Earning the right to be heard
"The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor." Matthew 11. 5
Back in 2013 I took our youngest, Somerled, to Ethiopia, in order to visit the Evangelical Kale Heywet Church. Some years earlier it had been among the smallest denominations in Ethiopia. But then the leader of its development wing (all churches in Ethiopia must have both outreach and development wings) introduced self-help groups. Self-help groups operate on the principle that everyone has something to share, however small. They meet on a regular basis, usually once a week, when everyone gathers and pools their resources. When the pot has filled sufficiently, members may take out loans in order to start their own business. As the loans are repaid, so the pot grows.
Some of the groups Somerled and I visited had amassed sufficient resources to establish schools, plant churches, buy tractors. Communities were being transformed and women especially were benefitting from the opportunity to establish independence, respect and the ability to raise their families out of poverty. While we were there, news came through that the government had voted to create a new seat in parliament to represent self-help groups. The effect on the Evangelical Kale Heywet Church was similarly dramatic. My host reported how the doors of welcome were flying open, even and especially within towns and villages which had formerly been hostile. They were now the fastest growing denomination in Ethiopia!
Taking inspiration from the ministry of Jesus, the Ethiopian Kale Heywet Church reminds us that we need to be good news in order to tell the Good News. Or, in the words attributed to St Francis of Assisi : "Preach the gospel always and only if necessary use words."