Part of Dave’s job included making connections with local religious leaders. On New Year’s Day 2011, he was in Arba Minch, Ethiopia. As he got off the plane, he learned he already had three commitments for that evening. “Not knowing what I was walking into, like in Awasa, I came prepared for anything,” he said.
In Arba Minch, Dave met Father Paddy Moran, a Roman Catholic priest from Ireland, and Father Dennis Bukenya of Uganda. “This was a great connection for our growing mission in Arba Minch because Fr. Paddy was willing to conduct English services at the hotel. He also gave me three volunteer opportunities in the community for our airmen,” Dave said.
Father Paddy’s ministry is to support and grow the Roman Catholic Church in that part of Ethiopia. Father Dennis went to Arba Minch to learn the ways of the Ethiopian people. He later went to Addis Ababa to learn the national language of Amharic.
Dave also met with all the church leaders of all the religions to introduce himself and the mission. “I wanted to prepare them for the arrival of US Air Force people. I cultivated a relationship with the clergy in case one of our airmen got in trouble I would have someone to call on. I told the local leaders our military members like to donate their time and energy to help improve communities.”
Dave also listened to the leaders’ concerns, largely dealing with the HIV/AIDS problems. “They asked for money for education, treatment and prevention,” he said.
“We got along well and they wanted to know when I’ll return. We are welcome in any of the churches,” Dave said.
Next up: Eyassu Ato