Journal of the People’s Pastor

“Writing The History I’ve Lived, Living The History I Write!”


Part VI: Darfur Diary – My Journey to Juba South Sudan

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

It was 9:30am when we left the hotel. Our taxi driver was named Demisse Lemma. We spent the next 21⁄2 hours visiting market places or one huge market. Mr. Lemma said it was the largest and most sophisticated market in Africa. There was nothing different about it, except its size. It was very similar to many other markets I’ve seen in Africa. It was a short visit. We purchased a few gifts of body wear then returned to the hotel.

After lunch, we went on our 2nd sightseeing trip. Our driver or tour guide was named Amin. Amin is a friend of a friend Sharon had met while in Tanzania. He is a young man, as guides go, very knowledgeable, who appeared to be India. He was born and raised in Addis. There were three places he selected for our visit.

From Addis, the futherest village or site was over 50 miles away. Riding across the well-paved, asphalt highways, we scanned the scenic mountains, valleys, grass and trees, all green and brown like a colorful quilt. “All is green during the rainy season,” said Amin. We occasionally stopped for camera work. The breathe-taking beauty forced us to pause, take pictures and reflect on the panoramic scene and long history of this country.

We passed small villages with corn-shaped huts, cattle, goats and donkeys being led across the fields, valleys and highways. Our first stop was near the Village of Melka (which means river) Awash. The river reaches the Blue Nile. It is treasured by the inhabitants because, unlike the Nile River, it doesn’t take valuable soil out of their territory. Turning off the highway, we followed a graveled road to Melka Kunture. The fenced enclosure, contained fossils, stones, drawings and other artifacts from millions of years before Christ. I was shocked that the black stone artifacts were so sharp that I cut my thumb when I touched one of them.

Back to the highway, our next stop was Adadi Mariam. Again, turning off the highway, we came to a church built into the mountain or hill. Arriving into the church yard, we were told that the small stone buildings that surrounded the courtyard were donated to the church in memory of deceased loved ones. The church was free to use the buildings as it saw fit. Sure enough there it was, a church carved out of, or into, a small mountain or hill. There were steps leading down into the church. After putting off our shoes, we walked on the carpeted floor. We sat on wooden benches as Amin explained the history, architectural design and the areas of the church. There were paintings and drawings. There was familiar art work that we had seen in many other churches. There was the last supper, another picture of Mary holding the baby Jesus and individual pictures of Mary and Jesus. There were different pictures of Jesus on the cross. All of the pictures were white. Needless to say, our emotions ran from shock, disappointment, anger and hurt.

The final stop was Tiya Stelle. Here is where stones yet stand above burial ground. They go back at least 800 years A.D. On the stone-grave marker were drawings and markings clearly depicting something about the deceased. On our way out, dancing children surrounded us. Their dancing was strikingly similar to dances in our church. Sharon danced with the children. I played catch with them. They had made a ball about the size of a baseball. It was made of plastic and paper covered with a sock which was overlapped and then tied. It was firm but soft and bouncy. A rather ingenious plaything. It reminded me of my youth, when we made footballs out of newspapers tightly rapped with cords or strings made into a shape somewhat resembling a football. Some one has said, “Necessity is the mother of inventions.” How true this has been for people of African Ancestry. We have had to create something out of nothing. We created the most melodious sounds in the cotton patches and tobacco fields during the years of slavery. The spirituals, the blues, the gospels and jazz are musical sounds which came out of the hard and difficult black life in the USA. Indeed, we have been able, somehow, to celebrate hard times. In the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., we were able to take the question mark of the prophet Jeremiah, “Is there balm in Gilead?” turn it into an exclamation point and sing, “There is balm in Gilead!”

For the first time, I left money to give to the children. They were so friendly, happy and buoyant. They kept asking for pencils. I asked Amin, why? He said, “They are taught to asked tourist for books and/or pencils.” I’m not sure I understand all the reasons. But one thing is certain, the parents and/or elders wanted to emphasize the importance of education or learning. I found this to be true across Africa or where ever improvised children live. The recurring theme is, “We want to learn.” Unfortunately, yes even tragically, this theme on the importance of education, to a significant degree, seems not to have reached a substantial part of the black communities in the USA.

One other point of interest about the inhabitants of this area, the tribe is named Guragie. They are very smart, skilled traders. When they come to Addis and other cities, they work long, hard hours at any kind of work. They save their money. They study what people are buying. Then they go into business. They have become very wealthy. They own factories, stores, etc. “That story,” I said to myself, “has a familiar ring to it.”

It was 7:30pm when we returned to the hotel. We had departed at 1:30pm. Again, we passed though streets crowded with vehicles, vendors and people. Construction was pervasive. The pollution was so thick, I had to cover my nose and mouth with a handkerchief.

We settled in for dinner, once again buffet. Spinach, mixed veggies, beets and a green salad for me. The food, to my palate, went from good to very good. I enjoyed eating at this hotel, which I can not say for all hotels including the most luxurious ones.

So, it was a very instructive, enlighten, productive day and we had one more night in Addis. I stayed up until 2:00 am recording my diary notes.

To be continued…

Upcoming Events

Attend the Timbuktu Learning Center’s weekly Thursday Night Community Forums. All Forums are held at the House of the Lord Church from 7pm to 9pm.

The Timbuktu Learning Center presents A Community Forum on Mortgage Foreclosures, Predatory Lending & Debt Restructuring, Thursday, January 24, 2008, at the House of the Lord Church from 7pm to 9pm.

On Thursday, January 31, 2008, at 7pm, The Brotherhood Department of the House of the Lord Church, during the Timbuktu Learning Center’s Thursday Night Community Forum, will sponsor The Screening of a Documentary entitled “Another Look at Egypt,” presented by Professor Clinton Crawford of Medgar Evers College.

Attend a Rally of Support for the Sean Bell Family, on Sunday, February 3, 2008, 5pm at the House of the Lord Church. We will also be mobilizing for the upcoming trial starting on February 4th.

Attend NRLAA’s monthly forum Focus on Africa the 2nd Saturday from 2pm to 4pm.

Organizing Meetings regarding Darfur every Thursday - 12noon @ the House of the Lord Church
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For further Information on all events, contact The House of the Lord Church @ (718) 596-1991.