An Update on Living Word’s Work in Ethiopia (Guest Post by Pastor Aaron Kunce)

We’ve been blessed with gifted and passionate partners in Ethiopia for three and a half decades and it’s time for an update. I hope this will be a helpful read as you continue to pray for the people of this country and the ongoing work we are doing there.  

Living Word helped to establish a church of Ethiopian refugees in Djibouti back in the mid 1980s, and then that church planted a church in Dire Dawa, Ethiopia that is still going strong.  

Fifteen years ago, we partnered with a small team of Ethiopian medical professionals and caregivers (led by Dr. Frew Tegene) to start a new ministry endeavor in aEthiopian town called Sendafa.  

This new ministry was called PAAV (Project Adopt A Village) and our mission was to strengthen the churches of Sendafa and to make qualitative difference in the health and well-being of the people there who were reeling from the immense suffering brought on by the HIV/AIDS epidemic. 

And now in 2021, we rejoice that God has been faithful and has used the PAAV team, coupled with the consistent generosity and service of the people of Living Word, to make a significant impact in Sendafa for the kingdom of God. And that work, although it continues to evolve as the needs have shifted over time, continues. 

But the last couple years have been extra challenging for Ethiopia for many reasons. Of course, the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic has affected our friends in Ethiopia. There has been much suffering and cases are still on the rise. Because of the pandemic, we suspended all travel to Ethiopia during 2020, including the big July trip (of 35 people) for the annual Sendafa medical clinic 

And, in addition to the pandemic, there have been other challenges, and they are MAJOR. We want you to be aware of these challenges so you can continue to engage through prayer and ongoing generosity.  

FIRST, THERE’S BEEN THE DOMESTIC STRUGGLES.  

This past fall, the government of Ethiopia launched a military offensive in the northern region of the country called Tigray. The conflict has been experienced like a civil war and thousands of refugees have crossed over into neighboring Sudan 

Ethiopia is divided into 10 regions that each loosely represent different ethnic groups. The government of Tigray (called the Tigray Peoples Liberation Front, or TPLF) pretty much ran the country for the past three decadesMost people saw the Tigray-led Ethiopian government as autocratic, oppressive, corrupt, and dysfunctional. And in 2018, mass protests led to a moment when Abiy Ahmed, a young leader seen as a visionary, was elected.  

As long as the TPLF had been in charge, Ethiopia was in a border standoff with Eritrea, so they didn’t appreciate Ahmed’s new friendship with Eritrea’s president. And Ahmed’s plan to make peace and modernize the economy was met with resistance by those who had lost power.  

In March of 2020, Ahmed’s government postponed the election because of the pandemic, and in September the TPLF held an election of their own, which escalated things. The TPLF no longer recognized Ahmed as a legitimate leader and then the TPLF regional forces attacked a government military base. So, Ahmed sent in troops and it all escalated further. The fighting spilled over into neighboring Eritrea, which has complicated matters even more. 

Most of the fighting has now been quelled, but this has been a messy and bloody domestic struggle that will take a very long time to resolve. 

THEN THERES THE INTERNATIONAL ISSUE.  

Ethiopia is a land-locked country with mountains and lots of rainfall, and although it has some major rivers, the people have never been able to harness the power of those rivers to create electrical power for the millions of people of Ethiopia. 

A decade ago, Ethiopia began to build a huge dam they call the Grand Ethiopia Renaissance Dam (GERD) on the Blue Nile, which starts in the mountains of Ethiopia and flows north into Sudan, and then into the Nile and Egypt. 

Ethiopia completed the giant dam and started to fill its reservoir in 2020. When the reservoir is filled, Ethiopia believes it will be able to generate enough power for their entire population and even be able to sell hydro-electric power to many neighboring countries. The dam has become a symbol of hope and prosperity for this developing nation.  

But this has caused major political strife with Egypt, which sees the dam as an existential threat. Egypt’s entire economy has been built on the Nile for millennia. And even though Ethiopia has assured Egypt that the flow of the Nile will not be impeded in a way that will affect their agriculture and primary water source, Egypt is skeptical and wants to stop Ethiopia from filling the reservoir and having any control over the Nile.  

Neighboring Sudan was in favor of the dam at first. But now, after receiving thousands of refugees in the wake of the fighting in the Tigray region described above, Sudan is wavering on their support of the dam.  

So, in 2020, these three challenges (the pandemic, the war in the north, and the dam) have made for tough times for Ethiopia. Our friends and partners there have felt all of these struggles and need our prayers. The work of the kingdom of God goes on and we have much to celebrate (that we will share during our Global Ministry Focus in April).  

But for now, thank you for reading, and I invite you to add Ethiopia to your prayers for the year ahead. Please consider being a part of Global Ministries at Living Word and faithfully praying for our friends who are doing extraordinary and impactful work in Ethiopia and many other places where we have forged strategic partnerships over the years. 

Kendall Potter
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