1 John 3:16-18 “By this we know love that he laid down his life for us and we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brothers in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.”
ACTS Ethiopia has now been recognized as a Charitable Non-Government Organization in Ethiopia.
After several weeks work in Addis, the Cornells were finally able to get down to the villages in mid-February where they were able to spend six weeks. This is the longest period of time that ACTS has had a presence in the area and the extended stay helped to enhance the relationship with the kids, the employees and the villagers. Throughout this past school year, we have been serving lunches to many of the first graders who have gone on to government school from our program. The government only provides half day classes, but kept all of our kids on the same rotation so that they could all arrive at or near the same time to be fed. It was interesting to note that as the word spread that the Americans were at the schools, the numbers of children taking advantage of joining us for lunch increased. We have known these kids for two years now. As is true with our own kids and grand-kids, it is fun to watch them grow and, in this case, to see them understand a little more English! Time was spent in and out of the classrooms with the teachers and kids still at our schools to further improve their English. This was done in many ways, the most fun, by teaching them the song “Heads, Shoulders, Knees and Toes” as they were learning their body parts. In exchange, there were lots of laughs as they taught us to count and to sing in Amharic.
Abenezer, our in-country employee/liaison, was at our side for our entire stay. This was helpful as he served as our translator and navigator. Also with us for much of the time was “Woody”. He is the head of ACTS Ethiopia. His background includes two years of post-graduate work in divinity at Fresno Pacific University, auditing and finance experience and he has worked for another NGO (non-government organization) in the past. He is well respected by everyone we have met in Ethiopia who knows him.
For the final weeks of their two-month visit, the Cornells were joined by four team members. Much of the project work that was planned was accomplished during their stay under the direction of Tom and Dwight. A kitchen was constructed in each village. When finished, the rudimentary procedures of cooking on the mud floor of an enclosed building will be replaced by kerosene burners where there is no power, and electric burners where there is. Think of serving nearly two hundred kids using a camp fire and a bucket of water versus having counters with cook tops and sinks with running water. In addition to the kitchens, bookshelves were built for each classroom to accommodate and help organize the new school materials that ACTS provided.
One Monday, one school was unable to provide lunch for the children because there was no water. The power in the village had been out for the entire weekend and so the village pump, which delivers water to the schoolyard for about an hour each day, was unable to run. The 55 gallon drum that was our water storage was empty. Upon hearing that this was not an isolated experience, the team jumped into action and crafted a better water storage solution. We found two 1000 liter containers for sale in the town in which we were staying, relocated them to the school yard and plumbed them to the inlet source of water from the village. We went one step further and ran a line to the kitchen so that the newly installed sink will have running water. Some of the kids don’t get much to eat at home, so coming to school after a weekend only to find no lunch can be disheartening. Hopefully, this won’t happen again.
Prior to the entire team’s arrival, the Cornells had met a couple from Illinois who lived in the town where the team was housed. Four years ago, they had started a program similar to the ones that ACTS has started in the two villages. Arrangements were made for all of us to visit what for them has grown into two schools, a KG school and an elementary school. While our more rural locations provide some challenges that are not faced in a town environment, much was learned from our visit. They have partnered with a U.S. orphan NGO which is providing significant funding for their effort. This has encouraged us to continue to broaden our search for financial partners to help in our plans to grow ACTS and, therefore, His Kingdom.
A chance encounter with a young man in Addis Ababa led to a tree nursery being planted at the School. Tree Ethiopia provided seeds to grow trees for food, shade and boundary protection. They worked with the kids in setting up the garden and educating them about the whole process.
Late this summer, as the seeds become healthy seedlings, they will be transplanted to both school yards.
Rains came early this year so the road to the more rural village became impassable by van. In order to continue our work there during the final week of the visit, the team had to move the equipment, supplies and our bodies into the school by horse cart. On the final day when all involved went to distribute new uniforms and to further work on the kitchen construction, there was quite a procession of horse carts winding its way through the countryside. It was quite a sight as we passed many people either out working to patch the thatched roofs that were in need of repair since the last rain several months ago, or out in the fields plowing behind their oxen and taking advantage of the rains which will allow an early start to the planting season.
The parents were invited to come to school for the uniform distribution day. For many of the children, this uniform is their only clothing. We were able to speak with the parents about trying to use the old uniforms for play time and to weekly wash the new uniforms. The fact that the uniforms were handed out at the end of our stay, allowed us to say goodbye to each child individually. This lead to more than just a few tears! ACTS also gave the cooks aprons to wear at work and gave the teachers each a lightweight coat to wear over their clothing while teaching. This is a status symbol throughout the country so the teachers received them with a great sense of pride.
All the arrangements have been made to drill the well in the rural village where there currently is no water or power. Those living in the area around the school travel at least thirty-five minutes each way to retrieve clean water for their families. The early rains delayed the scheduled start date. Once the roads become passable, the trucks will arrive and the well drilling will begin. ACTS’s hope is to deliver the water to the surface and into an above ground 5500 gallon storage tank by using a solar powered pump. Until the depth and flow of the water is determined through the drilling process, the specifications for the pump cannot be determined. In the interim, the ministry is trying to secure funding for the estimated amount needed for the pump. The plan is to make the water available to all of the community, not just to the school yard. After the well is in service the final project on the drawing board at this time is the latrine. It is estimated that this project will cost $7500 and none of the funds have been raised as of this writing.
Over the summer break, several maintenance tasks will be done. The classrooms will get new paint. The kitchens will be completed and operational for the start of the new school year.
It is the hope of the ACTS Board of Directors that the next mission team will include some medical professionals. Our plan is not so much to have a lot of medicine practiced since what is done in the short term is seldom sustainable, but rather to train our teachers and parents on how to identify common diseases for which treatment is available. This plan was stimulated by the fact that we almost lost one of our students during our stay to tapeworms which had worked up into the esophagus and malaria. We have learned that both issues are ongoing problems and can be recognized by simple awareness of symptoms. In addition, we will be reinforcing messages concerning nutrition and sanitation, aids awareness and trying to secure mosquito nets to help control malaria.
The ACTS Board of Directors is currently discussing various possibilities about going beyond what is currently being done to further grow God’s Kingdom. Ideas include using existing facilities to offer after school programs for our kids who have gone on to government school. Also being explored is the possibility of using some of the talent available in Fresno to arrange a short term trip in the summer to teach English to the community. We would focus on our teachers and kids, but offer classes to the whole village. The ability to speak English opens up a much broader range of employment for those able to do so.
The more critical decision that needs to be made is when to go forward to identify a new people group in a new village in which we can begin to replicate what has been accomplished. We feel that it is God’s leading that we move forward to a new group. Establishing a new sponsor base and raising resources to begin a new school seem daunting to the flesh when capital is still needed, and will be needed on an ongoing basis, to support the current work in both villages, but we trust that He will continue to provide.
Because of fallout in the original sponsor base (which is to be expected) we are going into the new school year with about 35 kids in need of sponsors. If you know of anyone who might like to become involved in supporting this ministry, please drop us an email and we will follow up with them. firstname.lastname@example.org
On a side note, during the time of the writing of this newsletter, Bill suffered a heart attack. Praise God, there was no major damage to the heart and his rehabilitation is progressing. God’s timing is always perfect and he was able to obtain excellent medical assistance!
- A clear direction for the future of ACTS. Sponsors for the children currently in need.
- A donation of or funding for the well pump and storage tank.
- Complete healing and continued good health for the little girl who had tapeworms and malaria.
- Complete healing for Bill Cornell including a release to return to Ethiopia.
- Unity among all involved both in the USA and in Ethiopia, keeping His will in front of any other.