Wilhelm Koelling, father of Elfriede Raunio, built Aira Mission Station in the 1920s in an area of Ethiopia untouched by the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Those living there had never seen Caucasians before.*
ROUGHING IT: Elfriede Koelling resting at a tent camp with her mother and sister during a three-week trip from Addis Ababa to the Aira Mission Station. The other children are from the Stein missionary family, who replaced the Koellings at Aira when they returned to Germany to answer a call to the Dutch West Indies.I jerked upright in my bed. “What’s that?” I screamed.
A DIFFERENT TIME: A pet monkey sits on Wilhelm Koelling's lap and plays with Elfriede during a stop on a three-week trip from the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, to the Aira Mission Station. Also pictured is Elfriede's mother, Paula, and older sister, Ilse.Then Dindele appeared. My mother gave Dindele some clothes, but the next night she returned, naked again. She refused my family’s offer of help and went back to her village.
The Koelling family posing along the Elbe River in Germany before traveling to Ethiopia.A short time later my father came down with malaria. It was the time of year when he burned the elephant grass across the river to prevent wild animals from getting too close to the water. Weakened by his sickness, father asked a trusted friend, Haile Mariam, to burn the grass. Haile Mariam followed the instructions, and soon orange-yellow flames began shooting up toward the sky. The elephant grass had knobs like bamboo that popped loudly in the heat of the fire. Suddenly a spark flew across the river and landed on the dry grass. Moments later a wall of roaring flames surrounded the compound, spreading toward the thatch-roof houses and the teff that was spread on mats to dry in the center of the compound. Teff, a grain used to make injera—a flat, spongy Ethiopian bread—was our main food supply.