Sunday, May 31, 2015

Salaam Alaikum (Amharic greeting)

In my readings this week I found this great quote from Hugh Nibley that helps me see much of what we do that is good, if what we do isn’t tied with repentance, it may not be all that good at all.  If we are not changing (for the better) then what use does the Lord have for us in completing His plan for each of us?  We can be like the Pharisee who gave thanks to God that he was not a crook or a lecher, that he fasted twice a week, paid a full tithe and was very strict in his religious observances.  All true, but he was not acceptable to the Lord.  (Luke 18:10-13)

Nibley says: “The test for this life is not for knowledge; it is not for intelligence, or for courage, or for anything like that.  That would be a huge joke.  None of us knows very much, none of us is very brave, none of us is very strong, none of us is very smart.  We would flunk those tests terribly.  As Alma said, we are only to be tested on one thing-the desires of our heart (Alma 41:3); that is what we are really after.  Thus we don’t need to go on forever suffering the same nonsense in order to see the things we can be tested for, namely the two things and the only two things we are good at: we can forgive and we can repent.  These are the two things angels envy us for."

"You are not going to appease God by trying to buy him off, by going through the pious motions of religious observances, your meetings and temple sessions.  …Who is righteous? Anyone who is repenting.  No matter how bad he has been, if he is repenting, he is a righteous man. There is hope for him.  And no matter how good he has been all his life, if he is not repenting, he is a wicked man.  The difference is which way you are facing.”  The Essential Nibley by Marvin R. VanDam 

It is interesting that we are taught that we need to gain knowledge, tithe, have faithful sabbath day observance, etc. but if we don't do as Elder Bednar stated: learn, repent and change, we really are not moving forward.  Interesting...

From the web...King Lalibela's goal was to create a New Jerusalem for those who could not make a pilgrimage to the Holy Land (and to create a sacred city to rival powerful Axum, with its Ark of the Covenant). According to some reports, he had been to the Holy Land himself and was inspired by what he saw. But the king made no attempt to copy the churches of the Holy Land; in fact, Lalibela's sacred architecture could not be more unique.
The churches of Lalibela were not constructed — they were excavated. Each church was created by first carving out a wide trench on all four sides of the rock, then painstakingly chiseling out the interior. The largest church is 40 feet high, and the labor required to complete such a task with only hammers and chisels is astounding.
The rock-cut churches are simply but beautifully carved with such features as fragile-looking windows, moldings of various shapes and sizes, different forms of crosses, and swastikas (an Eastern religious motif). Several churches also have wall paintings.
Each church has its own resident monk who appears in the doorway in colorful brocade robes. Holding one of the church's elaborate processional crosses, usually made of silver, and sometimes a prayer staff, these monks are quite happy to pose for pictures.  

So we arrive at Lalibella and our guide is there to greet us.  Thanks Destaw! 

This is a good travel slogan.  No where else in the world can you use this.

The largest and first church.  You see the original rock surface and then where they excavated the church.

They placed a roof over some of the rock churches.  Erosion has been taking its toll on some and so they have begun to protect with added roofing. This tall church is Nancy's favorite. Remember everything is carved out of one large rock.

The Ethiopian Orthodox Church did baptism by immersion during Lalibela's tenure.  However, they now have a choice as some did not want to put their babies completely under water.  You can now choose, immersion, sprinkle or pour water on the babies.

This is the biggest church in the complex.  Some of the towers have been rebuilt because of erosion.

The reason they ceiling has lasted so long is the engineering to use the arch system to transfer the load across the entire structure.  In one of the churches they did not use this method and the ceiling had caved in on a couple of sections. 

They would build in the many different types of crosses into the window system.

The ceiling in one of the churches.  You see the star of David in the design.

It is a long way down from the top to the bottom of the structure.

These caves were dug and were filled with the bones of the priests and monks that died while caring for the churches.  They were all cleaned out several years ago and now are used for both living and meditation.

This was an interesting room, Sister Squire was not allowed into it.  She had to stay outside and I went and took pictures for her to see.

Coming out of one church and heading on to the next one.

Once outside you have opportunities to purchase some art work.  We bought one from this guy.

This was my favorite of the rock churches.  You can see the monk in the corner and get a better understanding of just how much rock was removed to excavate these churches.  From the web...There are 11 rock-cut churches at Lalibela, the most spectacular of which is Bet Giorgis (St. George's). Located on the western side of the cluster of churches, it is cut 40 feet down and its roof forms the shape of a Greek cross. It was built after Lalibela's death (c.1220) by his widow as a memorial to the saint-king. It is a magnificent culmination of Lalibela's plans to build a New Jerusalem, with its perfect dimensions and geometrical precision.

Really cool church.

The roof is very thick, it goes down to the line just above the windows.  The thick roof is one of the reasons they have not built a structure over the top of this one.

The yellow color is moss and check out the rain spouts at the top, all built in one continuous piece of rock. (monolith)

Every chapel has a monk assigned and this one motioned for Sister Squire to come and get a picture.  After the picture he motioned for me to make a donation in the pot in the bottom corner. After all, a monk has to eat.

Just one of the random photos of people working with the donkeys.

This was right out of our window at our hotel.

Blue birds of paradise?

You can see they have learned to use all the available land for agriculture.

Our hotel, it was really nice.

Our room was nice and big.  Slow season so we paid a lot less than you do Nov-Jan.

Mom and baby.

The next day we started with the next set of churches.  The long rock path is the "straight and narrow path" and if you can walk up and come back you are heaven worthy.  They used to let tourists walk up but a lady fell of a few years ago and now no one get the test.

An original door.

This church has had a harder life than some of the others.  I believe it is out of a softer stone.

This is looking back from the entrance to hell.  This is the hallway that connects two churches.  It represents hell and for 40 meters and it was pitch black.  We had some pilgrims come through and singing.  I thought I had video of them coming through the tunnel.  Operator error, no video.

The other end where you come out into heaven.

This is the first church you see and it is very well preserved. Remember they carved from the top down and from the outside to the inside.

Back through another tunnel to get to the next church.  The monk used to have to walk around the entire complex to get to the different churches so he decided to enlarge this drain hole so it would accommodate even big guys like me to create a shortcut.

The tall and narrow passage is very slimming...until I tried to fit through.

This church is compared to Petra as it is still connected to the surface rock on this one side.

Inside we were treated to a nice drum solo.

These are prayer sticks.  The mass service begins at 5AM and lasts for two hours.  Everyone has to stand and they use these sticks to lean on to help relieve some of the pressure of standing.

Back outside and here we have the area where the monks and priests live.  They have carved out homes on the pathway out.

Lots of two story huts.  Not common in Uganda but lots in Ethiopia.

I was about to bring the entire complex down but changed my mind.  Lucky for them...

One of the more interesting places I have ever eaten.  This restaurant is owned by a Scottish school teacher and an Ethiopian.  They have a 99 year lease because no one owns property in Ethiopia except the government.  They were going to level the top of the mountain off and build the building but their architect changed their minds. The English name for the restaurant is mountain flower.

You can see how each platform is inside a flower.  You get some great views from the tables in each flower.

Nice drinks, this one has mango, avocado and papaya.

Just walking and along the path back to the car and see some nice skins.

Another random guy working his donkey.

This was the view off the back of our deck.  You can see we are very high and the road will take you to Axum (where the Arc of the Covenant is - so everyone in Ethiopia believes....maybe).

We went to a place where they have music and dancing.  It was a slow night so we only saw one dance and this guy was playing a random song that we were a part of occasionally.  It is a one string instrument that had a variety of sounds.

Outside on our deck looking down on the eagle.

Bundles of sticks they will carry back home or sell, not sure which.

A monk on his way to work.

The rainy season is about to begin in Ethiopia and so there were many people out plowing their fields in preparation.  They seldom use animals to plow in Uganda so it was interesting to see it was almost exclusively done with animals here.

The airport ceiling keep the cross motif going.

Did I mention that coffee is big in Ethiopia with a special coffee ceremony.  This fill-up station is in the airport.

At the restaurant the sun went down and with the breeze it got a bit cool.  Nice time to ponder about things like, oh I don't know, why is my nose pointed like an arrow head or does she still love me...

SHE DOES!  Yahooooooo!

And so as the sun goes down and another blog post is finished.  I guess next week I will have to write about mission stuff again.  We love being in Africa on a mission.