A National Opportunity for Urban Transformation
This story was originally published with the 2021 Annual Report.
Residents of an urban marginalized community in Northern Ethiopia were commonly called Negede Weyto, a name implying they ate whatever they could find—even scraps. They lived there for hundreds of years, enduring poverty and prejudice from others in the neighboring city. A ministry team in the city was working tirelessly to reach the community when they met Mekonnen*, a local tailor living with his family among the Negede Weyto. Befriending the missionaries, Mekonnen introduced them to his family and neighbors. As the team listened, built relationships, and shared the gospel in Negede Weyto, many began to believe in Jesus Christ! They started Bible studies, partnered with local churches, and after several months, the team and local partners decided to reclaim the town name to Negde Selam, or “People of Peace.”
That ministry team was sent by Horn of Africa Evangelical Mission Engagers (HOEME), an indigenous Ethiopian mission organization that facilitates church-planting, cross-cultural ministries, and mobilizes missionaries among Ethiopia’s unreached groups. In the past 10+ years, HOEME has seen over 120,000 new believers, 9,000 churches planted, and 50,000 believers mobilized across churches and campuses.
“Even in the so-called ‘closed communities,’ we’re witnessing God work through ordinary men and women who have dedicated their lives to the Kingdom,” said Amanuel Gezahgne, HOEME Mobilizer Senior Coach. Along with HOEME, EvaSUE—a fast-growing student movement across 150 Ethiopian campuses—has seen hundreds of graduates catching God’s vision to reach unreached groups throughout Ethiopia, North Africa, and the Middle East. The two organizations joined to facilitate this nationwide movement, but noticed a shared gap in their vision: an urban strategy.
Urban centers in Ethiopia and throughout Africa are expanding—along with their marginalized corners. Amanuel described that the world of urban ministry in Ethiopia was fragmented; local churches held traditional evangelistic ministries while relief organizations separately serviced the poor in their cities.
“Charity organizations can create dependency, so there is often no transformation,” Amanuel said. “We want to understand these communities, the root-causes of their challenges, and the potential of local leadership. Not many organizations are doing this work, so partnering with Servant Partners gave us vision for what God was doing in urban poor communities, and what was possible here.”
Wanting to integrate their ministries for community transformation, HOEME and EvaSUE invited Servant Partners to train their urban missionaries. Last summer, Servant Partners staff visited Ethiopia to conduct a 3-week training of HOEME and EvaSUE missionaries, where they explored urban community transformation, trauma-informed ministry, partnership and strategic planning, and more. Along with training, God spoke powerfully to participants through times of intercession, healing prayer, and worship.
“It was amazing to hear what God is doing in different nations, among the urban poor,” said Biniam Solomon, HOEME Sending Director. “For many of the trainees, [the training] was about reflecting on their own lives and issues before going into other communities.”
“Charity organizations can create dependency, so there is often no transformation. We want to understand these communities, the root-causes of their challenges, and the potential of local leadership. Not many organizations are doing this work, so partnering with Servant Partners gave us vision for what God was doing in urban poor communities, and what was possible here.”'
This partnership arrives in the early stages of the Vision 2030, Servant Partners’ campaign to build, strengthen, and bridge God’s movement in urban marginalized communities around the world. These organizations have since deployed workers into urban communities in three of Ethiopia’s major cities, where teams are conducting listening projects, partnering with churches, discipling local leaders, and working to create sustainable forms of transformation.
Amidst extreme poverty and a civil war, a revival is breaking out across Ethiopia’s campuses, cities, and urban marginalized communities—and God has invited Servant Partners to play a part in helping it flourish.
*Names have been changed for security reasons.