Bishop Michael Rinehart
At a population of 98 million, Ethiopia is the most populous landlocked country in the world. It is also one of the oldest countries by civilization. Some of the oldest evidence for modern humans is found in Ethiopia. It is also the origination point of the coffee bean.
Ethiopia is culturally and religiously diverse. There are over 80 ethnic groups:
- 43% are Coptic Orthodox
- 33% Muslim
- 18% Protestant
- 6% Lutheran
- .7% Catholic.
The largest Lutheran body in Ethiopia is the EECMY, the Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus. With over 5 million members they are larger than the ELCA.
Ethiopia is a beautiful country with rich traditions. They have their challenges though. Although it currently has one of the highest performing economies in sub-Saharan Africa, it remains one of the poorest countries in the world. 95% of agriculture (which constitutes half the economy) is small farming, with half having less than an acre. Most Ethiopians do not read or write, and make less than $2/day. The infant mortality rate is 55 deaths/1000, half that of our companion synod, the Central African Republic. (Infant mortality in the U. S. is 6. In Japan it is 2.)
In addition, 75% of the landmass of Ethiopia is estimated to be malarious according to the World Health Organization. Infectious diseases are some of the worst in the world.
Dick Moeller, President and CEO of Water to Thrive, a faith-based non-profit, believes the key to unlocking poverty in Africa is water. Only 42% of the population has access to a clean water source. 80% of infectious diseases are water-borne (caused by some kind of contact with unclean water). Clean water can make a world of difference.
Water to Thrive (W2T) was born out of an adult Sunday school group at Triumphant Love Lutheran Church in Austin, Texas. They decided to raise $5,000 for a well. When they were finished they had enough for 12 wells. So, in 2008, Dick founded W2T. Since then they have built over 440 wells and continue to grow.
Recently Christ in Brenham had a similar experience. They decided to raise $5,000 for a well and ended up with enough for three wells.
W2T works with anyone in the U.S. who wants to help provide clean water in Africa. Then they work with NGOs in Africa to get it done.
This year I am grateful for W2T’s invitation to go with them and see the work that is being done. Many of you know Pastor Brad Otto has done the same. Messiah Cypress has built several wells and now Brad has spun off a non-profit to support a community in Ethiopia, Acts of Wisdom.
I have no such intention. I’ll encourage you to support Brad’s startup, W2T, or ELCA World Hunger. We all too often feel deprived while living in a world of wealth and privilege which the rest of the world can barely comprehend. It’s not hard to imagine what Jesus would do.
As our group visits wells, workers, and churches in May, I’ll post a bit on my blog. I invite you to “come along,” virtually as you are able.
Oh. And consider building a well. You could make a world of difference.