Ethiopia, October 2019

On October 9th, a group of 19 people left for Ethiopia. The group is made up of Founder Dick Moeller, his wife Joyce, and 17 people from Gloria Dei Lutheran Church out of Iowa City. Gloria Dei has funded 7 wells with Water to Thrive. The group will be visiting water projects in Ethiopia over the course of a week. Before visiting water projects, the group took time to get to know the history, culture and faith of Ethiopia. Our Founder, Dick, writes about the travelers’ adventures. Oct. 11. 

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We have been busy so far! After we arrived in Addis Ababa, we left early Friday morning for a flight to Lalibela. On the first day there, we visited the first five of The 11 Rock-Hewn churches of Lalibela. In addition, we also had a wonderful lunch, with great views, at the Ben Abeba Restaurant.

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The next day, we covered a lot of ground! All in all, we saw the final four Rock-Hewn churches in Lalibela, took a stroll through the Saturday market, and then flew to Gondar to visit Fasilides’ Castles and the Baths. This location is where the famous Timkat celebration occurs. We had a busy but a blessed day with good weather and cool temps!

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The group moves north into the mountains and Dick writes about experiencing the beauty of nature and worship with friends. Oct. 13. 

On the morning of Oct.13, we drove about three and a half hours north to the Simien Mountain National Park. This is our overnight stop, as we are staying at the Simien Mountain Lodge (the highest hotel in Africa at 10,700 ft altitude).

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In the afternoon we spend our time in the park, taking a 3 hour trek. While on our trek, we saw the famous Gelada baboons up close, as well as a number of other wildlife and many flowers in bloom. When we began our trek, it was very foggy. However, toward the end of our journey, the fog lifted to reveal the beauty of the mountains. At the end of the day, we made it back to the lodge and then sang and prayed together. We finished our day joyfully with a Sunday worship service.

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Dick writes about the group’s first visits to Water to Thrive water projects! Oct. 14. 

Today is Oct. 14; our first day of water project visits! We awoke this morning to some beautiful weather. Today we are headed north toward Axum and we’ll be visiting our first water project. The first two hours of our drive, we descend about 5,000 feet from the Simien Mountains. We get to enjoy many beautiful vistas and a beautiful waterfall near the road, while navigating many switch backs.

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The project we are visiting today is Mai Aye, the sixth project funded by Gloria Dei. It is about an hour’s drive off of the main road on some very difficult terrain, but it is so worth it because we had an awesome visit with the community. This water project is brand-new, only being operational for a month. The group gets to install the plaque and enjoy this moment of celebration with the community.

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During our visit with the community, an 82 year old priest shared his gratitude of having access to clean water for the first time in his life. The community shares its joy with us by sharing some delicious coffee, ambasha bread, and popcorn for the celebration.

Dick reflects on an impactful day visiting water projects. Oct. 15. 

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Today was October 15 and our second day visiting water projects. What an exciting and exhilarating day it was! We managed to visit three different water project sites that have been funded by the Gloria Dei congregation. These included Mai Ela, Mai Adisham, and Mai Kurta Kaza. At all three water projects we met the water committee and shared in the joy of the community as they told stories about how much the clean water has impacted their community. The celebrations in each of the communities included some local honey Ambasha bread, excellent coffee, and an outpouring of gratitude.

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We returned to Axum in time to do some sightseeing as well and tonight we celebrated Stephanie Dotzel’s birthday. All in all a very blessed day!

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Dick writes about visiting more water projects and the joy that comes from the blessing of clean water. Oct. 16. 

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Today was Oct. 16 and another busy day in the field. We visited two water projects and a school. The first project, Mai Kodo, is especially meaningful for the group. Gloria Dei dedicated this well in memory of pastor Rob Dotzel, who recently passed away. Rob’s wife, Stephanie, shared her joy and tears with the community as she dedicated this water project to the memory of her husband. The next project, Mai Liaham, is a memorial well dedicated to the memory of Dan Kolander’s parents.

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In the afternoon, we made our way to the school at Adi Nefas. The school is near one of Water to Thrive’s first projects constructed in 2008. The school has been a passion of Nova Kolander since her visit to the school 3 years ago. On this trip, the group shared three large suitcases of supplies to assist the students in their studies.

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The group wraps up their time in Ethiopia, visiting their final water projects in Tigray, Ethiopia and spending their last night in Addis Ababa. Oct. 17. 

On Oct. 17 we finished visiting water projects with our non-governmental partners from REST (Relief Society of Tigray). Tigray is located in very hilly terrain, so we got a workout walking to the wells!

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After visiting water projects, REST helped us celebrate the end of our visit to Ethiopia. We enjoyed eating a traditional Ethiopian dinner and listening to Ethiopian music.

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The next day, we headed back to Addis Ababa before leaving for Tanzania and shared our last group meal in Ethiopia. What a blessed trip this has been so far!

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