Letters from the
By Mike Tenbusch | July 24, 2020
Ethiopia has been in a battle of biblical proportions over the last few weeks. I’m writing you about it to ask that you keep our team, scholarship students and families close in your prayers.
Hachalu Hundessa, a much loved singer and civil rights activist, was assassinated on June 29. His music inspired and united the people of the Oromo region in Ethiopia, where he was from, and his death ignited clashes among different ethnic groups across Ethiopia.
Ethiopia’s Prime Minister, Abiy Ahmed, also hails from the Oromos, but his wife is from a different ethnic group. He won the Nobel Peace Prize last year in part because he has refused to continue the long-standing destructive tradition of promoting his ethnic group while punishing all others. And now a militant faction within his group wants him gone, and the assassination of Hundessa provoked them to send thousands of armed men into different cities across the country and different communities across the capital, including where our students live, to create havoc. Close to 300 people were killed, and hundreds of cars and buildings were burned as local citizens rose up to rebuff the invaders.
While this was going on in the streets, the risk of a war with Egypt escalated over control of water leading into the Nile River. Ethiopia has been building a dam for nine years to divert some of the water from the Blue Nile to its people in much need of water of their own. How that will impact the people of Egypt along the Nile is unclear and a source of great concern to Egypt.
Due to the unrest, the Ethiopian government turned off access to the Internet and cellular communications for most of the last three weeks, leaving its citizens and the world out of touch. When the Internet was finally turned back on yesterday, Selam Terefe, the leader of our mission in Ethiopia, called to share the joyful news that peace has been restored in the streets, that water in the dam’s reservoir is rising for the first time ever as the rainy season starts, and the local municipality just approved International Samaritan’s permit to dig a 250 meter well to bring fresh water to the community in which we work!
I can’t tell you how relieved I was to get this news. But challenges continue for Abiy, for the nation, and for our hopes and work to build a well. These challenges have biblical proportions to me because both Ethiopia and Egypt appear in the very beginning of the Bible (Genesis 2:13 and 12:10, respectively) and also because the life source of water for millions is at stake. From a spiritual perspective, I believe that Abiy’s commitment to reconciliation and life is being challenged by forces inside of Ethiopia who would prefer retaliation and destruction. This is where we can help through prayer, and I hope that you will join me in praying for healing and peace in Ethiopia and for water to flow freely and abundantly throughout all of Africa.
Selam Terefe, kneeling third from left, with some of the parents at our community center in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia during a service immersion trip in March 2020.
By Mike Tenbusch | July 09, 2020
On a frigid, November morning in 1984, butterflies swarmed through my stomach as I lined up with 80 other boys in nylon shorts and tank tops waiting for the gun to sound and the Cross Country State Championship race to begin. I was only a sophomore at the time, and this was my first time running at States. My best friend was lined up next to me. He was a senior who had been here before, and he must have sensed my fears. “Don’t worry,” Kev said, “Just run your race, and attack the hills.”
Kev and I had been running together since his family moved into our block when I was six. Our block, street, and neighborhood in Detroit was almost exclusively white at that time, and Kevin was one of the first to integrate it, just as he had integrated his own family eight years earlier as a trans-racial adoptee born a few weeks after Detroit’s Riots in 1967. We quickly became inseparable, a short, African-American kid and a tall, skinny white kid, seemingly oblivious to the world around us, as most people who looked like me moved out and more people who looked like Kev moved in over the next ten years.
CRACK! The gun went off, and I suddenly found out what it felt like to be in a stampede. Adrenaline surged through my veins as every runner around me sprinted faster and farther than anything I had ever experienced. By the half mile mark, Kev and I were in a comfortable groove, together, but all by ourselves at the very end of the pack with 2.6 miles left to go. I was starting to freak out again. I had never been in last before.
“Don’t worry, man” Kev assured me. “Just run your race.”
Kev and I were used to running our race. Detroit was a city of a million people back then, and I’m pretty sure we were the only two kids from Detroit to make it to States that year. We used to train together every summer, running Outer Drive from our home near Six Mile up to Schaefer and back. When we ran alone, we were vulnerable. Young kids called me honkey and older kids wanted to fight him. Stray dogs and reckless drivers always seemed a bigger issue when we ran alone. But when we ran together, we were invincible.
“FIVE-FOURTEEN, FIVE-FIFTEEN…!” our coaches shouted as we passed the mile mark. I was well ahead of my usual pace but Kev and I were still by ourselves—in last place.
“All right, let’s go get these guys!” Kev said, as he put his pace in a whole ‘nother gear.
“I’m good.” I said. “Go get ‘em,” slightly slowing my pace as I said it.
The picture below was taken about a minute after that. You can see Kevin merging through the back of the pack. He kept going faster and took second that year, narrowly missing winning the state championship. I kept trying not to go slower and placed 41st that year, the worst I’d ever finished.
The thing is, I ran my race. I kept doing that the following year, after Kev had graduated. I was by myself but his advice stuck with me—Run your race and attack the hills—and it carried me to a 12th place finish and the coveted All State honors that came with it.
I hear Kevin’s voice a lot these days. In my own journey to thrive in the quarantine, I’ve begun running for the first time in years in hilly woods near my home. My mile pace is shockingly less than it used to be, but I keep going. I run my race. And no matter how I feel, how tired I am or how much it hurts, I attack every hill on my run.
I’m sharing this story and this message with you in hopes that it stirs your spirit for wherever you are in your own journey right now, and particularly for the times we face as a nation.
Run your race may mean to cut yourself some slack, or it may mean that it’s time for you to surge. We have to protect our spiritual and mental health with such uncertainty surrounding us each day. Take time to hear from the Lord the pace that you should be setting, regardless of the sounds and sights of people running all around you.
And attack the hills! These times, and our nation, need each of us to do more and to be more than we have in the past. Simply going back to work isolated and alone in your basement each day may be your hill, or it could be the daily stress of being a person of color in a world seemingly determined to defend itself against your experiences. I pray that Kevin’s advice and the Spirt of the Lord gives you the encouragement to keep fighting, keep forgiving and keep moving forward to get over the hills in your life, and to enjoy the relief that comes with getting to the other side.
Kev (kneeling) with me and friends from Detroit Benedictine High School after our race in 1984.
P.S. Kev has written a fascinating book about his experience growing up as a Black child in a white family in a Black city in a white world. He now works with groups across the nation helping them grow cultural intelligence and understanding.
When we began asking our families to shelter in place two months ago, we didn’t know how they would do that in such close quarters. When we told them we would get them the food and supplies they needed, we weren’t quite clear on how that would happen either. Thank...
Just over a month ago, we asked you and 2,900 other people like you in the International Samaritan community across the world to give money during a time of economic uncertainty. The dual threat of COVID-19 and of starvation hovered over 621 families of our...
Just over a month ago, our team leaders in five nations began telling 621 families who have children in our scholarship program: Stop going to work. Stay home and stay safe. You have friends around the world who will pitch in to make sure you have the food and water...
Last week I wrote to you about the pressing need for food and water for all 621 families we support around the world. Eighty-eight people have responded so far with a total of almost $30,000 in donations. This is amazing and beautiful to me, but it covers the cost of...
Over the past year, I’ve written this reflection 22 times, and I’ve never written with as heavy of a heart as I do now. The Coronavirus has spread across the world and through entire cities like New York and Detroit so quickly and so devastatingly, I shudder to think...
Every two weeks, I send this email to reflect on challenges and victories in our mission together. Today I thought it would be helpful to simply send updates on how each nation is doing in our shared goal of defeating the Coronavirus. Ethiopia Ethiopia, like most...
International Samaritan is a nonprofit organization with the designation 501(c)(3). Our headquarters is located in Ann Arbor Michigan.