Local couple moving to Ethiopia

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Mike and Janelle McCarty, both 30, along with their 1-year-old daughter, Carolee, will be moving to Dembi Dollo, Ethiopia, in August to work as missionaries for three years.

The McCartys, who have been married five years, said their decision to pursue mission work is the culmination of a life-long dream. Devout Christians who are active at the First Presbyterian Church in Kent, they say they feel a strong calling to help the less fortunate.

"We're doing this to serve God and to serve others," said Mike, assistant city planner for Snoqualmie since 1999. Mike will be working with the Development and Social Services Committee (DASC) run by the Presbyterian Church of the United States (PCUSA). The couple has been living in Snoqualmie since 2000, when they were married.

"We really appreciate everything we've learned here from everybody and the kindness of the Valley," said Janelle, who was a seventh-grade teacher at Chief Kanim Middle School until last spring when Carolee was born. "It's a wonderful place to live. We're not dissatisfied with our lives at all," she said. "We really like it here, but ... we just feel called in that it's [an] important thing to do."

Janelle will be working as an English teacher at the Bethel Evangelical Secondary School (BESS), a long-established school run by the Mekane Yesus Church in Dembi Dollo located in western Ethiopia, near the eastern border of Sudan.

"It's not big by Western standards, or [even] by African standards," said Mike. "There are no paved roads, for instance, and the electricity in the town works only about half the time." Dembi Dollo is a city of about 50,000 people.

"The area is an area of very stable rainfall in Ethiopia, which is rare," said Mike.

Ethiopia has some pretty severe droughts, so there are many people moving to the Dembi Dollo region. Famine refugees moving to this area of stable rainfall are creating a lot of pressure on development. "So I'll be working on small infrastructure projects, wells, water systems and road projects," said Mike. The Worldwide Ministries Division of the PCUSA is sponsoring the couple.

"It happened really fast," said Mike of the couple's decision to join the mission field.

"They called us two months ago now to say that the position was coming available and they asked if we wanted to come in for an interview about a month and a half ago. We flew into Louisville for the interview on Memorial Day weekend, and then they called us to tell us we had the position."

Since then life has been a whirlwind of tying up loose ends for the McCartys, who will rent their house out and sell their car in the interim.

The couple applied with Presbyterian missions about three years ago and have been waiting for an opening in the mission field since that time. "It was just a matter of waiting for the right position to line up that matches our skills," said Mike. "And waiting for Carolee to get old enough," added Janelle. "That's one of the reasons we want to do missions ... we want to give her a global perspective of realizing that there's a lot of need out there, and missions can be a part of that," said Mike.

Since the mission in Ethiopia is well established and PCUSA is well regarded and equipped, they know they won't be going it alone. Another couple from Germany is already in Dembi Dollo, and there are other aid groups as well. "In the town, there are some projects going on. Glimmer of Hope is doing some work there, that's another American foundation (aid organization)," said Janelle.

The McCartys will be staying on the school's campus, which is also a boarding school, in a small administrative house. They are taking "hardly anything" with them and intend to buy what they need when they get there. "We're going to try and buy everything [we need] over there. It supports the local economy," said Mike. "We're replacing a teacher who's been there 40 years. She says, 'You really don't need anything, the house is already furnished,'" said Janelle.

The home has running water, but only sporadic electricity. Initially the couple will be taking turns watching their daughter, but will eventually need to hire a baby sitter. Their 4-year-old dog Hailey will also be going along to help provide a sense of home.

Both Mike and Janelle are savvy travelers. Mike went to Germany as an exchange student in high school and has traveled more recently to Thailand, Laos and Norway. Janelle has gone on short-term mission trips to Mexico, Hungary and Romania. Consequently, Mike speaks German and Janelle speaks "a little Russian."

The McCartys are asking people to donate used laptops and school supplies that they can bring along with them when they leave for Africa, Those interested may be contact them by e-mailing

Regarding why they felt led to become missionaries, they said they are motivated by a combination of faith and desire to reach out to those in need.

"There is a tremendous need in Ethiopia for basic health care and agricultural, educational and developmental resources," Mike said. "Throughout his life and ministry, Jesus called his followers to not just have compassion for the poor and oppressed, but to respond in love and action. It is in this light that we go."

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