Since 2007 Chase Oaks has had a partnership serving the people of northwestern Ethiopia. It has been an extremely successful partnership in many ways. We’ve supported somewhere around 140 church planters moving into villages, bringing the Gospel into places where no followers of Jesus lived. All but 25 of those churches are now self-sustaining! We’re supporting three Elderly (mostly widows) Care Centers feeding 150 every day, a school for blind kids giving them hope, and we’ve built a 5-story school that is now open to primary students! These efforts along with other income generation projects have made a difference in that region and until recently in a mostly peaceful environment. But things have changed!
While this and any developing country has hardships and slowdowns they must work through, what is happening recently in Ethiopia is causing deeper governmental mistrust, divisions and even deaths. It’s a plight that we haven’t really seen up to this point in our annual visits to, and communications with, the partners there. As westerners we miss a lot of world news for many reasons, but the recent news out of Gondar hits close to home (our hearts) so to speak. And it’s serious.
For years there has been a minority ethnic group in power in Ethiopia. They are well funded and maintain great power throughout the country. To give you an idea of the group, the people from the Tigray area are 6% of the Ethiopian population and the group that’s in charge is about 1% of that population, a very small minority. But, this group controls the nation with every position in the government being occupied by this group (party). This group is actively taking away fertile land from farmers, along with villages and other land grabs, causing understandable protests throughout the country. Many have been killed, maimed, tortured and jailed during this uprising from those being affected. Many have labeled the efforts genocide.
Gondar, the primary city where we are engaged, and the Amhara Region have not escaped the violence and terror. Kevin Honoré, our Bright Hope World partner is there now. Here’s what he just sent us…
“Gondar is pretty much cut off from the world at the moment. I can’t send emails easily and most of the social media apps have been disabled. In fact, at times cell phone coverage has been interrupted. There is a great deal of fear on the streets, people get visited at night and disappear. There are few people on the streets and everyone speaks quietly and furtively. There are burned out buildings and a very different atmosphere from previous visits.
In general, the situation is not great; and it’s not good for the school either. Worku was planning for 500-600 students to start two weeks ago, but now it will be less than half that. There are clouds of uncertainty looming over northern Ethiopia and this makes people unwillingly to send their children out of the home. It could become all-out civil unrest as the local people resist government plans to confiscate land to be rented to foreigners. Last week there was a 7 day strike and no one was allowed to work, travel or trade.”
This time of unrest affects everything we are doing there. The widows fear leaving their homes and walking the streets to be fed at the Care Centers. Church planters must use extreme caution when sharing the Good News to villagers. Everyone is afraid to venture out.
We need to pray for our Ethiopian Partner, Worku, as he tries to navigate difficult times and help the people there. Worku has worked tirelessly for over 10 years to make a difference in his native country by bringing the Gospel to villages, serving the poorest of the poor, and educating the children of Gondar. He must be weary, and we need to pray for strength to continue and daily encouragement to press on with what he knows God wants him to do. He’s a great man of God facing external forces that want to see terror and fear permeate the land. But we know God wants to use people like Worku to bring peace and justice and continued hope! Let’s pray to that effect!
“We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation.”
— Romans 5:3-4 (NLT)
If you’d like to read more about our partnership in Ethiopia, check out our 2015 Report A new report will be posted soon!