Why We Go To Ethiopia

Over the next week, 8 brave souls from Austin will be meeting dozens of the “least of the least of these” in Ethiopia – orphans in a community called Zeway who are part of our Hope In Ethiopia partnership. This trip is the 7th mission trip we’ve taken there in partnership with Food for the Hungry International (FH), Grace Covenant church in Austin, and several local churches in Zeway, Ethiopia who are working to bring about community transformation through caring for orphans in this community. In preparing for these trips, we tend to get a lot of the same questions, so I thought I’d take a second to answer a few!

Why are You Going?

First and foremost, we are going out of obedience to God’s call in scripture to care for the fatherless, specifically James 1:27 which calls us to “visit orphans” in their distress. Ethiopia has one of the highest numbers of orphans in the world, mostly due to HIV/AIDS and poverty, and we have each felt God calling us to care for them, both by raising funds that support their physical, educational, emotional, and spiritual needs, and by actually going to see them and in so doing to share the love and hope of Christ with them. I can’t imagine what it must feel like to be 8 years old and to be totally alone in the world with no one to care for you, but this is what our partnership is helping to fix.

But What Will You Actually DO There?

Most people think that mission trips have to be about building some structure, teaching some new skill, bringing new knowledge, etc.  But our view of missions is a little different – we simply want to show up, to show that we care about these kids, to know their names and faces, to pray with them, to listen to them, to play with them, and to bring their stories back home with us to share with others. So we will mainly be visiting these orphans, organizing a play day for them, meeting with local church leaders to encourage them (including continuing to promote local adoption as a part of the solution to the orphan crisis), and encouraging the staff of Food for the Hungry who are on the ground every day providing direct care for the children.

So You are Visiting Orphanages?

No, there are very few orphanages in Ethiopia (mainly because it is the 5th poorest country in the world, and there are millions of orphans). These orphans live in the “homes” (rudimentary mud huts, usually about 10’x10’, with a handful of items for bare subsistence) where their parents died, and as such they are called “child-headed households”. If these kids were in orphanages, they would likely be separated from their community, shelved away somewhere unseen by those who can most help them. Instead, they are living right there in plain sight, but because many of them have HIV (or just because their parents did), they are often shunned by the community. Our being there for them, providing through FH for their basic needs, and partnering with several local churches to do so is serving as a catalyst for change in the community.

Is the Partnership Working?

Emphatically yes! These kids are going to school (rather than having to work to earn pennies for survival), are getting healthy food, are being healed through group grief and loss counseling, are having their medical needs taken care of, and are learning trade skills such as hairdressing and small engine repair. They are also showing more signs of hope, with many of them attending a local church and reading the Bible. They have formed a type of “family” among themselves, often eating meals together and going on vacation together with FH supervision. And, the local churches are responding with more and more of their pastors and members choosing to adopt children into their own homes. We are witnessing a little slice of “Thy kingdom come on Earth as it is in Heaven” happening in Zeway!

Please pray for our team (Adam and Amber-Rose Zimel, Matt and Kim Sanchez, Connie Bennett, Nathan Wingate, Dawn Patterson, and Matt Kouri) that we would have safe travels, that God would prepare the hearts of these kids to receive us and hear the good news we bring them, and that God would continue His amazing work transforming the Zeway community.

And please stay tuned for more updates from the field!

– Matt Kouri, on behalf of the March trip team

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