November 8, 2012

Last week our leadership team returned from a week in Ethiopia visiting our partner organizations and getting updated on a number of initiatives we’ve invested in.  The vast undeveloped land in Ethiopia is a reminder of the tremendous resources she possesses. And the ripe fields turned gold during this Autumn harvest season tells a tale of great potential for this burgeoning country.

Shortly after arriving in Awassa, we spent some time strengthening our partnership with Water is Life International, meeting with Betty Stuart, their new state-side Director of Development. Betty has a strong background in non-profit fundraising and has a passion for improving access to water in rural Ethiopia. WiLi is committed to drilling wells throughout the West Arsi Zone and AWL plans to strategize with them in the coming months on funding and implementing these projects.

The following day we (finally!) witnessed the water flowing in Kalo and saw how the community was managing the well. (We had some thoughts on how things could be more efficient, but kept those to ourselves so as to let the learning process play out for our more-than-capable Ethiopian friends.) Most of all, this was a time to celebrate, albeit without fanfare, that the project we worked on with our partners was now complete and that clean water was available in this most central village.

A significant agenda item for this trip was coming to an agreement with Pastor Lako Bedasso and Selam Awassa Business Group regarding collecting payments for the loan we made to three Micro-Thresher owner groups.  After several similar conversations over the last year, we were able to move past the tendency to over-employ in these situations and with the help of some wise Ethiopians, we convinced Lako to ‘boot-strap’ this obligation while we compensate those involved in the collection process on a per-diem basis. We overcame a repeated request for a full-time employment to accomplish this task. This was a small cultural shift and no small matter. (It took three trips to accomplish!)

Among many highlights, our time with partners from the EKHC Self Help Program stood out as they provided a breath-taking report about the progress of the groups in the West Arsi Zone. First, they presented a financial report with detailed explanation of why they were under-budget for year-one of our partnership. Second, they demonstrated the incredible hunger the rural people have to become self-reliant and self-determining as it relates to their future. 128 groups are meeting regularly and significantly impacting their community (We’ll have more of the amazing details in blog posts in the coming weeks.)

Finally, we celebrated with each of our partners at a lunch gathering, beginning with a time sharing each of our personal story of God’s calling and how it was we were now working together. Then we honored the Lord by recounting the various ways He has allowed us to cooperate on projects such as the Church Planting Movement Training, Self Help, the Kalo Well, and more. Then we spent a brief time dreaming about how we can continue to work together for greater impact. We finished by praying together. Our hope is that this is the beginning of similar meetings which our partners convene whether we are there or not.

Each of our trips are important and some have bigger events than others. But it is always the small shifts that are most significant.  Changing minds and establishing new paradigms of understanding is our ultimate task. When small changes occur that reflect this renewal, we know that cultural strongholds which deny God the glory he deserves and traps whole peoples in devastating poverty are crumbling.