Pastor addressing group

Sustainability: Western Propaganda or Realistic Hope?

If there is any lack in the Welayita countryside, it is certainly not of natural beauty. Green-carpeted landscape meets the eye in all directions. And yet the people in this area of southern Ethiopia remain desperately poor, many convinced that they cannot rise out of poverty without outside help. Pastor Getachew Yosef, leader of a Catholic renewal movement throughout southern Ethiopia, is on a mission to change that.

For the last three years his movement has been linked with Hope In View through occasional trainings on small group discipleship. Over the years they have set up over 160 small groups throughout their 30+ prayer houses. Testimonies of life change through these groups are abundant. But lack of money has always constrained their passion to reach out to more communities with Good News. Last spring Pastor Getachew resolved to make the movement self-sustaining, rather than continue to seek outside donors. Hope In View has committed to providing long-term technical support to assist him in that.

As a first step in this process, Pastor Getachew called together 72 leaders from throughout his movement to Lera, a remote village in the Welayita region. Our Ethiopia administrator, Betty Kiros, traveled many hours by public minibus to attend the meeting. After getting reports from those who came, Pastor Getachew presented Hope In View’s four stage plan to help them achieve financial sustainability.

“We believe that financial sustainability is a worthy goal. And discipleship is certainly an important part of reaching that goal,” they all agreed. Many shared about the impact which they had seen small groups have on people’s lives. “We have seen more fruits coming out of the small groups even when compared to the larger Sunday gathering,” noted Pastor Melese from the Ajeba prayer house.

But can sustainability be achieved without financial assistance? Some argued that people are so poor that even if they are all tithing, the churches cannot survive on what they can give. Most insisted that something needs to be done to raise income of church members before their tithes will amount to much. The concept of self-help groups, which Hope In View has promoted, gave rise to considerable argument.

“When we ask our people to carry on with the saving groups that were previously set up through the assistance of Hope in View, they often raise the question, ‘Why they don’t receive seed money like the other saving groups in our village that are supported by the Catholic Church and other organizations?’ ” stated Endashaw Kunu from Hamba Prayer house.

Evangelist Mattewos, of the Koto prayer house, countered. “Our savings groups have been successful to the extent of donating money for church construction. Though there are different micro financing schemes in our area, our Kebele (county administration) chose to adopt our model [rather than the subsidized model] because it was more sustainable,” he said.

Pastor Getachew explained to the group that Hope In View is not a funding organization and encouraged them to make the best use out of their technical support which can actually bring a deeper impact in their ministry. He told them that if they pursue it, they can become role models to other churches in the country. He added that he had already learned a lot in this process regarding what should take precedence in church. “I used to think that securing land and constructing church buildings are the highest priorities of a church but I now realize that we can effect deeper transformation through discipleship in smaller gatherings-which cost less money,” he said. Referring to a verse in the bible, he added that their biggest focus should first be to renew their minds which ultimately will result holistic transformation.

The participants spent the wider portion of the first night deliberating and praying over the plan. The following morning, they announced that they have all entered a commitment to do everything in their power to implement the plan which they said they believe is timely and truly from God.