by Bradford Childs, vision trip participant
Look at any local community and you can find people and projects in need. So what situation in far-off Africa could possibly be so compelling that an American church would even consider developing a partnership? In February, four members from Northwood Christian Church in Springfield, Oregon, ventured to Ethiopia to see for ourselves.
Ethiopia is one of the oldest Christian nations in the world. Islam was introduced in the 7th century, and Muslims now make up about one-third of Ethiopia’s population. In the Arsi Oromo region around Shashamane (south-central Ethiopia), Islam has become the predominant religion by a wide margin. Our team was excited to see how God is using Frontier Fellowship and Light of Hope Ministry Ethiopia (LOHME) to share the Good News of Jesus in this region.
Frontier Fellowship Associate Director Taliilee Fiqruu traveled with us from Oregon. Upon arrival, we were joined by her husband and founder of LOHME, Urgessa Biru. The two of them were our guides for the week, providing great opportunities to witness God’s remarkable work.
We traveled to seven of the 54 schools LOHME helped build, furnish and staff. The eagerness children have for learning warmed our hearts as we watched them recite the alphabet and interact with us during our visits. Surprisingly, these schools were all in Muslim villages. Although Christianity cannot be taught in schools, LOHME’s highly trained Christian teachers are living it out. God’s love demonstrated through them is having a profound impact, winning the hearts of students and their parents.
One village stood out. Its elders had wanted to build a madrassa (an Islamic religious school). After witnessing the difference LOHME schools had made for children in nearby villages, they abandoned the idea and instead became strong advocates for a new LOHME school. They encouraged the children to gather up eucalyptus tree trunks so the parents could construct a literacy center while they waited for LOHME to make arrangements for the construction of a permanent school.
On the Sunday of our visit, we enjoyed Ethiopian worship and distributed copies of the newly translated Arsi Oromo Bible. Some of the young adults leading the service had walked several hours from home to get to church. They arrived in time for worship and would stay through the week to attend school before returning home again on the weekend.
There will always be needs close to home, but I’ve felt God calling me to also pay attention to the needs of His Kingdom further away. LOHME schools are making an incredible impact in Ethiopia, not only transforming villages with the education children receive, but also introducing God’s grace through Jesus to the Arsi Oromo people—most of whom are hearing this Good News for the very first time. I want to be a part of that!
Thank you, Taliilee and Frontier Fellowship. You made the travel easy. Thank you, too, Urgessa and LOHME, for the impact you make in Ethiopia.