by Joy Casey in Ethiopia
Jason Barta and I left crisp Northwest weather and stepped into Summer. It is beautiful here in Ethiopia! The flowers are exuberant showing off bright reds and yellows basking in the warm sunshine.
It is harvest time for teff (Ethiopian wheat), and the golden fields wave in the breeze. Men and women cut the wheat by hand piling them into stacks that look like large loaves of bread. We passed donkey after donkey carting huge loads of teff to the farmer’s storage facility that will be sold and made into injera, the cultural bread that is the mainstay of the Ethiopian diet.
Usually during harvest time, the price of teff decreases because it is plentiful. This November, the price did not dip and is expected to increase substantially in the coming months. Two weeks ago the birr was devalued and the exchange rate shot up from 23 birr to $1 to 27 birr to $1. I am no economist so I can’t tell you why, but food and construction materials have risen alarmingly in just two weeks.
Consider: A kilo of sugar was 95 cents two weeks ago. Today it is $3.00/kilo
Bananas have doubled in price and oranges have more than doubled. One used to buy an ear of corn for a few pennies. Today an ear is $ .55. People pay almost $20 more for a goat today than they did two weeks ago.
I put the prices in American dollars so you can understand, but it really doesn’t tell the story. These increases might not seem like high food prices to you and I, but to the average Ethiopian it puts many staple food items out of reach.
Personal and business taxes have also increased substantially the past few months so it has become very difficult for working people to make ends meet. The very poor are in a precarious position.
The people are discouraged, and all the more need the hope that only Jesus can give. I am always challenged and encouraged by the men and their wives who dedicate themselves to evangelism and discipleship. They are heroes in my book.
Here in Ethiopia where the main transportation is by foot and Jesus-conversations arise out of relationships, the words “blessed are the feet of them who bring the good news” are particularly relevant. Tomorrow we meet with seven men serving in an unreached area that is dominated by radical Isl*m. They have brought 25 converts to our training center who are receiving in-depth teaching about Jesus’ message of hope and forgiveness that will culminate in baptism. These men and women will then go back to their villages and share their new-found faith with others.