Looking To the Mountains, Looking To the Future
A few weeks back I (Champ Rhodes) visited Ethiopia to connect with our on-the-ground partners and explore new opportunities for advancing our vision. One of the highlights was a day trip out to the Bale Zone to see what the area was like and discover how God was working in this region.
While we are committed to the Saving Group (Self-Help Group) Program in West Arsi, we’ve always had an eye on expanding this into other areas. Currently the program functions under the leadership and authority of the local churches either or nearby the village. Our partners in the EKHC Development Division train church leaders on how they can serve the community and build their capacity to impact individuals and families by facilitating the Savings Groups.
During our drive to Bale, I was pleasantly surprised as my fellow passengers, Pastor Lako and Abraham pointed to village after village where there was a church. To top it off, when we reached our destination we were greeted by a dozen leaders associated with the local Full Gospel Church of Goba Town, a church with at least 600 regular attendees.
In fact, I got a little schooled when after trying to ‘encourage’ the leaders saying I wasn’t there to tell them how or what they should do to follow God’s call, someone whispered to me this church was started by Ethiopians and grown without any outside help, even sending missionaries to remote areas.
As we continue to develop leaders through Church Planting Movement training in this region, this trip gave me a vision for the future of Saving Group expansion. We’re up to 285 groups in West Arsi. In fact the groups are coming along faster than our partners can hire facilitators. The average per member savings is currently around $6 USD, with the highest group averaging $15. We couldn’t be more thrilled with these numbers. In the first few years, the most important indicator of success is the steady growth of saving and capital in the program. Following this, we look for the secondary impact on the family and community.
Knowing there are a number of strong, albeit small, congregations throughout the Arsi/Bale region provides a hopeful view of what’s possible. We look forward to continuing our partnerships in new areas even as we watch the progress of our existing programs day by day.