While the rest of the campus is cozying up to travel home in the winter weather, Drama Ministries Ensemble will be heading somewhere a little warmer.
From Dec. 12 to 23, DME will be traveling to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in Africa. The group will consist of all nine current DME members; Jeff Barker, their director; and Julie Else, a chaperone. The current DME members include Natalie Blackman, Karsten Garwood, Kevin Griffiths, Cornelia Hayes, Jeremiah Mitchell, Jackson Paganini, Rebekah Stoscher and Camila Wede.
DME will be performing the second installment to a play that showcased on campus last year and was released as a book in March 2018, “Sioux Center Sudan.” The second of this book and play trilogy is “Iowa Ethiopia,” which is the play DME will be touring in Ethiopia.
“This is a story of Ethiopian history: both ancient history as well as modern history, and it’s a way of honoring that culture and honoring God’s work in Ethiopia by giving the story back to them so that the story can be kept alive in the next generation,” Barker said.
Barker is not just a professor of theater, department chair and DME director. He also wrote all three plays and has written the two book installments of this trilogy. The book series follows Arlene Schuiteman, a missionary nurse, as she travels from her hometown in Iowa to Sudan, Ethiopia and Zambia to do ministry and healing work.
“Often a book is written first and then a play based on it. In this case, the play was written first and then the book is an expansion of that play,” Barker said.
The tour to Ethiopia will be used as a book and ministry tour. DME will be staying at Mekane Yesus Seminary in Addis Ababa, the capital city of Ethiopia. The seminary has agreed to help them distribute copies of “Iowa Ethiopia” to churches and the surrounding public. Some books will be set aside and distributed to the western highlands where Schuiteman originally did her ministry work.
This is not the first trip Barker has made to Ethiopia. He and Schuiteman went in 2011 with the then DME group to tour the original play “Iowa Ethiopia” before it was a book. At that time, Barker had help from some local theater artists in translating scene titles into Amharic, one of the Ethiopian Semitic languages that is commonly understood. For most that will hear the play, English will be a second language. Barker wanted to ensure that “even if they don’t understand every word, they can still follow along the storyline.”
In Addis Ababa, DME will have the opportunity to hold two workshops on performing the books of the Bible for Mekane Yesus Seminary and some local Christian arts groups. They will also present a chapel service at the seminary incorporating the pieces they will perform at the NW Vespers concert on Dec. 7 at 7 p.m.
For those who do not quite have the time or money to travel to Ethiopia this winter break, DME will showcase “Iowa Ethiopia” on campus next spring semester. They will also bring back stories from their time there.
“We are so invested in hearing other people’s stories because we feel it opens our world to something new and being able to bring back what we will hear is such a blessing. People have stories they want to tell us that we want to tell,” Wede said.
In preparation for this trip, DME members have heard songs from Ethiopia, read books like “Iowa Ethiopia” and heard Schuiteman speak about the country. From experience, Barker knows this trip will provide realities not seen in Orange City, Iowa, and it may be even more of an eye-opening experience since three DME members have yet to travel abroad.
Thus, DME is asking the NW community and their families to pray.
“Pray for strength spiritually, mentally and physically,” said Mitchell, a current DME member. They want to be fully prepared to take on this amazing ministry opportunity.