Inside EMI web feature by Elizabeth Nebelsick / EMI MENA / Ethiopia

The Church of the Epiphany

The road to the Wajjuu area outside Addis Ababa came to an end, but the truck continued over the rocky grazing land as we followed an almost dry riverbed. We stopped at the top of a hill where the huts of a small village covered the ridge. Each of the hills surrounding us had a similar village as far as I could see. The team from EMI and Great Commission Ministries (GCM) had arrived to meet with the village leaders.

This was a couple days into my first mission trip ever. I had gladly sent my civil engineer husband Dan on a couple EMI projects before, but this time he was anxious to have me experience Africa alongside him. I prepared for months to make sure everything was ready to leave behind our four small children. Nothing prepared me for how my heart would grow for Ethiopia.

Village Pasture Village Elders

Village elders gather to meet with EMI in Wajjuu. Photo: Joshua Kim

In Addis, the EMI team heard a presentation by Great Commission Ministries. I was impressed with their work and their goals for advancing the gospel. Though much has been done to reach the people in the south and southwest regions of Ethiopia, there are populations in the north and east that are still overlooked. In the Wajjuu area north of Addis Ababa, people are rich in the traditions of an ages-old church, but many have not experienced the love of Jesus Christ as their Savior. As GCM studied how they could be involved in serving the people of this region, they discovered the biggest needs of the village communities was for clean, life-giving water. And that’s where EMI comes in.

At Wajjuu, we listened as village leaders passionately expressed their need for help. They pleaded for the lives of their families and fellow villagers. Water sources in the area are both scarce and contaminated so illness is a major problem. Women especially face the daily physical challenge of finding and carrying water for their families. There is no electricity in the area and a diesel pump to draw water from a deep well had proven too expensive to run. Later, the EMI team worked to locate and investigate the different water sources, assessing the reliability of each and seeing the way people were accessing and collecting the water. After testing several small springs and the one working hand pump in the area which was governed by a village co-op, all sources showed positive for contamination. The villagers were aware that drinking the river water would make them sick, but even the wells they considered protected were not truly safe.

Group photo Village Elders

The co-op governed hand pump was well maintained but the water still tested positive for contamination.
Photo Joshua Kim

An unprotected spring was being used for water in one village.
Photo: Dan Nebelsick

The day Dan and I were leaving for Africa, I helped our children learn their AWANA verse for the week, Isaiah 12:2: “The LORD God is my strength and my song, and He has become my salvation.” Then on our first day in Ethiopia, the same verse was included in my devotional and then it popped up again the next day in my Bible app. Finally I looked up Isaiah chapter 12 and discovered the next verses: “With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation. And you will say in that day: ‘Give thanks to the LORD, call upon His name, make known His deeds among the peoples, and proclaim that His name is exalted.’”

This became the theme for our trip and my heart’s cry for the people of Wajjuu. It fit so well with GCM’s twin goals of bringing clean water to the people in this region as well as access to the wells of salvation in Jesus Christ. Combining deep wells with hand pumps, the EMI team formulated a plan for bringing clean water to Wajjuu in a way village communities can sustain in the long-term. We pray they will truly be wells of salvation.

Inside Ethiopia, Project #12029, February 2014