Ethiopian church empowers communities to thrive on their own
EECMY social services reach 3 million people across Ethiopia
(LWI) - A century of service is bearing fruit, as The Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus (EECMY) supports communities across the country through its Development and Social Services Commission (DASSC).
Lutheran presence in Ethiopia goes back more than a century, as early missionaries arrived at the turn of the 19th century, eventually to be constituted as a national church in 1959.
Already from the outset, a holistic view on mission – proclaiming the gospel and serving people in need – has run through the church’s ministry.
Today, EECMY-DASSC runs 255 projects across Ethiopia, with a total of 3 million direct beneficiaries. Importantly, more than 50 percent of them are women.
Sustaining all aspects of life
In the Hadiya Zone, in the Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples' Region (SNNPR) south of the capital Addis Ababa, Alamizu Abose shares the story of a women’s self-help group called Tesfa (‘hope’), formed as part of the Mekane Yesus Food Security Project for Lemo Community.
Through a credit and savings system, women in the community have managed to raise their socio-economic status by implementing weekly mandatory, voluntary, as well as insurance savings.
Acting as current chair of Tesfa, Abose describes how the savings system has given women some financial independence. “It means we can now pay for some schooling for our children,” she says and adds, “but it has also helped us work more together as a community.”
And the men feel the change too.
Farmer Berkefet Desta Wodajo is one of the traditional community leaders. “Before, my wife and I would keep our money in different places. Now, we save it together. And we work more closely together. Today, we both go into the garden to prepare it for our crops. And we feel we have a better relationship too.”
In the nearby town of Hosaena, the EECMY has established a school for the deaf, making education accessible to children who might otherwise face strong marginalization in Ethiopian society.
Since opening in 1981, the school has seen more than 500 students graduate, and currently teaches 218 children (114 boys, 104 girls). Yet the school is far from being able to admit all the children who apply.
During a drama and prayer performance in sign language, children at the Mekane Yesus School for the Deaf raise their hands towards the sky in praise of the Lord.
“In Ethiopia, we estimate that we have a deaf community of more than 1.5 million people,” explains EECMY President Rev. Yonas Yigezu Dibisa, “so as a church, we see that we need to develop this ministry.”
Back in Lemo, farmer Kassa leads the work of a model farm, applying new methodologies and crop selection to adapt to changing agricultural conditions in view of climate change.
To achieve increased food security in the surrounding community, the project takes the structure of model farms, where new methodologies can be developed and shared for other farmers to follow. Kassa’s farm has 20 so-called follower farmers in the surrounding community.
We do not come here to take over or run the farms. We can only show a path, and then the communities will walk it, together.
EECMY-DASSC commissioner Girma Borishie Bati stresses the importance of this participatory approach. “We do not come here to take over or run the farms. We can only show a path, and then the communities will walk it, together.”
Kassa himself adds, “the Mekane Yesus teaches us to prepare the soil for new crops and new methods, but when the project is no longer here, if the church leaves, the knowledge will still stay with us, so we can continue our work.”
Written by Albin Hillert.
With 9.3 million members, The Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus is the largest member church of the LWF, which it joined in 1963.
LWF General Secretary Rev. Dr Martin Junge visited The Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus (EECMY) and the World Service country program, 29 January - 7 February, accompanied by LWF Council member Ms LoeRose Mbise and LWF staff. The visit was to witness EECMY’s holistic ministry in the country through worship life, community development, education and other services. It also focused on LWF’s humanitarian support to internally displaced people and initiatives to mitigate the impact of climate change.