by Joy Casey

Not able to read?  What are you talking about?  How can that be?  Unheard of!

In all my decades of living here in the U.S., I can count on one hand adults that struggle with reading.  In Ethiopia, the majority of people I meet cannot read — at all, let alone struggle — especially if my acquaintance is a woman.  Of the total Ethiopian population, only 46.8% are literate with a large discrepancy between rural and urban residents as well as between men and women.  In the countryside, illiteracy is, on average, 4 times higher than their urban counterparts.  The average number of completed years of education in Ethiopia is 3.2 years, ranking Ethiopia’s educational system 149th out of 154 countries*.

These statistics play out in the 14 villages where we have built churches.  Twelve of the fourteen villages where Christian communities have been established have NO SCHOOLS AT ALL.

The eager, bright masses of children** are being raised without knowing how to read, add or subtract.

This is intolerable and why we have initiated literacy classes for the communities where we have built churches.

In one church plant, the missionary had a Bible in another (Ethiopian) language.  He reads large portions of scripture and there is another man who interprets it into the heart language of the people listening.  No one (not even the missionary) had a Bible in their tribal language!

We have begun rectifying this by purchasing quantities of Bibles and disseminating them, but then the common problem of illiteracy raises its ugly head.  We could provide scores of paper Bibles, but the overwhelming majority of people cannot read.

One main goal of NewLife Ethiopia for 2024 is to get solar charged audio Bibles into the hands of as many people as we can.  We can purchase audio Bibles with God’s Story and the entire New Testament in the languages of the people we serve.  God’s Story lays out God’s plan for salvation in story form from Genesis to Revelation.  As these are storytelling cultures, the handheld Bibles with stories and scripture are invaluable.  There is also a larger Proclaimer Bible with excellent speakers that is good for a group.

We gave a Proclaimer to a crippled girl and her family who promised to invite all their neighbors to listen with them.  There are pockets of believers dotted all over the countryside who would dare to ‘proclaim’ God’s Word.  We just have to get Bibles (in all forms) into their hands.  I invite you to help make this a reality!

*worldpopulationreview.com; worldtop20.org

**40 percent of Ethiopia’s population is under the age of 15, with another 32 percent between the ages of 15-29.  (U.S. Agency for International Development)