January 21, 2008

Pastor to help church in Ethiopia

Presbyterian minister from Waverly will lead group in February mission.
January 21, 2008
The new pastor of Waverly Presbyterian Church and 11 others, mostly from the Susquehanna Valley Presbytery, are soon heading on a mission trip to Ethiopia.

The Rev. Dr. Cynthia Huling Hummel will lead the group that is leaving Feb. 1 on a two-and-a-half-week trip to Dembi Dollo in southwestern Ethiopia.

They will help build a new kitchen at the Gidada Bible School and also will provide tutoring in English and basic computer skills.

"I really like the hands-on ministry. I really like getting to meet people and hear people's stories," said Hummel, who has done mission work before.

So many needs are met just by sitting and chatting with people, especially when they have been through a real crisis, she said.

"It's really healing for them to be able to talk about it," she said. "I always just think of it as much a ministry of presence -- just being there, letting people know that you care."

Previously, she led a group doing Hurricane Katrina cleanup about two years ago while she was the pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of Lyons, north of Geneva.

She also led a group to Goshay, Miss., headed four trips to Conklin, N.Y., and was on two other mission trips to Welch, W.Va., for flood cleanup.

According to the Susquehanna Valley Presbytery, the Ethiopian Presbyterian Church was established in 1919 by missionaries from the Presbyterian Church of America.

The mission started with the work of evangelism and the operation of a school and clinic.

Linda Allen of Oneonta, who co-chairs the presbytery's Ethiopian Mission Committee, was in Ethiopia in 1999 and says it was a life-changing experience.

"You see people that are just so fervent in their religion," she said. "You think, 'Can you send some missionaries to us now?' They're just very spirit-filled."

Allen had been in Kenya with her husband, Jeremy, where he grew up, and they had been asked by the presbytery if they could join the celebration in Ethiopia of 80 years of Christianity arriving in the area and 100 years having the Bible translated into the Oromifa language.

"It was just a big celebration," she said.

"Once we were up there and just saw the work that they were doing, that's when I decided to join the committee and start working for the partnership that was going on."

That area is far away from the capital and people really don't get a lot of services, so the church is almost forced to provide services and help people support themselves.

"They realize that you can't fill people's bellies and keep them well with just religion," Linda Allen said.

"So they take a holistic approach to it, and they work with fresh water and people coming in try to teach them new agricultural skills."

Hummel said the presbytery was seeking ministers and elders who might be willing to travel and be part of this upcoming mission delegation.

"They were looking for people with a passport and a sense of adventure," she said. "And I've never been to Ethiopia. I love to travel."

Hummel has lived in Jamaica and traveled to Haiti. Her son lived in Egypt for many years, and her daughter has been in Hungary and Japan.

This trip is an opportunity to travel and do some hands-on ministry and to share her faith in a special way, blending those two loves.

"I've always wanted to travel to Africa, so to be given this opportunity is just wonderful," she said.

"I'm just so excited, and my church is 100 percent behind me. They're just great."

Members of the group will begin their journey when most meet for the first time in Philadelphia. They will fly to Frankfurt, then to Gambella and from there to Dembi Dollo.

"It's going to be a real journey," she said.

"It's just a gift from God that's fallen on my lap."

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