$50 Spot for Imagination

August 28, 2012

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Today we took a load of bottles and cans to a local recycling center.  A brief departure from the air-conditioned office to separate some plastic, glass, and aluminum for some cold, hard, cash.  45 minutes later we had $50 more dollars to add to the 5Cents4Change for change campaign. Easy.

$50 will help fund the training of two new Self-Help Groups.  In a short-time, 30-40 men and women will learn to plan for their future by saving a little money each week.  Saving money will help rural Ethiopian families prepare for basic needs and emergencies. But if that’s all saving did, it would not produce the abundant life God intends for them.  When you think of helping the rural Ethiopians, do you ever think, “I want to help them have a sustainable imagination, robust dreams, and sufficient trust in their fellow community members?” It took us a few years to realize how important this is.

We can work on providing clean water, local medical care, effective farming techniques, good roads … But without belief, imagination, trust in one another, and a sense that dreams can become reality, we don’t lead them to the fullness of life Jesus spoke of. Isn’t funny how Jesus said, “I came that you might have life, and have it abundantly.” And yet often our efforts helping the so-called poor make it look like we think Jesus said, “I came that you might subsist, and do so subsistently.”  

Fortunately, we’ve found a program that actually uses a method of learning to subsist that can catalyze the ability to dream and imagine an abundant future.  A good example is the story we told a few weeks back of Aster Setegn, a current SHG member in the West Arsi District.  She’s saved and developed a business plan to increase her income by selling Injera to local hotels and  open a mini-cafe in her village.  This is imagination! Why?Because there aren’t many, if any, mini-cafes in Arsi Oromo villages. In fact, we’ve had some leaders in the city tell us this isn’t an idea ‘that would work.’ But it doesn’t have to work for them. It has to work for Aster, and she has taken the first step by imagining it can happen. 

What makes this so powerful is this dream has come in a context of saving and planning with a group of supportive women. The mini-cafe is not some Injera-in-the-sky idea, but a mixture of reason and wonder and empowered thinking. The other great aspect is that no outside organization is lending her money to do so.  Will this dream come to fruition, only God knows. But it’s these little sparks of transformation that will lead to not just sustainable development in Ethiopia, but abundant development.  

Sticky, smelly cola and beer containers, and a few minutes in the sun are pretty exciting when it means a few more people will believe a better future is available in West Arsi, Ethiopia.