Today we leave for our trip to Ethiopia. It has been facilitated by our friends at Tearfund and Christian Aid, and we are representing, not only the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, but the specific interest of our denomination’s World Development Committee. Each Christmas the World Development Appeal raises a considerable amount of money for these organisations. In 2008, it was able to divide a total of 730,000 pounds between them.
As well as seeing projects which are being supported by Tearfund and Christian Aid, I am particularly interested in how churches in Addis Ababa respond to the challenge of mission and ministry in an urban environment. Given the whole shift in the centre of gravity of world Christianity, declining churches in the north and west need to learn from vibrant and growing churches in the south and east. I am hoping that I might learn something from Ethiopia that will benefit us in Ireland as we try to be more missional in our approach.
The Ethiopian Kale Heywet Church (EKHC) was established in the early 1920s following the pioneerring missionary work of the former Sudan Interior Mission (SIM). It now has a membership of almost 6 million people within over 5,000 congregations. Part of my visit will focus on how Kale Heywet enables churches to reach out and transform their local communities.
Since 2002, Tearfund has supported the Urban Ministries department of EKHC as they introduced Self Help Groups. These are groups of 15-20 people, mostly women, who come together to improve their own lives through savings and loans. The success of these Self Help Groups has meant that within a period of 2-3 years family situations change significantly, with children’s welfare and education being among the first areas to benefit. EKHC now supports around 500 Self Help Groups with 19 local congregations involved.We will also be seeing projects that address relief and food, water and sanitation, and HIV/AIDS.
Our friends at Christian Aid have also arranged for us to meet Irish Government officials in Addis Ababa. It promises to be an interesting and exciting trip.
So as Patricia addresses the “packing issues”, I will try to decide on what I will preach on this Sunday in Addis Ababa. If I am able, and if the technology works, I will try to update this blog during our trip.