A Unique Country
Ethiopia is a fascinating country. Located in eastern Africa and surrounded by Islamic countries, it stands as a small Christian island. Its multicultural population with approximately 80 completely different languages, several different alphabets and a sharp divide between the Islamic and Orthodox religions makes Ethiopia a land which one can never forget.
Even in the Bible we find references to Ethiopia, most often translated as 'Cush'. Many know of the story of the Ethiopian treasurer (Acts 9). But in the Old Testament there are also many mentions of the land. Ethiopia has promises which are not yet fulfilled, and some which are still being fulfilled now.
A Country with Many Faces
An important aspect for a missionary in Ethiopia to consider is the country's diversity. There are so many different languages and cultures that every missionary must choose his or her target-area carefully. Although one may generally understand and be understood through the official language, Amharic, it is helpful to master the language of the local region as well. Our mission's work stretches from the east deep into the west of the country until the borders of Sudan. It is not possible to learn all the languages which are used throughout the range of our work. For this reason, we depend on the work of native evangelists who know both the language and the culture of their regions better than outsiders.
City and Land
As in many countries of the third world, the gap between large cities and the countryside is great. The possibility for education in cities is large, whereas clocks simply tick more slowly throughout the countryside. The literacy rate in Ethiopia is 36%. That must be taken into account when it comes to church planting. In many of our churches there may exist only one Bible which is then loaned out; a problem of poverty. There are still too many Christians who cannot read the Bible. Therefore, when it comes to biblical education, one must teach so intensively and concisely that each Christian can take something into their everyday life.
Poverty is encountered and growing throughout all of Ethiopia, regardless of astounding outside development. Great poverty is seen most of all in the streets of the cities. There is no social security and therefore tragedies like sickness or the death of the head of the family have severe consequences. It is not possible to fail to see such great needs when one works as a missionary in Ethiopia.
Growing modernism in Ethiopia is allowing the chasm between the elderly and the youth to become wider. Many children go to school, while their parents can't read or write. Western morals, which are displayed in countless films, suppress Ethiopian customs and decency, highly influencing the younger generation. Until a few years ago, many farmers in the countryside were without electricity - today you see satellite dishes thanks to solar energy. All of this leads to changes in the structure of the family which must be accounted in our mission work.
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