July 7, 2015

Soul sightings

Written by  Arlene Kreider
Staff from the Meserete Kristos Church guesthouse gathered at Selam's house in 1981. Selam, the guesthouse hostess, is far left, standing next to Arlene. Staff from the Meserete Kristos Church guesthouse gathered at Selam's house in 1981. Selam, the guesthouse hostess, is far left, standing next to Arlene. Photo provided by the author.

"As of this moment, this building, the car, everything on this compound belongs to the government." These were the words of the hooded Marxist government official and his armed accomplices as they barged into the Meserete Kristos Church guest house on a Sunday evening in January, 1982.

I was serving with EMM as manager of the guest house in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, at the time. The Marxist government was determined to get rid of religion. Six church leaders were taken off to prison and all church buildings and properties were confiscated. In the following years, the church would thrive underground. All-night prayers and constant prayer, prepared God's people for these days. Prayer would continue to sustain us.
 
I was encouraged, through messages sent secretly by church elders, to remain on after the church closings. Amidst the chaos, confusion, and uncertainty around us in the years that followed, there was an unusual sense of peace and strength within. Everything was out of control but through unconditional trust in God, I learned that He could handle my "everything." During the days of detainment that followed afterwards in my home, I knew that my God was "enough."
 
Besides working in the guest house, I had also been teaching English as a second language at the church school up the street. This school now belonged to the Marxist government. All my life I had been taught Jesus' way of peace and His teachings to love one's enemy. What better way to live that than to continue teaching in the now-Marxist school that had been confiscated from the church. Amazingly, this was permitted! In the midst of severe restrictions against openly sharing the good news, God's light and love brought many secret seekers wanting to learn of God within.
 
After 22 years of feeling at home in Ethiopia and having special bonds with brothers and sisters there, I returned to the U.S. This culture seemed so gray and wishy-washy. Materialism and individualism hit me in the face and in my heart. Everything here seemed controlled by human reasoning and efforts. Physical safety and health seemed to be pursued with deep passion. I was now a foreigner in my homeland. After some time of struggle, Deuteronomy 33:27 again jumped out at me: "The Eternal God is your dwelling place." All other kinds of locations and homes become secondary in the face of that truth.
 
Today, many years later, I enjoy my little apartment and life at Landis Homes Retirement Community. I chose my home here because of macular degeneration (gradual loss of eyesight). Hearing aids have also become my constant companions. How grateful I am to continue to be involved in mission. Some of the ways I serve are as a Stephen Minister at my church, a chaplain volunteer, and as a Children's Learning Center assistant on this campus. I also minister through listening to a friend down the hall, or escorting a resident via wheelchair to a program.

May I never lose sight of the soul lessons learned in Ethiopia, in the U.S., and in every place my life's path will yet lead me. This season invites me to be "in God" more than "doing for God." Soul sightings become deeper and clearer as I learn to see and hear with my heart. Twenty-twenty vision is not a prerequisite for that!
 
Arlene Kreider served with EMM from 1967 - 1989 in Ethiopia with one sabbatical year at Eastern Mennonite Seminary in 1977 - 1978. After she returned to the U.S., Arlene worked part-time in EMM's Church Relations Department from 1989 - 1991. She lives in Landis Homes Retirement Community where she continues to serve. 
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