SUMMARY:Around 1446 B.C., God commanded the Jews to build the Ark of the Covenant, above which His Holy presence resided. Today, no one knows where the Ark is, but it's rumored to reside in Ethiopia. Ethiopia declared itself a Christian country in the fourth century, A.D., and today, every Ethiopian church cherishes a replica of the Ark. However, not all of Ethiopia clings to a form of Christianity; the northern Afari nomads are fiercely Muslim. Ethiopia is best known for its severe famines in the 80's, particularly near the Somalia border. In November 2002, Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi warned the world that his country may be facing another massive famine.

COUNTRY PROFILE: Full Country Name: Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia Area: 1,127,000 sq km (439,530 sq mi) Population: 55 million Capital city: Addis Ababa People: Oromo (40%), Amhara and Tigrean (32%), Sidamo (9%), Shankella (6%), Somali (6%), Afar (4%), Gurage (2%) Language: Amharic, Tigrinya, Orominga, Guaraginga, Somali, Arabic, English Religion: Muslim, Ethiopian Orthodox, animist Government: Federal Republic

MONEY & COSTS: Currency: Birr Exchange Rate: US$1 = 8.2 Relative cost: Budget Meal: US$ 1-2 Budget Room: US$ 2-5

Ethiopia is a relatively inexpensive country to travel. It is possible to live on only about US$7-12 a day by using buses, eating street food and staying in smaller hotels. For more money, many more provisions can be had. Traveler's checks and cash should be able to take care of any needs, although credit cards aren't accepted.

TRANSPORTATION: Buses are probably the most economical mode of transport in Ethiopia, although they tend to be very slow. Bring a bandanna if you plan on taking any buses. Ethiopians fear that they'll catch malaria if they leave the bus windows open, so the buses often smell like a tomb. A train line runs between Addis Ababa and Dire Dawa, but it is even slower than the buses. Ethiopian Airlines flies within the country, but the policies have recently changed and the prices have doubled for foreigners. However you travel in Ethiopia, it's a hard, long ride.

RELIGION: Ethiopians are mostly Ethiopian Orthodox, and they claim to be Africa's first Christian country. Ethiopian Orthodox followers tend to base their salvation on works instead of the grace of God. They are very driven by penance, and their priests are greatly respected. Very traditional people, Ethiopians tend to be very resistant to Protestant Christianity. There are also some Muslim communities. There used to be a population of Ethiopian Jews, but airlifts carried over 35,000 of them to Israel from 1984-1999.

CALL TO MISSIONARIES: Ethiopians are very kind and welcoming people. In the village areas, they will offer guests food, even if they have very little themselves. These people are very curious, so they are open to hear the Gospel message. In the Afari region, the nomadic camel herders are very Muslim. Except for the AK47s they carry, nothing has changed for centuries. Prayer is needed for the people of Ethiopia. They greatly need to be freed from the false religions that have snared so many people.