One goal for this trip next week—and I don’t know if I’ll pull it off—is to spend a half a day or so at a town in Ethiopia that has no electricity and no cell phone coverage, and never has had it. In the small and large cities, power and Western amenities are generally available. But I’m told there are many of these unplugged towns, easy to find and access. We’ll see.
Some moments in Ethiopia can be surreal.
Such was my experience the day I decided to visit a small church and laid my eyes on a cool walking stick-like cane the men use to help stay standing for hours during the services.
They were of course stunned that a “farange” (white man) even walked in to their humble church. The building only held 30 people or so. About 100 were outside. Unfortunately I could not capture the service on video (didn’t want to be disrespectful having not met anyone yet), but it was by far my best worship experience. No microphones, and the singing was loud, powerful, and quite melodic. They invited me up right near the priests next to the action. Continue reading “The Great Council to approve my cane (pre-day 6 – Dean in Ethiopia)”
In Ethiopia, you don’t wear shoes in church. Period.
You take them off just outside the building. Why? I haven’t had that actual discussion yet, but I assume it is part of the package of Old Testament regulations Ethiopians still practice, which includes eating no shellfish and pork.
The Israelites took off their shoes for the same reason they didn’t eat animals “with the pads on their feet.” They would eat cows and goats and other hoofed creatures, because the “dust of the ground” which had been cursed by God in Genesis 3 didn’t come in to direct contact with those animals. They were separated from the cursed ground by their hooves. Continue reading “Bare feet in church (pre-day 7 – Dean in Ethiopia)”
In a travel-oriented blog, people like to talk about food.
The food in Ethiopia is interesting. It’s okay. I wouldn’t call it great. I don’t go to Ethiopia for the food.
If I was going somewhere for the food, I’d head back to Italy, where I’ve already been twice. The food there is beyond compare. And yet, as Jesus reminds us, “there is more to life than food.” And so my money and effort has been focused on Ethiopia, where things are happening spiritually that are more important than food. Continue reading “Miracle food (pre-day 8 – Dean in Ethiopia)”
On the agenda for Levi and me in Ethiopia will be staying a few days at a monastery that houses the Gerima Gospels, known as the oldest illustrated gospels in the world. I saw them on my last trip. They are dated as early as A.D. 390. Continue reading “World’s oldest illustrated Gospel (pre-day 9 – Dean in Ethiopia)”
I leave for Ethiopia in 10 days. Therefore I will blog daily during the two week trip, as well as the 10 days leading up to it. Today we start with pre-day 10.
This is my third trip, and I am joined this time by understudy Levi Crawford, part of my Orthodox Church in Chattanooga and a lover of all things ancient and interesting, and, well, just an enthusiastic lover of all things.
Our flight leaves from Dulles airport in Washington D.C. late on the night of Monday, Jan. 15. That’s a 10 hour drive. We stop at Istanbul, Turkey (Constantinople) along the way.
Today’s title is “The Ark.” The Ark is something I actually don’t talk a lot about when I chatter on and on these days about Ethiopia. And yet it is generally the one thing people might know about Ethiopian Christianity. And if you don’t know, Ethiopian Christians are absolutely convinced the actual Ark of the Covenant from the Old Testament exists today in a small armed chapel in their ancient city of Axum. Continue reading “Ethiopian Ark (pre-day 10 – Dean in Ethiopia)”
Mary and the baby Jesus are not seasonal.
At Christmastime, American Christians, otherwise somewhat iconoclastic, are apparently more free to enjoy the mother and child icon of Mary and her son Jesus. And thankfully so.
In the Orthodox church, this icon is not a seasonal option. It stands at the very front of every Orthodox church in the world, at all times, always to the right of the icon of Christ (see example below). This icon to Christ’s right (remember those arguments about who would be there?) is indeed an icon of Mary. But we forget that even more so, it is an icon of the Divine Christ, just like the nearby icon, but as an infant. He was no less God Himself at a young age. We worship him as an adult man, but like the Magi, we also worship him as an infant.
What does it do to the psyche of people when they worship and venerate a baby? Among other things, it instills a respect for infants. They are treasured. In this culture of death we currently navigate, our society could use some more subliminal, subconscious reminders of the precious nature of preborn and infant life.
Our society also desperately needs an injection of focusing on the weakest among us. For thousands of years, traditional cultures have circled the wagons to protect their youngest members. Men chose to die to protect these innocents. In the old movies, the “women and children” were the first allowed to flee danger or escape a sinking ship.
Today, we hear about “might makes right.” We hear about “survival of the fittest.” We hear about “be all you can be” and “self-actualization.” A useless crying infant gets in the way of all that.
The mother and child icon is a constant reminder to us that all our strength and energy is given to protect the weakest among us. The final goal is not great wealth, grand accomplishments, making a name for ourselves, or a nest egg to kick back and enjoy life. Our gifts and talents are ultimately for raising and protecting the children of our community and caring for the elderly, handicapped, homeless and others cast aside.
This is what binds society together. This is what makes men productive instead of wastrels, whether in the form of gamblers and substance abusers or country club narcissists. Without the image of a helpless Christ, we are reduced to pre-Christian goals of conquering and enslaving to support our self-centered vision of life.
“A little child will lead them,” wrote the prophet (Isaiah 11:6). I can’t help but think he had a foreshadowing sense of this icon of the infant Christ that would be worshipped and venerated across the world in every traditional church throughout the ages. A little child is indeed leading us. And so is an undefeated grown man, who also chooses weakness as a means to ultimate victory. The two work together, as we adore both images of Christ … all year round.
This video provides glimpses of the prominence of the mother and child icon in a typical Orthodox Church.
Birth control in the Christian West is largely a modern, 20th Century phenomenon. But this is not because Christians were unaware of contraception before that time or had no access to it. They certainly did. Rather, they had large families with many children because Christian leaders taught that contraception was wrong.
Accordingly, the Christian West was a growing civilization until the 20th Century, but is now dying and surrendering to a culture of death. It is clearly fair to connect these two phenomena, and it is fair to ask if our forefathers got it right, and we got it wrong.
This is one of my favorites of all the books I have written. A work by my Mother, but with me playing my normal ghostwriting role of interviewing the subject for hours on end, and then transcribing, writing, and weaving the content into an interesting read.
The opening chapter captures the drama around my Father’s spectacular death.
I coined the title as well, of which I am also proud. It really catches people’s attention. On the other hand, it makes it difficult to give as a Christmas gift. 😉
More info at CarolsBook.com
* All gifts are tax deductible. Make checks to Chattanooga Historical Foundation
c/o Dean Arnold; 4604 Conner St; Chattanooga, TN 37411.
Click here to give a specific amount of your choosing:
Providing various “rewards” for supporting a cause at different levels is all the rage on crowdsourcing sites these days. So I have added that feature for supporting “Reverse Mission Trips” to Ethiopia. Scroll down to see them. (More on the “Reverse Missions Trip” concept here.)
All of the rewards are a form of historic Christian Ethiopian art, and displaying these beautiful pieces is a great way to advance the concept. Heck, almost everyone is unaware that Ethiopia is a 2,000 year old historic Christian nation. Just having it around for people to ask about does the trick. They’ll say, “Ethiopia has been Christian for centuries? I had no idea.”
So, here are the possible pieces based on level of donation. There is flexibility here, so just let me know if you are interested in me bringing you something back pictured below that doesn’t quite fit the level. I’ll try to make it work.
Please consider an option below for supporting
REVERSE MISSIONS TRIPS to Ethiopia!
* All gifts are tax deductible. Make checks to Chattanooga Historical Foundation
c/o Dean Arnold; 4604 Conner St; Chattanooga, TN 37411. Also note: these donation suggestions (like “Buy a book” “Resources for Dean’s book” etc.) are suggestive and not conclusive. In other words, if a couple people give $245 for the resources, other such gifts will go to the general fund. There is a trust factor here, and I promise I’m good for it.)
$18 – Buy a book
I spoke to 100 seminary students my last trip. They are desperate for Theology books! The head academic dean of the major seminary in Ethiopia (3000 students) asked me to please bring them theology books. Thanks for considering a sponsorship of a book. They will love it!
Reward: Good feelings. No tangible reward for this, ha ha. The numbers just don’t work for buying the book, getting an item for you, baggage space on the return trip, and shipping it to you. But what you WILL get is what I’m told is the primary product sold by non-profits—good feelings. 😉
$45 – Help travelers be generous
This may seem like an odd sponsorship, but Ethiopia is indeed still a poor country, and many, many people are on the streets with their hands out asking for money. When I hand them the equivalent of 25 cents in our currency, they are ecstatic. Your gift for this aspect of the trip will allow us to bless these people and represent well for American Christians.
♦ Reward: Wood Ethiopian necklace cross. These are cool and really do capture the Ethiopian feel.
$90 – Sponsor shipping of Books
The books we acquire must get to Ethiopia. I am working on a copy of all the church fathers. The best way is in a suitcase with travelers, but those can cost extra money as well. Please consider helping us ship the books.
♦ Reward: Small brass necklace cross. These are beautiful. My wife and I both wear one 24/7, as do four of our close friends that we provided these for (mine brass, theirs silver). The late iconographer at our church (an art professor), as one of his final acts, mounted a similar, larger metal cross I had brought back, noting how exquisite it was. And he knew his art.
$245 – Sponsor books and resources for Dean’s book on Ethiopia
I am writing a book on all this. Working title: Ethiopian Ark: Christianity’s past and future. It will be a non-profit venture. At this early stage, there are books I need to buy for research, but some of them cost as much as $50 to $75. Your contribution here will green light my efforts.
Reward: Larger silver necklace cross. These are beautiful. My wife and I both wear one 24/7, as do four of our close friends that we brought home to them. Our late iconographer at our church (an art professor), as one of his final acts, mounted a similar, larger metal cross I had brought back, noting how exquisite it was. And he knew his art.
$415 – Sponsor one flight to the Monasteries
Once we fly into Addis Ababa, we need to take another domestic flight to the North where most of the historic areas, holy sites, and monasteries are located. Your contribution will empower someone to cover that cost.
Reward: Small hand painted icons in hand carved case: This is where it really gets interesting. These pieces are so fantastic. Authentic. They are probably worth ten times what I can buy them for in Ethiopia. You want one. 😉
$950 – Sponsor one International air fare
A flight to Ethiopia costs around $950, depending on when you buy it, how many stops, etc. I need people to go with me. This major ticket item is the key obstacle. If you feel up to sponsoring an international flight, this would be a major blessing to the project.
Reward: Larger hand painted icons in hand carved case: This is where it really gets interesting. These pieces are so fantastic. Authentic. They are probably worth ten times what I can buy them for in Ethiopia. You want one. 😉
$2500 – Sponsor one traveler’s entire trip
The total cost for a trip includes the international flight, a domestic flight, room, board, taxi fare, tour guide fees and a few other intangibles that add up to approximately $2500. A gift of this amount would allow someone with very little means to join us in Ethiopia.
Reward: Larger hand painted icon in hand carved case AND a very large hand painted canvas.
$5000 – Sponsor a professor/clergy/monastic to come to America
I have relationships with clergy, professors, and monastics in Ethiopia. America would be blessed to have one of them visit our country for a sabbatical term. If you feel led to provide a gift of this amount, it will take to the next level our desire to see more interaction between Ethiopia and America, and between the Eastern and Oriental Orthodox.
Reward: Larger hand painted icon in hand carved case AND a very large FRAMED hand painted canvas. These large canvasses are very tricky to frame. I’ll make it happen for you and get it to you.
$10,000 – Sponsor hierarch and clergy visit
A bishop and two priests have already expressed interest in joining me in Ethiopia. My archbishop Alexander in this interview calls for American Christians to begin building relationships with Ethiopian, Coptic, and Oriental Orthodox Christians. Maybe you can’t travel to Ethiopia, but you have the means to make a major difference by sponsoring clergy from America to forge new ground in what could be a long-hoped-for reunification between these two ancient expressions of Christianity.
Reward: Any combination of the above items. Ha ha. We’ll talk.
Click here to give a specific amount of your choosing: