Chase Oaks Church’s mission is to make a difference in our world through local and global partnerships. Throughout the last several years, we have focused our global efforts on northern Ethiopia. We have worked together with indigenous leadership to help provide for the needs of the people through self-sustaining ministries. We are excited to announce the impact we have had on Ethiopia and are celebrating 10 years in Ethiopia this weekend.
The Beginning of a Partnership
In late 2006, Chase Oaks Church’s leadership began to pray for an opportunity to engage impoverished areas in developing countries to bring the Gospel along with relief and support for those living in extremely difficult circumstances. We knew we wanted to go deeper with a few places in order to have a significant impact.
When we stop and reflect on all that God has done in the past 11 years, it is obvious that season of prayer was answered in a way that is nothing short of God’s magnificent work in the lives of people with whom we had no idea we would be engaged.
Shortly after our senior leadership began praying, a door to Ethiopia was opened through a mutual relationship. Representatives with Bright Hope World met with our senior leaders and introduced us to a potential partner in Ethiopia that they thought would fulfill our desires of engagement. There was an indigenous leader there that had a vision for his people and country.
The Vision of a Leader
In May of 2007, a group of seven Chase Oaks leaders traveled to Ethiopia to meet this man, Worku Tafete, a former refugee who had fled Ethiopia seeking asylum during their years of conflict and was now residing back in his home country. We wanted to hear his vision to see if there was a potential match for a partnership, if there was some way we could be involved in that vision.
He told us he had a desire to plant churches and help the most vulnerable elderly (mostly widows) living in five separate towns throughout northwestern Ethiopia. What we experienced there was beautiful and lovely in many ways. But we also saw a land impoverished with millions of people trying to earn a daily wage to feed themselves and their families.
Over a seven-day period, we traveled long days by bus and visited several towns and villages listening to this leader and other church leaders describing their desire to plant many churches throughout this region of the country.
They already had 19 men and women “evangelists” who were eager to move to a village and begin sharing the Gospel in order to start a church, but there was no funding in this very poor part of the world. They were willing to go through any persecution in order to advance the Gospel. (And in fact, over the next couple of years, one paid his life in exchange for telling others about the love of Christ.) They were all young in ministry and needed training on the Bible and on church planting if they were to be successful in new villages and towns.
They also told us about the plight of widows and vulnerable elderly in the country who are often seen as a burden and as outcasts since they are not able to help themselves or their family. In impoverished countries, even young children are given duties of begging for the family or shepherding the animals. We saw four and five-year-old boys and girls in charge of cows, goats, and sheep in the fields and in town by the roadside, proving if you are able to work, you are worthy of dignity and respect. Our friend Worku had a strong passion to right that wrong and to love and care for the elderly who had been pushed aside.
The Answer to Our Call
Because of what we had seen and heard, we asked the extremely generous people at Chase Oaks to fund 19 church planters and one widow care center and to provide biblical training for the church planters.
When we laid the need out the first weekend of June of 2007, we asked for $56,000. As we would come to see repeatedly throughout these past 11 years, Chase Oakers responded with overwhelmingly generous gifts. And they gave over $200,000 to the partnership! Wow! I can’t say we saw that coming, but it sure was very encouraging.
Upon reporting the results back to our partner and asking if there were more church planters that could go into the villages of northwest Ethiopia with the love of Jesus, they responded they could have 50 more ready with the right training!
The Impact of Our Partnership
In the early fall of 2007, Chase Oaks began funding an incredible work that would see nothing but growth and success under Worku’s supervision and wisdom. To make this partnership a success, Worku has worked tirelessly every day since that time, sacrificing personal time, vacations, and his ability to travel to New Zealand to see family.
His sacrifices led to amazing accomplishments. It is the reason we are celebrating 10 years in Ethiopia!
Planting New Churches
Today, there have been 135 regularly trained and coached church planters supported by Chase Oaks Church, some of which have planted a couple of churches. Of the 135, there are only 23 churches that are still externally supported financially. The rest of the churches fully support their pastor financially. This is a huge step in an impoverished country.
Supporting the Elderly
There are now three widow/elderly care centers in the area—two in Gondar and one in the village Worku’s parents live. The center provides meals, love, and care for 170 elderly (mostly widows).
Building Schools for the Future
There’s a school for blind students that teaches them to read and write braille. These are mostly teenagers who have been outcasts, trying to live by begging—some since they could walk. However, once they learn to read and write, they can get into the public-school system and receive an education. Once they arrive at the school, most of these students advance very quickly, completing 2-4 grades per year, simply because they can now read! Just take a moment and imagine a 14-year-old entering first grade. They all have goals of significant labor and self-sustainability with jobs in education, the justice system, and the medical field.
Lastly, the highlight of this partnership is the private school that will fund everything happening in this project. Through our partnership, we worked together to build a five-story school that currently educates 1,700 students every day from Pre-K through Grade 7.
It has already been awarded the best school in the Gondar Region with its exemplary ratings and success. Parents in Gondar are becoming more aware of the value of a quality education and are willing to pay these low private-school fees, so their children can obtain the knowledge and skills to propel them forward in a developing country. And as a benefit, the school employs 120 teachers, administrators, and workers!
Celebrating 10 Years in Ethiopia
Thank you, Chase Oakers, for your generosity over the past 11 years! We all have the privilege of celebrating with Worku and our partner, Bright Hope World, during the weekend services of November 16-18. We invite every Chase Oaker to come celebrate with us and thank God for His beautiful blessing of the work in northwest Ethiopia!
For locations and service times, visit Chase Oaks Church Campuses. We hope to see you there!