Howdy. I'm Matt Todd. My wife and I have four kids and a dog,. I'm passionate about orphan care. I'm a die-hard fan of the Evansville Aces, the Indiana Hoosiers, and Star Wars. I'm trying to live life by the Todd family motto: "It behooves us to live!"

Z is for Zare

Z is for Zare - today #AtoZChallengeZare is an Amharic word. It means “today.” As we come to the end of this year’s A to Z Challenge (more than a month late), I think it’s altogether fitting that we conclude this series with this word. Because this is the only day we can control. Yesterday is already passed. We don’t know what tomorrow will bring.

Don’t get me wrong. We can learn from the past. We can remember the past. We can even celebrate the past. But we cannot live in the past.

The same is true about the future. We can look forward to things to come. We can dream. We can plan. We can chart out where we’d like to be in 5, 10, or 25 years. We can dream some more. And hope for a better future. But the only way we can change the future is by changing how we live right now. Today. Because that’s the only time we can change anything.

Yesterday is finished. We cannot carry around any grudges or hard feelings. They don’t do us any good. Believe me. I learned the hard way.

Tomorrow has its own set of troubles. We cannot accomplish anything by taking on tomorrow’s worries today. It just bogs us down and keeps us from making the most out of today. So let tomorrow take care of itself.

With a firm footing in the past and our eyes looking ahead to what could be, what should be, what will be…let’s make the most of every opportunity and seize the day.

That’s right. I went all Dead Poets Society on you.

“Carpe Diem,” y’all.

Grab today by the horns. Wrestle it to the ground. Suck the marrow out of life. Live deep. Love unconditionally. Forgive freely. If you’ve offended someone, make amends. Find the proverbial hatchet and bury it. Bury it so deep that it’ll never see the light of day again.

Laugh often. Say “I love you.” Walk by faith with reckless abandon. Give generously. Show compassion. People are messy. Embrace the mess. Admire the everyday beauty that’s around you. Celebrate even the tiniest of wins. Give hugs. Lots of hugs.

The first of many hugs to be had.

A photo posted by Matt Todd (@mattdantodd) on

Go ahead and dream big dreams. Set audacious goals. And don’t let them go. Walt Disney has some good advice: “Get a good idea and stay with it. Dog it, and work at it until it’s done, and done right…All our dreams can come true – if we have the courage to pursue them.”

Walt Disney quote about dreaming

Don’t put it off. Don’t wait until tomorrow. Don’t hesitate. We can’t wait around until the circumstances are absolutely perfect. Because they won’t be. And so you’ll just keep putting off to tomorrow what you could be…no, should be doing today. Stop waiting. Enter the race. Say what needs to be said. Write that book. Sing that song. Make that phone call. I don’t know what you’ve been putting off, but it’s time to get the show on the road.

Because here’s the deal: tomorrow never gets here. There is no tomorrow.

You know this. Once tomorrow gets here, it actually becomes “today.” I’m not saying this to create some existential crisis. It’s the truth. When you really look at it and all is said and done: All we have is today. So get started today. Yes, remember the past. Plan for tomorrow. Keep working for a better tomorrow. But live today. Because that’s what we have. Today. Tomorrow will take care of itself.

It behooves us to live. It’s what we’re made to do. We can’t sit around and wait for life to come our way. Yes, there’s a time for reflection. Yes, there’s a time for planning. Yes, there’s a time to rest. Yes, there’s a time to wait. But even in the midst of that waiting? There are opportunities to live life to its fullest. In the midst of our planning, we cannot allow life to pass us by. That’s how we wind up with a life of regrets. I don’t know about you, but I want a life full of memories. I want to be able to look back and see how I helped change the world. I don’t want a life full of even the tiniest of regrets.

Is that what you want, too?

Then let’s get started. What are you waiting for? Start living.

Today. Zare.

Y is for Year

Calendar #AtoZChallenge

No. I’m not talking about how long it took me to finish the 2016 A to Z Challenge. Yes, I know it’s june. Yes, I know this was only supposed to take up the month of April. I’m keenly aware of that. Thank you for the reminder. But we’re at the homestretch here. There’s a light at the end of this tunnel (and it doesn’t look like it’s the headlight from an oncoming train). So we press on. We press on…

As I was saying,

Y is for Year.

The Ethiopian calendar is a little different from ours. The New Year begins on September 11 (or 12 if it’s a Leap Year).* The first 12 months are 30 days each. That leaves five (or six if it’s a Leap Year) extra days in the Ethiopian calendar. Those extra days combine for a thirteenth month. That’s right. Ethiopia has an extra month.

That’s 13 months of sunshine!

Seriously. That’s a travel slogan of theirs. Ethiopia boasts thirteen months of sunshine. And I think that’s kind of fun.


Not only does their calendar have 13 months, but the years are different, too. I always forget what year it actually is in the Ethiopian calendar, but according to, it’s currently 2008 in Ethiopia. So not only do you get 13 months of sunshine in Ethiopia, but you’re also several years younger!**

They also keep track of time differently. But I’ve had several people try to explain it to me, both in Ethiopia and here in the States. I still don’t understand it, honestly. But I’m pretty sure it’s based on when the sun rises. So noon here is 6 a.m. in Ethiopia. I think. That all makes sense. But I can’t really figure out how they talk about time when the sun goes down. Because when I tell Weldu it’s 10 p.m. in Ethiopia, he looks at me like I’m crazy.

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Of course, that’s kind of my natural state. He’s not the first person to look at me like I’m crazy.

Ethiopians kind of march to the beat of their own drum. I think that’s partially what people refer to when they talk about Habesha time. The culture has been around for thousands of years, so that just makes sense. And that’s kind of beautiful.

It’s konjo.


*The Ethiopian calendar is similar to the Julian calendar, unlike the western Gregorian calendar.
**I know you’re not really younger. But it’s fun to think about. Especially since I keep getting older every day.

X is for X-Wing

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I know what you’re thinking.

“Really? An x-wing? What does that have to do with Ethiopia?”

I promise. There’s a legitimate connection. But even if there wasn’t a real connection, you really shouldn’t be surprised that X is for X-Wing. During my first endeavor into the Blogging through A to Z Challenge, I announced that X is for X-Wing. And that it will always stand for x-wing, no matter the theme.

While I was in Ethiopia, The Force Awakens was in theaters around the world – including Addis. I even had the opportunity to go to the cinema housed at a nearby mall and watch the long-anticipated and much-hyped Star Wars sequel.

Edna Mall in Addis

It would’ve been a pretty interesting experience, watching Star Wars in a foreign country. And it would’ve been fun to share this experience with the missionary friends of mine who suggested that we go watch it together. It’s always memorable to watch a movie in a different place.


I remember watching A League of their Own with my family when we were in the Southwest. I remember watching Apollo 13 and Batman & Robin in the same night in Taos, New Mexico. I also watched Independence Day in Taos the following year. That was also the year I wound up looking down on the fireworks display, but that’s another post for another time.

It was certainly tempting to watch the movie in Ethiopia. I really didn’t want to have to wait any longer. But I had a commitment to watch it with Aiden. And I was going to keep that commitment. I’m glad we have that shared memory together.

Obligatory “We’re about to watch #StarWars, y’all!!!” pic.

A photo posted by Matt Todd (@mattdantodd) on

Of course, I’m looking forward to the release of Star Wars: Rogue One this December. It’s another memory I’ll be able to share with my boys. Shoot, I’ll probably share it with my whole family. Because the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. I became a Star Wars fan at a very young age. And I’ve done my best to pass on what I have learned.

Me and Vader

Maybe there will be some x-wings in this new installment. I mean…Rogue Squadron had a pretty strong connection to x-wings. But who knows if Rogue One is actually connected to Rogue Squadron in any way, shape or form? There’s part of me that hopes there isn’t a connection. But there’s also part of me that does.

That way I’ll already have my “X” entry for the 2017 Blogging from A to Z Challenge. Of course, at the rate I’m posting for the 2016 challenge, it might be 2017 before I finish posting!

W is for Water

Less than half of the population of Ethiopia has access to clean drinking water (source). This is not a good thing. We take water for granted here – even in our rural areas. Yes, there are some outliers, like the water crisis in Michigan. But very few people in the States worry that the water they’re drinking could actually kill them.

When  you throw in the fact that many more people in Ethiopia lack access to proper sanitation, I think you can see the potentially disastrous situation here.

There are many fine ministries and organizations that are working to help end this problem. I saw some of them with my own eyes. They’re making a difference. And if you join me in partnering with World Vision, we can help them change communities, too.

V is for Vehicles

Traffic in Addis is insane. It’s just crazy. I was recently with a family who lived in New York. They said that the insanity of Addis traffic puts New York City’s traffic to shame.

Instead of explaining the vehicles we saw in Ethiopia, I figured I’d share a few pictures.

The red trucks on the right? If I understand correctly, they have a reputation of shutting down at inopportune times. They’re not looked upon favorably. The truck on the left is a water delivery truck. I’ll talk more about water in the next post.

China trucks and vehicles in Ethiopia


Rickshaw and motorcycle in Ethiopia

You never know when you’re going to encounter a livestock-induced traffic jam. Sheep in the road in Ethiopia

Put all of this together and it looks like an insane video game. I didn’t take this video, but it captures the traffic perfectly.

This might give Frogger a run for his money.

U is for Understanding

U is for Understanding #AtoZChallenge

When I worked in New Mexico, I met people from all across this nation. By listening to them talk for a few minutes, I could usually pinpoint where different groups were from. I was pretty good at recognizing the different regional accents throughout the United States. And somewhere along the way, I managed to pick up a Wisconsin-style accent (in spite of my preference of having a hint of a Southern drawl). There are definitely some distinctions between the regional dialects in the States. A Bostonian can have trouble understanding someone from the Bayou. Of course, the converse is true, too. And there’s likely to be at least a little miscommunication between a Southerner and a New Yorker.

It’s not uncommon for us to have trouble understanding each other. And we all speak the same language.

Imagine what it’s like living in a country where more than 80 different languages are spoken. Imagine what it’s like living in a country where well more than 100 different dialects are used. It kind of boggles the mind, but that’s how things are in Ethiopia.

That opens the door to a lot of misunderstanding. But it can also open things up to a greater understanding between people. Because sometimes you have to show a little patience with each other in order to communicate.

Maybe we could learn something from that. It seems like all we like to do on social media and in political discourse is to talk past each other. Maybe we could work a little bit harder at talking with each other and listening to each other. Maybe we’d be able to get more accomplished as a country. Maybe we can even find a deeper level of understanding.

This is my prayer. Not only for our country, but also for all humanity. I hope we can come together in peace, hope, love, and understanding – celebrating our differences as well as our commonalities. Like a beautiful rainbow, I pray that we can become one.

T is for True Cross

Around two months ago, I built a fire in the backyard. It was a relatively small fire because we just wanted a few coals to roast marshmallows, not a burning inferno. It was kind of like this one from the Fall:

Preheating the oven for dinner.

A photo posted by Matt Todd (@mattdantodd) on

When Weldu came out, he asked me about the fire and why it wasn’t very big. I explained to him why and he seemed to be satisfied with that answer. Then he explained to me that the fire he was expecting was one like the fires they have during Meskel.

By Beevo at English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0,
By Beevo at English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0,

Meskel is the annual celebration of the discovery of the True Cross by Queen Helen, the mother of Constantine, in the 4th Century. According to legend, Helen was on a mission to discover the cross upon which Jesus was crucified. She had a vision in a dream that instructed her to build a fire and it would show her the location of the True Cross. She had the people of Jerusalem build a giant bonfire and she added frankincense to the flames. The smoke went high into the air and then came back down – exactly where the cross was buried.

image via Wikimedia Commons
image via Wikimedia Commons

They celebrate this day in Ethiopia at the end of September. And it makes sense for them to have a giant bonfire in commemoration of this legendary event. Legend also has it that one of the cross-shaped churches in Ethiopia has a piece of this cross buried underneath it. So this day, Meskel – the celebration of the discovery of the True Cross, is a big deal in Ethiopia.

So I can understand why Weldu might have been a little disappointed when he saw our rinky-dink fire in comparison to the giant tower of flames that he’s used to seeing.

Maybe we can fix that the next time we go camping. If that’s the case, I should probably have a few campfire stories to tell. And I have a few, thanks to my experiences at Philmont. I just have to dust them off a little.

Of course, we’ll have to add this holiday to our growing list of family celebrations. But any excuse to build a rockin’ fire is a-OK with me!

S is for Soccer

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S is for Soccer #AtoZChallenge #AtoZChallenge2016

When I kicked off this series as part of the 2016 A to Z Challenge (which is taking a month longer to complete than it should), I mentioned in the opening post that Ethiopians love their soccer.

So when a kid comes up to you and asks you to play soccer, you play soccer. It doesn’t matter if you’re wearing your guard uniform or still working the front desk. If a kid asks you to play, you play. And that’s what happened one afternoon in the courtyard of our guesthouse. It was a pickup soccer game that I never thought I’d experience.

Soccer at the guest house #AtoZChallenge #AtoZChallenge2016
Manchester United FC

Of course Weldu’s friends love playing soccer. Several times a week, they’d play a pick-up game in a nearby alley in the shadow of some building construction. Two things I hope you notice…

    1. Note the scaffolding on the building in the background. It looks crazy, but I’m assuming it’s more sturdy than it looks to me.
    2. You see those two rocks stacked on top of each other? That’s one of the goalposts. The other is behind them.

Street Soccer Game in Addis #AtoZChallenge #AtoZChallenge2016
I didn’t grow up a soccer fan. I played one season in fourth or fifth grade (maybe sixth – I honestly don’t remember). I was not very good. And I never really showed much interest in the sport, other than the occasional World Cup game. That’s changed since Weldu has come home with us. It turns out both of us have a lot to learn. Playing an organized soccer game on an official pitch is quite different from the pickup games that he’s used to in Ethiopia. But that hasn’t dampened his passion for the game. He would eat, breathe, and sleep soccer if we’d let him. And he continues to hone his skills in anticipation of this Fall’s soccer season.

Weldu heading the ball in Addis

And me? I’m learning all the teams and terms and intricacies of the game that he loves. I’ve got a long way to go, but I know it’s worth it.

Because he is worth it.
Manchester United FC

R is for Rainy Season


Here in Indiana and the majority of the continental United States (except maybe the southwest and southeastern corners), you can generally expect to experience four seasons throughout the year. Summer, Fall, Winter, Spring. That’s how it goes.

OK, considering the fact that it’s the middle of May and we’ve had several days that were 15 degrees colder than an average day, one could argue that Spring hasn’t been much of a season this year. But you get the point. As a rule, there are four seasons. And Winter is drastically different from Summer.

In Ethiopia? Sure, there’s Summer, Fall, Winter, Spring, but there’s another season that makes a huge impact on people’s lives.

Rainy season.

I haven’t been in-country during the rainy season. We were there shortly after the rainy season when we first visited Ethiopia in September of 2009. And Christy happened to be there at the beginning of the rainy season last year. She said some of the roads were already starting to wash out and the serious raining hadn’t even happened yet.

The heaviest rains apparently happen in August and sometimes into September (in Addis, anyway). The rains are so heavy that the Ethiopian government traditionally shuts down during the month of August. And sometimes this even goes into September. The roads are that unreliable during this time.

It happens like clockwork. And the people of Ethiopia have adapted to it. Because that’s what we do. When we can’t change the situation, we find the pattern and adapt to it.

Perhaps this is what the Teacher meant in the book of Ecclesiastes. And if Solomon was really the author,* wouldn’t it be interesting if he had the Queen of Sheba and the seasons of her kingdom in the back of his mind when he composed this poem. It’s unlikely (or maybe even impossible), I know. But the point remains. There’s a time for everything and everything has its time. It’s up to us to make the most of the time that we’ve been given so we can live life for the purpose we were created to fulfill.

To every thing there is a season

So what season is your life in right now? What can I do to encourage you?

*I know tradition says that Ecclesiastes was penned by Solomon. Many scholars dispute that claim. Does it really matter who wrote it? No. Its message is still inspired and profitable. Let’s focus on more important things.

Q is for Queen of Sheba

queen of sheba

And when the queen of Sheba had seen all the wisdom of Solomon, the house that he had built, the food of his table, the seating of his officials, and the attendance of his servants, their clothing, his cupbearers, and his burnt offerings that he offered at the house of the Lord, there was no more breath in her. – 1 Kings 10:4 & 5

And King Solomon gave to the queen of Sheba all that she desired, whatever she asked besides what was given her by the bounty of King Solomon. So she turned and went back to her own land with her servants. – 1 Kings 10:13

According to the legend that we heard when we visited the National Museum of Ethiopia (home to “Lucy”), the Queen certainly got all that she desired. All of it.

In this story, King Solomon and the Queen reach an agreement when she arrives at the king’s palace. He won’t attempt to seduce her during her stay as long as she doesn’t take anything that doesn’t belong to him. Sounds like a fair deal. Right? I mean, aside from the fact the “No” should mean “No.” But that’s not really the point of this story (although maybe it should be the point).

One night (possibly her last night in the palace), Solomon treated the Queen to a fabulous dinner. He had his servants pull out all the stops. He also had them add extra spice to the food so it would be extra-hot. Now, I need to digress here for just a second. I’ve had Ethiopian food. Some of it is pretty spicy. How hot was this meal? It had to be on fire for a woman from Ethiopia to think it was spicy. Right?

Anyway, she ate and enjoyed the extra-hot food and eventually retired to her quarters. As she was preparing for bed, the spices did what spices do and the Queen needed some relief. Conveniently, Solomon had ordered that a glass of water be placed near her bed.

The wisest man in all the world had just tricked her. She had taken something of his without permission.* She had failed to uphold her end of the bargain. So Solomon was free to pursue her.

Cue Barry White.

Nine months later, on the road home, the Queen of Sheba gave birth to a son. She named him Menelik, “Son of the Wise.” And subsequent emperors claimed direct descent from Menelik I.

I told you the Jewish connection ran pretty deep.

* First of all, is it really taking something without permission if you place the glass of water right in front of a person who desperately needs a glass of water? Implied consent and all that. And secondly, Solomon had 700 wives and 300 concubines. There were plenty of women around who would do whatever he wanted. Why the need to trick someone like this? Solomon might have been wise, but he seems kind of shady here.