All the Vincentian Lay Missionaries have arrived safely. We were two days in Addis Abeba, where the DCs and the CMs took us in as family. Then it was off to our missions.

Seven missionaries are hard at work in Bahir Dar, teaching in the grade school conducted by the Daughters of Charity. Sr. Mary Beth Kubera, DC, is with them until July 10, and then she heads back to the USA for the East Central Provincial Assembly. The other seven are her in Jimma with me. We arrived Wednesday, after a 7.5 hour trip from Addis Abeba by car. The road is smooth now, but we stopped many times to greet people known to our friend and guide, Msgr. Theo van Ruijven, CM., prefect apostolic of Jimma/Bonga. We were warmly welcomed by the DCs in Jimma, Srs. Tsege, Buzunish, Hike, and Balainish and settled in to supper. At night, three of the missionaries went to stay at the Vincentian house next to Sts. Peter and Paul school, where Abba Lucas, CM, is pastor and head of the school, and I to stay with Msgr. Theo. I’m staying in Almayehu Woldemichael’s room. He’s a confrere known to some of the men who went to the CIS program a number of years ago. He’s away studying at All Hallows in Ireland for two months. Thursday, Friday and today we were dedicated to getting materials ready and becoming familiar with our sites.

Three missionaries will teach at the parish school (4th through 8th grades), and three will teach early grades at the school at Ginjo – a community of people with leprosy. The seventh missionary, Kristen Bennet, will act as educational supervisor for both sites. I will teach basic computer skills to some of the sisters while I am here, as well as provide for daily Eucharist for our little community. You can see pictures of the missionaries by clicking a link at http://www.vlmusa.org. Alcia Robey, our spiritual coordinator, will lead us each day in prayer and reflection. Kristen (Krissy) and Alicia (Al) were here last year, and received a warm and affectionate welcome form their former students! Friday evening, we celebrated the Fourth of July with the singing of US patriotic and folk songs.

This morning, we had a wonderful treat: we were honored guests at the kindergarten graduation, where the little children performed poetry and displayed their academic prowess! This afternoon, the missionaries are at the Sisters’ house where they are preparing materials and lesson plans for next week. I’ll join them later for Mass and supper. I just finished fixing the flush valve on the toilet here in my quarters (some things never change).

Our regular schedule is fairly simple. The missionaries teach in the morning. During the first week, Krissy will be full-time at Ginjo and I will work with our new missionary-teachers at the parish school where I taught last year. After that, Krissy, who is the education expert among us, will take over both sites and I will head up to Bahir Dar to stay with the other group for a week In the afternoons, some of the missionaries will help the Missionaries of Charity with abandoned infants, and others will work in a recreation and art program at the Ginjo school.

The weather is wonderful: a little rain and a little sunshine, always temperate (for us). The food is simple, but nourishing, and mostly vegetarian. It’s very flavorful, with many different spices, and, of course, the coffee is the best in the world. Jimma is home to coffee, having first been cultivated here in the 8th century, and then exported to the Arabian Peninsula – hence the name “Arabica.” You have to taste it to believe it.

Power is intermittent these days. Sometimes there is one day without electricity, sometimes two. The water sometimes shuts off, too. Or it’s just cold. But we experience the warmest hospitality from the Daughters, the Confreres, and the people of Jimma.

On Monday, I’ll try to locate an internet café I’m told is in town and post this. The dial-up connection here is quite “iffy.” If I’m successful, I’ll try to post some video on my YouTube channel (fatherratgmail.). Ciao!

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