Community Health Evangelism Helps Transform Communities
A Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) global partner, the Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus, is using Community Health Evangelism (CHE) to help transform communities in two of its 17 synods.
The West Gambella Bethel Synod (WGBS) and the East Gambella Bethel Synod (EGBS) serve primarily the Nuer and Anywaa people living in the Gambella Region, which borders South Sudan. The 2007 Census calculated just over 300,000 individuals living in the region; however, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees statistics show that nearly 300,000 refugees and asylum seekers from South Sudan had arrived in Gambella as of February 2016. These minority ethnic groups face many difficulties and challenges, including poor nutrition, low literacy rates and multiple diseases, including malaria and HIV/AIDS, in the hot, arid lowlands.
PC(USA) mission co-worker Rachel Weller, who serves as the CHE facilitator in the Gambella Region, provides guidance as the two synods implement CHE within their congregations. CHE is a holistic approach to ministry that seeks to transform communities both physically and spiritually by empowering communities to identify their needs and strengths and coming together to meet these needs. CHE uses a participatory approach to training, ongoing mentorship of individuals and communities and a deep-seated trust in the power of Christ to change hearts and minds. Weller’s role is to train trainers, encourage and consult with the trainers to develop an appropriate program for each synod and community within the synod, and assist the synod CHE directors, Rev. Matthew Doleak and Ariet Phillip, to develop or translate materials needed for community use.
Through the support of Presbyterian World Mission and First Presbyterian Church in Spokane, Washington, Weller and four members of the Gambella synods (Rev. Matthew Doleak and Rev. Stephen Tongyik of WGBS, and Ariet Phillip and John Okuch of EGBS) deepened their understanding of the CHE philosophy and implementation by attending a five-week CHE internship in Kenya in September 2014. Both synods are eager to see the word of Christ take root in their congregations and create transformational change.
One example of how CHE training can transform a community is a woman named Akwata, from the village of Abobo. After learning how to be a CHE trainer, Akwata gathered together several of her neighbors to improve their neighborhood. A few years later, Weller visited the neighborhood and saw the results. Beside most of the houses, a dish rack held plates, glasses and silverware that had been used for the last meal. The dishes were getting sterilized by the sun and were away from sheep, dogs and chickens. Each house also had a place to store clean water to drink. Most houses had remnants of a rainy season garden, where pumpkins, okra and cabbage were grown. Last year Akwata’s village received a regional award for self-development.
Juan Sarmiento, Evangelism Catalyst, Presbyterian World Mission
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There is neither Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male or female; for all of you are all one in Christ Jesus.