Tuesday, May 12, 2009


The photo is the historic Djibouti Ethiopia Train Station.
It is scheduled to be relocated to make way for a new road.

Addis Ababa, the capitol of Ethiopia:

Five million people, twenty thousand little blue and white taxis, only a dozen traffic lights. (or so it seems)
In little shops bananas hanging, chili peppers and lentil beans.

Open sewers, trash burning, sheep scurrying down the street.
Flowers in gardens, trim and neat, while beggars urinate in the street.

City police wearing khaki walking two by two, (only clubs they carry,) while Federal cops with rifles, wearing Camo look a little scary.

Urchins begging, (and selling their wares.)
Loudspeakers blaring call the Muslims to their prayers.

Swarms of people always walking,
At the street-side cafes businessmen talking

Ancient statues in the medians where ladies with scissors crawl and trim the grass.
Loafers sit on the sidewalks nothing else to do as time they pass.

Women carry little babies through the town
One offered to sell to me hers. Makes me frown.

There are many more things I could say
Leave that for another day except:

I LOVE that place and can't wait to return!


Sunday, May 10, 2009


Fetlework (deaf Ethiopian grandaughter) had a soccer game and a basketball tournament this weekend.
The team won the soccer game in the morning and Fetla and family traveled sixty miles to the tournament.
When she and the other team mates tried to greet and be friendly with an opposing team the coach was rude and ran them off.
Our little girls determined to have a little revenge for the treatment, got aggressive on the court and defeated them 51 to 0. It was a message to the coach, not the girls on the team.
The coach was later removed from the tournament.
How sad for the girls he coached!
These are fourth and fifth grade girls!

Shalom for now

Monday, May 04, 2009


She was foster mother to more than 400 orphaned children.
When there was no one else, Haregowin Teferra was there.

When I last visited in October 2008 Moses greeted me inside the compound gate.

He, like so many others, had been abandoned outside the gate! A gentle, sweet child.

During coffee ceremony he sat on my lap as if I were his long lost grandfather..
What will happen to this precious child now that she is gone?

Haregowin Teferra 1946 March 17, 2009

We miss you gentle lady


Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Early Morning Mystery
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She was awakened early in the morning by a sound she could not identify. It sounded like singing but was it? It surely wasn’t coyotes, nor was it the chickens. Those sounds would come from outside the house and it was winter. The windows and doors were closed against the harsh January cold.
The sound seemed to come from the children’s bedroom. She glanced over to the clock with it’s large red numbers glowing in otherwise total darkness. Five o’clock. It couldn’t be the children. It’s just too early. What could it be?
She lay there in the bed warm comfortable, secure, not alarmed by the peaceful, melodic sound. It must be singing, but who could it be? From where is it coming? The house is surrounded by forest and pasture. It is a ten minute walk down the dusty lane to the highway and the nearest house.
Half an hour later husband began to stir. The cobwebs of sleepiness clouded his consciousness as wakefulness began to emerge.
“You awake? She said.
Kind’a. He responded.
Do you hear that? Huh? Yes. Sounds like one of the kids. I’ll go check.
The children are both deaf. They were born in Africa and had been in the household about nine months. Daughter Feltework, nearly nine years old, was afraid to sleep in her basement bedroom. It is an apartment really, since it has it’s own spacious bathroom, and so she and six year old brother Yonatan shared the same room, each sleeping on separate bunks.
When he entered the room the mystery was solved. Little Yonatan, profoundly deaf and unable to speak was singing. The words, if there were any, were unintelligible to father Vernon, and surely, an audition for a slot on “American Idol” would not happen, but singing it was.
Later, at breakfast, Vernon discussed the singing episode with Yonatan.
Yonatan signed; “Yonatan dream Cora baby sing.”
Cora is a friend who plays basketball on the same team as Fetlework. She has an infant sister named Jillian, who recently had major surgery.
Yonatan was dreaming about the baby and in his dream was singing to her.
Ain’t God good?

Saturday, November 17, 2007

A perfect Fall Afternoon

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Yesterday I was "conscripted" to pick up the children after school. We went to the shop where Vernon works and Rebecca was visiting.

I needed to go to the store and Fetlework, an expert lip reader, saw what I was saying and asked to go along. A first for her.

We arrived home before the others and as we entered the "little" house she asked "Memaw?" (She knows Memaw has returned to Florida.)

She fed Cormak the mouser? cat on the porch and we looked out over the valley at the creek and road beyond. This was not possible before because until the leaves fell they obscured the view.

Suddenly and with great enthusiasm she said: "play" and ran toward the side yard. I went back through the house, put on my boots and when I caught up discovered her gathering leaves with her hands.

Soon we had two rakes and had amassed a great pile of leaves. When Mom and Yonatan arrived they all got into the "fray".

Later, while Mom went to the "big" house to prepare dinner the children tunneled into, threw, rearranged and thoroughly enjoyed the leaves.

I heard voices, looked up and Mom was returinig with Dad to further enjoy. When I signed to Fetlework "I hear voices and people walking once a gain she asked: "Memaw?"

She misses her Memaw!

Today they are gathering firewood and I am loading my car for my departure early tomorrow.

I miss them already.

Please take the time to double click and enlarge and enjoy close up photos of two beautiful children.

Thank you Lord for allowing Memaw and me to learn from these incredible children.

What a special time we all had.

Ain't God Good?

Shalom for now,

Sunday, October 14, 2007

 One morning while we were in Addis Ababa Vernon decided to walk to Bambis Market and take Fetlework with him, an opportunity for the two of them to become better acquainted.
Fetlework pointed out a bottle of some kind of drink. Her newly acquired Dad inquired of two ladies if they speak English. They did, and assured Vernon the drink is very sweet and good. They also asked him about the little girl and he explained about adopting two deaf children. He thanked them for their help and they moved away.

Soon they turned and one of them declared: “You are coming to my house for coffee.”

Phone numbers were exchanged and it was agreed we would all go for coffee soon.

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When the appointed evening arrived our driver took us to a pre-arranged location, one of the ladies came in her car, and we followed her down streets around corners and down a very dark, bumpy alley. We turned into a parking compound and got out into the dark, scary lot.

We were lead across the alley to another compound, still in the dark, through a courtyard and thankfully, to the door of the house.

Inside and directly ahead were stairs and to the left was a room with sofas and chairs against the beige colored walls which were decorated with Ethiopian style religious art. On the floor beside the stairs lay long blades of aromatic grass upon which sat a little wooden platform. On top of the platform was a little hourglass shaped metal stove with charcoal burning inside. A small white table sat on the floor next to the stove and nearby was an ornate clay coffee pot with a long curved spout next to a brass incense burner.

Our hostess, Bayush Hana Woube, greeted us at the door. Her long, straight black hair reached below her shoulders and framed her delicate oval face. When she spoke her teeth flashed in the light. When her head turned her slightly protruding cheeks were highlighted.

Once Vernon, Rebecca, Fetlework, Yonatan, Larissa and I were seated conversation a female servant began roasting coffee beans in a shallow pan over the charcoal.

Her hair was wrapped in a dark scarf that had a pattern of yellow flowers. She wore a pink shirt. There were appeared to be burn scars across her mocha colored face under her eyes and across the bridge of her nose. Her ankle length skirt was nearly the color of her face and had alternating patterns of lighter and darker designs intermingled with leopard and tiger patterns randomly spaced. When she smiled her brilliant white teeth contrasted with the gold necklace around her neck. She had the typical Ethiopian heart shaped face as did the other ladies and appeared to be in her thirties but was probably younger.

As she worked, the pungent aroma of the roasting beans mingled with the fragrance of the incense and the smell of the burning charcoal.

When the roasting was complete the lady got up and went to the rear of the house. Soon a loud banging sound was heard. She was grinding the beans with a long handled mortar in a pestle. She continued in the coffee making process while we became better acquainted with our hostesses and food was served.

When the coffee preparation was complete she skillfully poured it by holding the curved spout about a foot above as the dark liquid streamed into each cup. The oldest daughter then delivered it to us beginning with the eldest person until all had been served.

We were served food Ethiopian style except for injera, which was replaced by sliced bread.

Near the end, before the fourth cup, popcorn, as is the tradition, was brought out.

I was seated next to Christina Gilmour, an Ethiopian woman whose husband is from England and works in Saudi Arabia while she stays in Addis with Ian, their young son. She supervises construction of the commercial development they are building near Bole Airport. She wore a white pull over shirt, gray slacks and was nearly full term with their second child. We enjoyed discussing construction and as it turned out she is quite knowledgeable about it.

While we were talking the electric power went out.

With much difficulty and apologies two candles were located, lit, and the party resumed. During the time the lights were off Larissa, my seventeen-year old granddaughter needed to use the bathroom. She was handed one of the candles and directed up the stairs. Shortly there was a scream. It seems for the toilet to function one needed to pour water into the tank. While she was performing that operation she dropped the candle into the tank and there she was, in a strange house, half way around the world, in the dark!

The teen-age daughter of Bayush took the remaining candle and went to her rescue while the rest of us sat in the dark. Soon we were all reunited.

The lights were off about an hour and a half, half the time we were there.

It was a magical time and too soon it was over.

With many hugs and hand-shakes we left and were soon on our way in the little blue and white cab.

The driver, much to my chagrin, left in the opposite direction from which we had arrived and I feared he was lost.

He was not.

Soon we were on the still under construction “ring road”, and much more quickly than our journey to the home we were safely back at the hotel.

Ain't God Good?

Thursday, September 13, 2007

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Rennie Brown’s is an extra special good news story

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This is one of those good news stories that people complain about never seeing in the newspaper.
I’ve been meaning to write it for a couple of years, but now that Rennie Brown has left town it’s time I finally got around to doing it.
I’m not saying it’s good news that Rennie brown has left town. It is and it isn’t. There are a lot of folks who’ll miss her around here, but there are there are plenty of others who’ll be glad to see where she’s going.
To get on with the story, let’s back-track to the summer of 1976. Rennie Brown was 13 and getting ready to go to Arkansas on a family vacation. One of her legs had been hurting a little bit, but Rennie figured it was just normal muscle soreness that came from running track at school. She didn’t think much about it.
The pain got worse though. By the time Rennie returned from Arkansas a couple of weeks later, she could barely walk and a lump the size of a golf ball had popped up on her calf. They said it was just a cyst that would soon go away.
A couple of more weeks passed. The pain got worse and the lump didn’t go away. Rennie’s doctors suggested she check into Shands Teaching Hospital in Gainesville for a biopsy on the lump.
The next thing Rennie knew, a doctor was standing by her bed talking about neuroepithetlioma. It’s a type of cancer and was the source of the lump on Rennie’s leg.
The doctor told Rennie she had a choice. Either have the leg amputated then and there, or risk the cancer spreading.
“I didn’t waste time thinking about it. It didn’t take five minutes to decide,” Rennie said. I told him to go ahead and amputate. Otherwise, I knew I’d be useless.”
And far be it from Rennie Brown to be useless.
The next few weeks were rough, of course. First the psychological and physical pain of losing a leg, then the slow adjustment to an artificial limb.
“One day, about two months after the operation it suddenly hit me. You know, the old ‘hey, you’ve only got one leg. Poor you. You oughta feel sorry for yourself.’ But that didn’t last long.' I got rid of that feeling quick and haven’t bothered with it since.” Rennie said.

That’s mainly because Rennie Brown has been too busy to wallow in self-pity. When she got back to Riverdale High School, the first thing she set out to do was make the swimming team. By her junior and senior years she was competing regularly in meets.
“ I was far from the best swimmer on the team.” She said., “But at least I can brag that I never came in last.
Rennie has devoted countless hours to working with the American Cancer Society – appearing on telethons, making speeches in the community. The last couple of years she has been a counselor at R.O.C.K. (Reaching Out to Cancer Kids) near Gainesville.
I guess it’s understandable that she would spend this time helping out a charity that’s fighting the disease that claimed her leg. What’s remarkable is the devotion she has shown to other charities as well.
“About a year ago, I rode in a bike-a-thon to help raise money for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. I was puffing along when Rennie pulled up alongside me.
“Great day for a bile ride, huh?” she said as we pedaled together for a couple of miles. She told me it was one of the first times she’d been on a bicycle since losing her leg. Two of her friends have Cystic Fibrosis and had told her about the bike-a-thon. Rennie had spent an entire month learning how to ride a bicycle all over again and had the bruises to show for it. She just wanted to do something to help out her friends.
The list of her activities could go on and on. She’s raised thousands of dollars in March Of Dimes Walk-a-thons. She’s worked for Easter Seals and the Muscular Dystrophy Association. Like I said, Rennie Brown made up her mind she wasn’t going to be useless.
On August 15, Rennie and her parents, Charles and Carol Brown, held a reception at the McGregor Church of Christ. They called it a “Celebration of Life.” It marked the fifth anniversary of Rennie’s amputation, the fifth anniversary of victory over cancer.
Since then, Rennie has been giving lots of thought to how she’ll spend the next five years. In the past, Shands Teaching Hospital has regularly contacted her when other young cancer patients have undergone amputations. And Rennie has traveled to Gainesville at her own expense to lend support to the children and their families.
“I just tell them ‘Hey, here I am. I’ve made it You’re going to make it, too. And we start talking about what it means to the rest of our lives. I think my being there really makes a difference,” Rennie said.
That’s why Rennie Brown packed her bags, said goodbye to her family and moved to Gainesville last Thursday. She isn’t sure exactly what she’s going to do. She might go back to school at some point, but primarily..............

This story appeared twenty six years ago in the Fort Myers News Press and was written by Bob Morris. Bob is now an author of novels.

Rennie Mills is now the mother of three children: a twelve year old son and two daughters, ages seventeen and nineteen. She is a Physicians assistant and she, Bob and the children make their home in Gainesville Florida.

Last fall Rennie rode her bicycle seventy miles in the Lance Armstrong Live Strong event in Austin Texas, still helping in the quest to find cures for cancer.

Ain't God good?
Shalom for now,

Saturday, August 25, 2007


My Wife The Filanderer?

Last evening memaw and I went down into the valley to fetch Miz Clara and take her with us to dinner and then a play at Stained Glass Theater.
Miz Clara came out with an envelope and presented it to Memaw. She opened it and there it was, a picure of Memaw with another man; a rather nice looking younger man.
Actually he is a singer at Hard Luck Diner where the two of them had lunch a few weeks ago.
A lady at another table was from Oklahoma and was kind enough to photograph them posing with the live entertainment and send copies from her home Oklahoma .

The play was good, we were able to share from the garden with Miz Clara and enjoy her companionship.

Ain't God good?
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Saturday, August 18, 2007

Water Guns, a Train Robbery, and Shoulder dancing at McDonalds

Yesterday morning I discovered the Marmots have eaten the big green cushaw pumpkin in my garden. It would soon have been ready to harvest and probably all ready weighed nearly twenty pounds.

What a disappointment! The recent three digit temperatures and extended drought have taken their toll, and now this.

The children were not cooperating in anything! They come from a part of the world where hardly anything works well and the only reason to be in a hurry is to get to food!

It also seems not much is expected out of them until about age twelve. It is often a chore to get them to do the simplest little tasks. As always with little children, it would be easier to perform the tasks ones self. Common experiences to be sure, but the consequences of low expectations from his former existence are still present, exacerbated by the fact that Yonatan, six, until three months ago had not been taught ANYTHING and now, as well as having grown an inch taller, he has acquired a bit of language. With language comes other abilities and he does well, but there are frustrating times.

Fetlework, eight years old, self proclaimed princess of the universe, shut herself in the bathroom as we prepared to leave on a surprise adventure and didn’t emerge until she had re-done her hair. Memaw, Poppy and Yonatan waited.

Finally we arrived at Silver Dollar City. We walked hand in hand through the crowds, went on several rides including the train, experienced a train “robbery,” and then went to the part of the park we all enjoy most. The name escapes me but there is a lagoon, water gushing everywhere, and big water guns like the nozzles on a fire hose.

Yonatan is King of the lagoon! No matter how many folks direct the spray from “their” guns he reigns supreme. Shooting and ducking, he endures the high-pressure streams and won’t quit. I can attest to this having become completely water logged as a direct result of his unerring accuracy and tenacity.

Finally it was time to leave and return home. Memaw had started a pork roast in the slow cooker and Rebecca had finished her job and was at our house completing dinner preparations.

We broke the rules! And stopped at McDonalds for ice cream BEFORE dinner. Grandparents, after all, can do that.

As we sat in the booth I decided to demonstrate my talent at dancing with my shoulders. If you haven’t been to Ethiopia you probably cannot fully understand this.

Yonatan, the happiest kid on the planet, will stand on the porch all alone and perform traditional Ethipoian dance just because.

How does a little deaf kid learn to dance? I suppose we will never know.

Yonatan and Fetlework were quick to demonstrate correct methods, Memaw tried but only was able to kind’a move her head forward and back. And we laughed!

I suppose the other folks in the place thought we were ………………Well, we didn’t care what they thought, we were enjoying with our grandchildren.

On the ride home they squiggled and giggled in the back seat and waved at passing motorists.

Dinner was excellent and in spite of the fact they had eaten ice cream just a half hour earlier, the children ate well.

After dinner the six of us talked and laughed until the old house rocked.

Too soon it was time for Rebecca, Vernon, and those two wonderful children God has allowed us to share our lives with needed to go “up the hill” to their house.

God is good!

Shalom for now,

Wednesday, August 01, 2007


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It has become a custom of sorts on mornings when I “baby sit” the children that we go for a walk. Fetelework, eight, is the instigator of this and Yonaton, six, really would rather not, amidst complaints that he is tired.

On a recent morning as we began our trek to the mail box nearly a half mile away, I snuffed something into my throat and was obliged to remove it.

I stepped to the side and spit.

Yonaton, about two steps behind, imitated the action.

Although I was once a little boy myself I never quite understood the spitting exercise in which boys seem to forever engaged, but I very well understand them imitating the older fellows. It’s how they learn. All mammals do it.

The problem is, often the one we imitate is less of an example than one might hope.

Yonaton is deaf and only two and a half months ago he was living in Africa with relatives. His father is dead and his mother, unable for whatever reason to care for him, gave him up for adoption. That was one of the most unselfish acts ever.

The woman suffered the loss of her son, to be sent half way around the planet because there is absolutely no future for a deaf child where they were.

As we walked, he scuffled and shuffled in true little boy fashion. We peered through the cover that surrounds the lane in a vain search for wildlife while Fetelework selected wildflowers for a bouquet.

I have lived through many fads and fazes during the last decades; war and plenty, seriousness and foolishness. One of the most foolish was the feminist movement.

I suppose there is benefit in any and all of these “movements” but for the life of me I could never understand how supposedly intelligent, rational thinking people could come to the conclusion that boys and girls are the same except for the obvious difference in their plumbing!

These two beautiful children that God has allowed us to learn from came to us from a different culture, where different languages are spoken, and one of the most economically depressed areas of the world, yet he acts just like any little boy, and she just like any little girl.

Ain’t that sumthin?

As we neared the curve in the drive on our return to the house the “tired” little Yonaton began to run. He ran to the car, got inside, and hid.

Fetelework went to the side of the car opposite where he crouched, opened the door, and sat in the seat next to him. He felt the movement and gripped the door handle more tightly until finally he turned and saw her there in the seat.

They are deaf but they can laugh and laugh they did.

Ain't God good?
Shalom for now,

Sunday, July 22, 2007

I tried again this morning to rid my garden of the pest that is eating my cushaw, pumpkin and melon plants.
The only guns I have is a shotgun and a 30-06.
I can't get close enough with the shotgun and I will not discharge the rifle in the semi light, not being able to see clearly the target, especially when it is right in front of the well house. In the early morning it is like a ghost. It moves softly and I wonder: "Is that really it?"

I hate to spend money on traps. I have been told they don't work.
This is my first attempt at market gardening. The woodchuck, whistle pig, groundhog or marmot, whichever one prefers to call it is smarter than I am.

But I won't quit.

Shalom for now,

Happy birthday Bob Dole, born on this date in 1923.

"If something happened along the route and you had to leave your children with Bob Dole or Bill Clinton, I think you would probably leave them with Bob Dole."
Bob Dole

Shalom for now,

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Sometimes we think we are so great.

1 Then Job replied to the LORD :
2 "I know that you can do all things;
no plan of yours can be thwarted.
3 You asked, 'Who is this that obscures my counsel without knowledge?'
Surely I spoke of things I did not understand,
things too wonderful for me to know.
4 "You said, 'Listen now, and I will speak;
I will question you,
and you shall answer me.'
5 My ears had heard of you
but now my eyes have seen you.
6 Therefore I despise myself
and repent in dust and ashes
Job 42 NIV

Ain't God good?

Friday, July 13, 2007




Fetelework and Yonaton "helping" in the garden.
They have attended summer school and are now doing swimming lessons.
Has it only been two months?
They have learned so much!

Ain't God good?
Shalom for now,
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Tuesday, June 19, 2007


Addis in the Morning

The moslem call to prayer reverberates through the morning air and mingles with the sound of roosters, dogs, a cow bellowing, and little blue and white taxi cabs honking, as the sun rises from behind the mountain.

I step out onto the balcony. People are beginning to move about and the ever-present aroma of cooking fires and diesel smoke intermingles with the smells of thousands of people living on the streets attacks my nosrils.

Down in the parking lot someone is trying to start a car. The sound of the starter is grinding as the battery gets weaker but the driver persists.

In the dining room I am the only patron. The tile floor is gleaming and the young women, in their red and black uniforms, are speaking softly. They always do. Polite, gentle, willing to help, although speed at work in addis, is it seems, to be shunned.

The sound of their voices rises and falls musically, like water over the stones in a small creek. Doors olpen and close. The sound of the voices subsides. They have changed shifts.

Outside, finally, the car belches to life.

In the lobby a wide screen TV is playing an American cartoon in English, a surprise, since in our room the TV programs are all in other languages.

Two distinguished looking men are sitting on a sofa, one in traditional garb, the other wearing a western style business suit. They seem to be having a very deep discussion. They pause and both intently watch the cartoon for a few minutes and then, as if on cue, they return to their conversation.

Out on the street, on my way to Bambis market, the street people are already in their usual places, offering me pirated videos, maps of Ethiopia, or just loitering. Sheep are being herded down the sidewalk and hordes of people are walking.

The market is closed. No sign, no explanation, just closed. That is the way it is in this city of four million people.

As I walk back to the hotel the Muslim call to prayer has changed to preaching. It blares on, and on, and on.

Ain't God good?
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I will see the goodness of the LORD
I am still confident of this:
I will see the goodness of the LORD
in the land of the living.

Wait for the LORD;
be strong and take heart
and wait for the LORD.

Psalm 27:13,14 NIV

But the salvation of the righteous is from the LORD;
He is their strength in time of trouble.

The LORD helps them and delivers them;
He delivers them from the wicked and saves them,
Because they take refuge in Him.

Psalm 37:39,40 NASB

I am told God only saves those He chooses.
This scripture says He saves those who takes refuge in Him.

Who is right?
God's word or ...........

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