“How beautiful on the mountains are the feet
of those who bring good news…”
by Joy Casey, Adoption Ministry Director
There has been a heightened awareness within many churches in the U.S. about the global plight of the orphan, and many churches are addressing the needs of local children as well as marginalized children in other countries. My good friend Jeff Butler (who is Adoption Ministry’s Church Liaison and has six adopted children) and I have talked about getting better acquainted with church leadership in Ethiopia and understanding better what their response is to the orphan crisis in their own country. International adoptions help a small fraction of the children orphaned in Ethiopia due to poverty, AIDS and disease. What is the local Ethiopian church doing for the desperately poor children in their communities?
Perhaps if you read this blog consistently you might have heard about a town in Ethiopia called Dembidollo. It is 17 hard, dusty, bone-jarring hours from the capital city of Addis Ababa located close to the Sudan border. The area around Dembidollo comprises about 50,000 people and there has been an influx of immigrants relocated there from the famine area of Harar in the east. Once I am in Dembidollo (after 652 kilometers of hard travel!), I thoroughly enjoy the people and the quaintness of the town.
One of my friends in Dembidollo casually mentioned she wanted me to meet a pastor that she has a lot of respect for and she thought I would be interested to hear his heart for children. Later in the day she introduced me to Pastor Garamu who is the leader of 235 Full Gospel churches in the area surrounding Dembidollo called Kelem Wollega (kind of like a county within a state).
There are about one million people living in Kelem Wollega Zone. The church under Pastor Garamu’s leadership is active in preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ to these poor settlers, but the three Full Gospel churches in Dembidollo proper have also taken up the cause of the orphan.
Over the course of two years, the church In Dembidollo town has identified 1,000 full or half orphans that are desperately poor and in dire need of help. God has grabbed Pastor Garamu’s heart to galvanize the local church to take care of these children through adoption, sponsorship and/or guardianship. He himself has adopted a little girl as have several of the pastors serving in the area.
The roads in Dembidollo are for walking and not for vehicle traffic, so come with me as we have the pleasure on this most beautiful afternoon to walk to the first church. It is a large church building and I could hear the praise and worship music long before I actually got to the church compound.
Pastor Waga’s church
It was youth night and the place was packed with teenagers worshiping God with youthful exuberance. Pastor Waga, the senior pastor, was there and I also met the associate pastor and the children’s coordinator.
The church ministers to about 1,500 people, most of whom are poor, but five families have adopted children, ten families have taken children in to be their guardians and the church sponsors twenty-two poor children.
The next church was quite a ways away and we traversed down a very rocky road. All the time I kept thinking… what goes down must go up – be ready for a hike back! Pastor Samuel met us and I immediately liked this delightful man who has adopted an 8-year-old girl.
His big heart was evident in every word spoken and his congregation of 900 has 55 people pooling their resources to sponsor fifteen children (about $25 a month per child), three families have become guardians and three families have adopted.
Pastor Samuel’s church
Overflow seating area
They are at the tail end of adding on to their present building to accommodate more people.
Are you with me? I am out of breath by the time we hike back up the hill we just went down. Our driver can drive us most of the way to the next church and the walk to it is very pleasant. This church is the largest and has a Bible college with about 60 students. Pastor Nega shepherds about 2,000 people, three families have adopted and the church sponsors 18 poor children.
Pastor Nega’s church
I was greatly encouraged to meet the staff of these three churches and to hear their heart for youth and children. Their evangelistic outreach coupled with practical help for the most at-risk children in their midst was just what Jeff and I were hoping to hear. I want to see local church families adopt and be the answer to others’ needs through guardianship (what I might call foster care) and providing money for widowed heads-of-households to be able to keep their children with them.
Pastor Garamu has approached World Vision and Compassion International to start projects in this remote area. Neither organization’s parameters allow them to come to such a far away place. Does God’s arm only reach to easily accessible areas? No, of course not, but I completely understand why these two organizations could not do a traditional sponsorship program in Dembidollo.
As I am praying about this, I would like to see three American churches, also with a heart for orphans, link arms with these three churches in Dembidollo and become sister churches.
Perhaps they could commit to help expand the aid given to the identified poor children.
Perhaps a few hearty souls could come on a missions trip to help with child or youth evangelism.
Perhaps pastor to pastor encouragement could be facilitated.
I will see how God leads, but I do not think it was accidental to meet these good men already doing the work that God has been speaking to my heart about.