A Pastor Looks at Ethiopia
I have been home for almost a week now. Before I go on, I should say that I have had the unique privilege in my life of being on 3 continents other than my own. I tell you that so that when I say “this was an important and formative trip”, it will mean something. In other words, this ain’t my first rodeo.
I’ve been places that were both wealthy and poor. I have seen things that make the stomach turn and the soul shudder. But this trip to Ethiopia was significant.
It was significant because the church leaders I met there taught and inspired me. The church in that country is working like no other group of believers I have ever seen to affect change in their culture. They are doing it through love. They serve and love their communities beyond anything I can imagine or communicate.
We think of Ethiopia as a poor country. When I was a kid, Ethiopia was the place my mom threatened to send my uneaten food. “There is a child in Ethiopia who would love those brussel sprouts!” Yet there are churches there paying tuition for underprivileged kids in their community.
They are buying school uniforms and investing in small business opportunities so that needy children can help bring income into their homes. They are loving their communities well. In a country that is fifty percent muslim and geographically surrounded by Muslim nations, one leader told me that he believes those numbers are changing. He said that because of the work of the church, people are converting and learning to follow Christ. Just like everyone, people there look for love and authenticity and they find it lived out in one place. The Church.
It was significant because I saw examples of how the west can help. Traditionally the way the west approaches aid is to give people money, food, and build things for them. This has been happening for decades and it isn’t helping. I visited a site completely led by local leaders. There is a school and a church together in one area. More than a hundred kids are being educated. A well has been drilled (by a local company), and agricultural opportunities are being provided like chickens and cows that will help people in that community earn their own money. Soon they will be completely independent and the western investors will be able to support another community while it too develops itself into a self sustaining community.
I learned that giving people money and stuff does not help, but investing in them and believing in them and their way of growing and developing leaders in their own community makes all the difference in the world. A handout teaches them that they are not worth believing in. But if we believe that they know best what will work for their own community, we acknowledge their God given gifts and dignity. I saw first hand how significant this is for them and their communities.
It was significant because I found a place that needs investing in. I met children and played with them who are not in school because they cannot afford the school fees. There were other children who do go to school, but to get there they must cross a rickety foot bridge that washes away in the rainy season. Sadly, children have drowned crossing this bridge.
I want to send these kids to school. I want to replace their bridge with one that vehicles and people can cross. I want kids to cross safely and I want commerce to reach their community so they can thrive where God has planted them.
This site is a local church that is loving these kids the best they can. Led by a man named Pastor Branoe, they are well loved and well led. But this kind and gentle pastor needs help to love the kids in his community (some of whom are from Muslim families) and to serve his community. Imagine what happens to a poor community that is served and loved by the local church!
This place is called Jemo. Pray for it. Pray for Pastor Branoe, pray for the kids and families that this ministry touches. And pray that you and I together will be able to help them get better nutrition, go to school safely, and build sustainable businesses that serve their community well.
There is so much more to say, but you would get tired of reading before I got tired of typing. Soon you will hear more about Jemo. You will hear about the beauty of the children there. The dignity and worth of the women who are doing all they can to feed and clothe these kids. The children who look after younger siblings while their parents are off working.
The humanity, dignity, value, worth, and need that the team found there in that place is all stunning. We can’t wait to tell you more.