Trip Report: May 2024

Published On: June 24th, 2024By Categories: Clean Water, Development, News, Solar Power

In May, Chris Bounds, Charley Bounds, Rick Smith, and Tracy Sauerwein of Covenant Presbyterian Church in Boise, Idaho traveled with me to Addis Ababa, Mizan, and Maji. The trip goals were:

  • To have members observe and report back to Covenant PC on the work that MDC has accomplished
  • To introduce CPC members to colleagues and collaborators of MDC
  • To foster relationships between members of the Maji mother church and of Covenant Church
  • To finalize the MoU with Solar Energy Foundation on collaboration in the future work of MDC
  • To finalize the MoU with the Maji Presbytery for building and running women’s development projects out of a women’s development center in Maji
  • To visit and evaluate the proposed site of the future women’s development center in Maji
  • To meet and learn from local women how a women’s development center in Maji town could serve them

It was an ambitious set of goals, requiring cultural sensitivity, curiosity, flexibility, and commitment. I was delighted with everyone’s creativity and resilience in meeting the travel challenges.

We had supper the first night with Welela, our Ethiopian-American board member. This gave the guests a chance to meet her and to hear about her goals, her gifts, and the circumstances of her place in Ethiopia’s economic development goals.

L to R: Welela, Caroline, Tracy, Rick, Charlie, Chris

The following day included introductions to Samson (our Ethiopian solar businessman and colleague) and Habtu, the tour manager. We then had tea with Kes (Rev.) Demelash , pastor of the Maji mother church, who is getting his degree at the seminary in Addis Ababa. Kes Demelash was very excited about the concept of the women’s development center being built in a collaboration between MDC and the Maji Presbytery. He had visions and suggestions for training there.

We posed by the peace dove on the seminary compound. Everywhere we went in Ethiopia, people greeted us with the greeting of “Selam,” peace, and then emphasized their longing for real peace in Ethiopia by saying things like,

“Yes, there is peace. Peace is everything.”

There is a deep sadness for the ethnic divisiveness in the country, there is a hardship because of the rampant inflation, and there is concern for the future. People seemed to me to be enduring very hard circumstances. And praying for peace in what they fear could become a powder keg of violence.

Still feeling our jet lag, but excited to get on our way, we flew the next day to the city of Jimma and reached Mizan by road the next evening. The second day of land travel, on unpaved roads, brought us to Maji District. On our way through the district capital town of Tum, we stopped at the Bible translation compound to meet Ato Zerihun and to see the site where an avocado orchard is being proposed. This will be an income-producing local project to help fund the work of the presbytery.

We arrived in Maji in the late afternoon, with clouds piling up in the west. We took no chances but stopped to visit the hospital on our way through town. The room full of batteries and the solar array on top of the busy hospital are impressive! Hospital staff gave us a tour and told us they are now serving 30-40,000 patients a year. Chris and Charley were particularly impressed, having seen the empty buildings and the supplies still stored in crates because there was no power to run them.




We drove down the mountainside the next morning to visit the gravity water system in Siski and Adikas kebeles. On the way home, the clouds lifted so we could see the lowlands on both sides of the land bridge that my sisters and I called “Down on Both Sides,” and that served as a metaphor for my childhood on two continents in my first memoir.

There is no way to adequately describe the scope and quality of work done in our gravity safe-water project without seeing it and driving those distances that the men trenched. In both areas, the local leaders greeted us and talked with Ato Markos about the systems.



In Adikas, the women leaders who had spoken at the celebration or had been interviewed for the water project video met us again. I had taken several of the Ready Set Go books with me and gave each of them a book. They had both gone to school, but without reading materials, were rusty—they sounded out the words carefully and slowly in Amharic. They were delighted with the illustrations. These were the first storybooks to have ever been seen in that kebele. I learned later in the trip that I got a grant to have one of those books, based on our water projects, translated into the local language of Dizin.

The women also brought my gift-cow for me to see again. She is three months pregnant now and has been given a name, after much discussion in the community. The Dizi people name their cows according to their markings. She is named Kuraz, for the markings on her neck, which look like the traditional scarring people used to do on the neck and chest. She will soon be walked up the 17 miles to Maji to live with Truck Two, the orchard cart horse, on the guest house compound.

On the way back to the guest house we stopped to see the site of the Maji town well and the solar array that supplies water to the town. The mayor and his deputy met us there and thanked us again for that infrastructure support.



Tracy and I spent a moving couple of hours with over 50 women who are members of the MDC women’s self-help groups, uniting for community support and improved living standards. We shared about our lives as women on two continents but with similar challenges. Together we brainstormed ideas for training in a future women’s development center.

On Sunday, a visiting choir from a rural church sang in the Dizin language and musical style with local instruments and a drum instead of the church choir using the synthesizer, Chris gave the message, celebrating our being united as children of God despite our superficial differences. He and the others are planning a church service at Covenant Presbyterian Church in Boise to share photos and videos of the Maji church service.

We left after lunch to be in Mizan and then Jimma in good time for our flight back to Addis Ababa.

In Mizan that evening, we were hosted by Ato Tilahun and his family. His father was educated in the Maji mission school that my dad supervised in the 50s and 60s. He was raised on the land that has been given back to the Maji Mekane Yesus church for the guest house and orchard. He is now a state supreme court judge. Rick, being a lawyer, asked questions about the Ethiopian legal system and we all learned. Ato Tilahun has since followed up with help in the search for a civil engineer to do a soil test and make a plan for a women’s development building in Maji.


My final business in Addis was to interview an Ethiopian civil engineer who Ato Tilahun had recommended. After further discussion with Markos, Samson, and Tilahun, we have now made contact with a senior engineer in Jimma who is interested in helping us.

Stay tuned for our announcement in September of this exciting next big thing for MDC!


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