Skip to main content

San Clemente Journal

Lloyd & Nancy Harline - Mission to Ethiopia

Dec 28, 2018 02:42PM ● By Donia Moore

Lloyd and Nancy Harline with locals in traditional dress.

by Donia Moore 

Lloyd and Nancy Harline discovered that bumping into someone can really have a lasting effect, depending where, when and with whom you do it. The longtime San Clemente residents and founders of the Rancho San Clemente Tennis Club got a first-hand look at cultural traditions when they recently relocated to Ethiopia on a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The Harline Family in Ethiopia

 Spending one and a half years living in Addis Ababa, the capital of the east African nation, they learned that warm greetings extended to one another can involve an embrace of bumping right shoulder to right shoulder. For women not only a hand shake but, for men especially, and further to women (if a close friend or relative, then also woman to man) there is a cheek to cheek kiss on one side, then another, then back again (three times).

 It feels as though you are instantly closer to that person and the greeting is always accompanied by smiles and warm gestures of friendship,” says Nancy. “The word for foreigners there is ferengi, an Arabic word meaning frankish. So, to be ‘frank,’ there are plenty of things there that were very foreign to us but many of them are becoming our favorite things. Interestingly, when we saw another white ferengi we frequently had the thought, ‘Hmmm, he (or she) looks out-of-place,’ since we could go days without seeing another white person. Then the thought usually settled in rather quickly that, ‘Hmmm that means that WE look out-of-place!’ We forgot about our skin color until, perhaps, one of the little children stared at us, smiled, and then might ask to touch our hair (Nancy’s auburn hair can look really foreign)!  We are truly ferengi in appearance, but were almost always treated as new favorite friends.”

 During their mission, the Harlines quickly developed a list of favorite ferengi facts. “Ethiopia has a population of 107 million people. In Africa, they are second only to Nigeria, which has 187 million. It is about the size of California and Texas combined (about 67 million, with California at 39 million and Texas at almost 28 million).”
Nancy shared, “Apparently, 50% of its population is under 25 years of age, so we felt rather ferengi being way older than most people. And, we have also lived beyond their average life expectancy of 65 years.  By the way, most of the women will straight up ask my age which is definitely a ferengi inquiry among American women. I usually heard either an audible gasp or witnessed a definite raised eyebrow when they heard my answer.” 
Ethiopia, in the Horn of Africa, is a rugged, landlocked country split by the Great Rift Valley, which stretches all the way to South Africa. With archaeological finds dating back more than three million years, it’s a place of ancient culture. Among its important sites are Lalibela with its rock-cut Christian churches from the 12th–13th centuries. Aksum is the ruins of an ancient city with obelisks, tombs, castles and Our Lady Mary of Zion church. This mission provided an amazing opportunity to travel to a developing region that needs assistance in almost every walk of life. The LDS Charities has donated millions of dollars over 30 years in humanitarian aid into Ethiopia. 

Nancy and Lloyd did not just step off into the unknown without any preparation. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is known worldwide for its training centers for outgoing missionaries. It provided the Harlines with training about their responsibilities. Among the things they learned was that Ethiopia had two official languages: Amharic and English. Although many people speak English, many more still speak Amharic.
Nancy explains this best. “With 34 characters in the Amharic language, it appears deceptively simple. The challenges start when you realize that each of the 34 characters has the same seven basic sounds attached.  So, you have 238 variations along with about a dozen other exceptions to learn as well. Add to that the fact that there are at least 83 other tribal languages and 200 dialects also spoken in Ethiopia and that leaves a lot of room for miscommunication! We mostly were able to communicate in English.”
Arriving in Africa in May of 2016, they soon realized that their first few months were going to be challenging. Their responsibilities in Addis Ababa were to support the field missionaries and help with the mounds of paperwork and government regulations that peppered their office. At one point, Lloyd became very ill and had to seek medical treatment. With the help of their Ethiopian office manager, they searched out the best hospital in Ethiopia which turned out to be a Korean-run hospital in Addis Ababa. 
So far, so good, however the Harlines discovered that there were major delays for everything and that they had to pay the hospital before treatment could begin. Each process required hours of standing in long lines, sometimes with 50 people or more. After eight hours of delays and tests, it was determined that Lloyd had kidney stones. At the same time, Nancy contracted a viral infection called Bell’s Palsy, which partially paralyzed her facial muscles. As the Korean hospital did not have the means to treat either of these afflictions, Nancy and Lloyd had to return to the states for medical care. But it wasn’t more than three weeks before they found themselves once again in Ethiopia, readapting to the daily challenges of spotty electricity, unreliable internet, intermittent water service and poor public health.

Time often appears to move slowly in Ethiopia. In fact, it can literally stand still. Ethiopian time is based on a 12 hour day and a 12 hour night with the day beginning at 6am and ending at 6pm. Night is defined as being from 6pm to 6am.  Therefore, 7 am western time is 1am Ethiopian time as you go back six hours. Many government and public places will have their clocks on Ethiopian time but almost everyone will look at you as a ferengi (foreigner) and tell you the time for an appointment or meeting according to western time. 

Insulated as they were because of language and custom, a civil war was brewing right outside the capital that they did not know was coming. It became very dangerous to discuss politics in Ethiopia in the fall of 2016. A State of Emergency was declared by the government that was expected to last for six months. Nancy and Lloyd remained in Addis Ababa, along with all of the young missionaries who were recalled from outlying areas on the advice of the American Embassy. They could not travel more than 25 miles outside the capital. The presence of the federal police throughout the city exponentially increased. Although threatened, they felt safe and obeyed all the restrictions in the hope that their work could continue. Electricity became a thing of rare value because they never knew exactly when they would have it. “It always seemed to go out when I was in the middle of baking a batch of cookies,” said Nancy. The internet went on a semi-permanent vacation when the Ethiopian government restricted it in its struggle to maintain control.
Being involved with construction via the Tennis Club, Lloyd was fascinated by the construction methods employed in Ethiopia. “It seemed to involve mostly sticks and stones,” said Lloyd. He was also amazed at how quickly housing appeared. “There are so many high rise apartments that are being built by the government that it’s mind boggling!
“The construction includes re-bar, cement and cement blocks, a floor at a time!  The scaffolding and floor supports are 4-inch eucalyptus poles. Some buildings have lifts for the concrete to be transported up and some have eucalyptus pole ramps for the workers to walk up carrying buckets of concrete.  It is scary, because I walked up one!” 

Those who work at risk on the upper floors of the buildings are paid about $7.50 USD a day. The workers below receive about $4.00 USD daily. Cement blocks make up the exterior and interior walls. There is no electrical conduit laid inside the cement blocks. The blocks are chiseled out so the conduit can be placed. Plaster is then applied over the hole.  The plumbing is all installed outside of the walls.   

The Harline children and grandchildren came for a visit to Ethiopia before Nancy and Lloyd returned home. Impressed by these proud and warm people, they looked for ways that they could help too.

Their daughter, Alison Jennings, who lives in Gilbert, Arizona connected with a "Days for Girls" organization started in the United States which provides feminine hygiene kits for women in developing countries.  She was able to receive instructional training and then collect one hundred handmade kits to distribute to women in Addis Ababa. 
A young grandson, Garrett Jennings, cemented his Eagle Scout project by collecting over 300 soccer shirts at the end of the soccer season in the U.S., and secured a donation of 56 soccer balls for the avid young soccer players in Ethiopia.

While many people around the world associate Ethiopia with famine and poverty, the Ethiopians do not see themselves in this light. In fact they do not like their ferengi community to see them as other than a proud, unconquered people. And unlike many of their African neighbors, they were never conquered by outside powers: not by the British, not by the French, not by the Italians whom they chased out of their country with stones on several occasions. However, the Italian word Ciao remained behind and continues to be widely used throughout Ethiopia. And even though Addis Ababa is a bustling city of over 4 million people with a light rail system and many modern conveniences, there still can be found some of the worlds most primitive tribes living in southern Ethiopia
Although Lloyd and Nancy have warm memories and deep friendships with many of their Ethiopian neighbors, they are moving into the next phase of their lives. One of their life goals was to sell their popular Tennis Club and then serve their church as missionaries. They have now accomplished both. 

When Lloyd was asked about their involvement with the new Fitness Club coming on his former Tennis Club site, he indicated that he was very ready for retirement. “It will be a wonderful addition to San Clemente’s health and fitness community. Although they removed six of the 19 original tennis courts and relocated the pool in order to meet the city’s requirements for parking, the new 50,000 sq. ft. clubhouse will be a luxury addition to the community.”  

There is an architectural rendering in the construction trailer on the site showing how the new club will look. In the meantime, the City of San Clemente has a number of tennis courts available throughout the city at Bonito Canyon Park, Forster Ranch Park, Liberty Park, Marblehead Park, San Louis Rey Park, and Verde Park for a friendly free, first come-first served, match; while residents patiently wait to wear their whites at the lovely new facility.

Follow their blog: 
Current Issue Online





Facebook Page