By Alan Hunt & Amy Wingfield
Meseret and her son, Milon, live in a rental home made of sticks and mud in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Their home is falling apart, listing to one side, slowly beginning to crumble beneath torrential rains and threatening to collapse. Milon and his mother are both afflicted with HIV/AIDs, and his father died three years ago. Meseret isn’t certain how she will make the home safe for her son and prevent what seems like inevitable collapse.
Zewede lives with her five-year old son, her grown son, her son’s wife, and her grandchild, in a house with a makeshift roof. Instead of the typical tin roof of local community homes, their house is covered with tarps, sheets, and bags that provide little protection against the rain.
But the widows and orphans of Addis Ababa are not alone. In fact, both of these homes are part of the Repi Kale Heywet Church home-based orphan care program, and they are partnered with the Journey Church of Everett, Washington. As a team from Journey Church approached the homes, they were moved to tears by the struggle of these families. It would have been easy for them to think they could fix it. It would have been easy to fall into the mindset that money would fix everything. Instead, the Journey Church experienced firsthand the power of partnership and the building of bridges between the church and the community it serves. The Journey team saw another need, completely separate from the need for physical materials and manual labor. The Journey team saw the need for this community to be raised up and supported by their own local church.
With all of those needs in mind, and the prayers of these families in their hearts, the team went to Repi Church and reported what they found. The church sent its own leaders to see the need themselves, and then, with the help of Journey Church, a solution was born. With funds provided by the Journey team, Repi Church could send its own leaders and members to work on these homes, to donate their time and their labor to improving the lives of the widows and orphans in their own community. This was true partnership – the American church coming alongside the Ethiopian church, and both working together to address a need in the community.
The side-by-side work of these two churches allowed each to see what they may not have seen individually. Repi Church was able to highlight the possibility of landlords taking advantage of the families by increasing rent once the value of the improved shelters was increased – a conflict the Journey team may not have foreseen. Utilizing this knowledge, a contract was negotiated to keep rent stable and affordable for the families. The Journey Church did not build an extravagant new home, out of place in its community, but rather helped Repi Church bring these homes up to local standards and make them safe without creating hostility among neighbors. Instead of seeing favoritism or gifts from faraway churches, members of the community will see their own church loving them, taking care of them, being the hands and feet of Christ in their daily lives.
Through church partnership, members of the Journey Church team lived out the mission of World Orphans to bring glory to God through each church, each child, each community.