“During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.” George Orwell

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Christian Horizons in Ethiopia

As noted in this blog, Kathi and I along with our son Josh, went to Ethiopia this past summer to work on issues related to disability. Kathi and I did a doctoral seminar at the University of Addis Ababa and then went on to do work in the city of Asela.
However, when we decided to go to Ethiopia, we didn't realize the breadth of the vision of Christian Horizons, and in particular Michael Alemu for this part of the world.

Christian Horizons, a nonprofit out of Canada is doing nothing less then trying to start special education programs in the nation of Ethiopia! They have developed a workable model, have the blessings of the government, and are in the process of trying to train 1000 teachers over the next 5 years. Their model, at present, is to provide an intensive 1 month teacher training program. Kathi and I were involved in providing input into the further development of that curriculum. They will then place the teachers in local school districts, and the government will pay them as regular teachers. They also have a program whereby donations can be made to establish special education classrooms at local schools. Money donated goes to the refurbishing or remodeling of available space, some material and furniture purchase, and the assigning of a teacher. As available, curriculum is also purchased.

The plan is to fine tune a model for special ed delivery, which might be spread throughout the country of over 70 million, and then perhaps move also into southern Sudan and Kenya! It is a very exciting project.

I love the fact that a Christian group goes into a country and assists the government to promote social justice for its own citizens. The group goes in and facilitates a community good, and does it in the name of Christ. Very cool! In training sessions for community leaders, parents, people with disabilities, and even religious leaders from other faiths (particularly Islam) there was openness and a spirit of collaboration with the Christian group. We did our best to put aside our differences and work toward the justice end we were all seeking.

We also had the opportunity to speak with Christian groups as well. Both in churches, and in pastoral training. They (and we) feel that the two objectives go hand in hand. The church needs to offer the spiritual component as well as facilitate greater community integration of those with disabilities. We shared biblical principles about disability which were very well received. It is such a delight to share this information from the Bible. Whether in America or the west, or in places like Ethiopia, people have literally NEVER heard the truths of the Bible regarding disability. They are literally like deer in the headlights, totally amazed at what can be found, but have never heard. It is wonderful to be the purveyor of that new, exciting, encouraging information! It is also disheartening to think that generations of people have never heard the good news of the Bible ABOUT DISABILITY. So sad.

So keep Christian Horizons and its work in Ethiopia/Eastern Africa in your prayers! They are working to increase the access of children with disabilities from the less than 1% currently in the public schools. How exciting to think that a NGO from Canada could step into another country and facilitate such a blow for social justice.



Mark said...

God bless christian Horizons! That is trult amazing. They will have the constant prayers of our family and our church group.

Anonymous said...

What is amazing that governments in other countries are happy to have Christian organizations involved in public and special education funded by the government, but it is resented to some extent in the U.S.. They also don't mind outsiders helping. Sadly, I feel like the U.S. federally funded school programs should be more open to allowing Christian groups to help.
Christian Horizons has a very ambitious goal of training 1000 teachers and I pray God's blessings with be upon them and all involved. It was heartening to read about the spirit of collaboration involved in getting the program off the ground. This is something the different denominations of Christians and non-Christians could do more of in the U.S.
I would be curious to know more about the culture in Ethiopia and what their current thinking is about disabilities. It would be interesting to hear about how their thoughts change when exposed to biblical teaching.
God bless the efforts of all those involved.

Anonymous said...

Wow what a powerful display of God’s handiwork to bring people of different nationalities, regions and even faiths to give Himself the glory! The teacher training program must be really well thought out to produce classroom ready teachers in such a short time, especially considering the need that must be present in Ethiopia. What are some qualifications people must bring when inquiring about the training?
Aside from the growth of special education in the schools, what an amazing opportunity it must have been for you and your wife to share what God says about the disabled. While not every disabled person in the United States knows the love that God has for them, I have heard about the different beliefs of Africa and some of the rituals toward the disabled are frightening. Thank you for being a vessel used by God to share the truth with many in need of it.
While the task of building on a lacking special education system is a challenge, I’m sure it is comforting to you, your wife and the others (including myself) to know that we serve an awesome God who is the beginner and finisher of all things. Most of all what a blessing to hear that people of other belief systems are opening up to this opportunity; prayerfully they will see the love of Christ and be changed.

Anonymous said...

What a blessing it is to have organizations like Christian Horizons it is o awesome that they have so many teachers will to not only help others but to be able to come together and make sure that they are doing everything possible to make sure their project is successful. It is awesome that Ethiopia is allow that incorporation of christianity into the education process of people with disabilities. Starting a program like this take lots of hard work and dedication of everyone involved.

Anonymous said...

The United States of America is the most selfless and charitable nation in the world! The reason is simple, God blessed this nation as a place of refuge for his saints. Christianity could not exsist in any other country like it does in the USA.
Tell me another country whose citizens leave their homes and families behind to travel to other third world countries to patch roofs, dig wells, plant crops and educate youth. I can't think of one that is as consistent as the USA. I give nothing but praise to people who do missionary/service work for others. There is no greater joy than to give ones strength to another and expect nothing in return!
I sometimes feel that we do a little more in other countries, when we should do more here at home. But, "How great shall be your joy in Heaven if ye bring but one soul unto me." "And I say unto you, that when ye are in the service of your fellow man, ye are only in the service of your God."
When you give of yourself to others, then you know what joy really is. Being able and strong bodied is a gift and gifts should be shared.