and the project is finished, we want to return home to give an account of our mission and to rest from our labors. One of the most important spiritual disciplines is to develop the knowledge that (all of) the years of our lives are years ‘on a mission.’”