Ethiopia (MNN) — Last summer's drought in the Horn of Africa scarred Ethiopia permanently. Children, mothers, homes, and livestock were lost. Millions were affected by the trauma of the crisis.
And yet, Ethiopia was also touched by permanent blessing as a result of this struggle.
In the height of the water crisis, the Ethiopian government solicited Living Water International to help dig wells. LWI was already working in central Ethiopia, but they sent teams to southern Ethiopia upon receiving the request.
"It turns out in this area: there's lots of water! It's just 300 feet under the ground," explains LWI's Paul Darilek. "So we were able to work with villages there to drill wells and provide a source of safe drinking water right in the middle of the drought and famine."
Wells in such dry times left an impact: "Certainly in any time of drought, you can just imagine the difference between having to walk miles and miles just to stand in line at a water truck–if you're lucky enough to be within access to one. The difference between that and just walking out your door and pumping a hand pump handle and clean, safe drinking water comes out."
But the extent of LWI's impact went–and continues to go–much further than just drinking water. LWI always works to bring the Gospel to the people they serve. But in Ethiopia, the response has been unique.
LWI has been working mainly to serve the Oromo people, who are historically a monotheistic people. Darilek says the Oromo slaughter a goat every year. Based on the way the intestines fall, they know whether or not their god will make it rain.
Of course, this was all in vain over the last few years, says Darilek. "There was just three years of not being able to grow food. One after another, it was just bad news again, or lifted hopes and then bad news again."
When Ethiopian Christians came in with LWI and started drilling wells, a need had been met without their god. Soon, the Oromo learned about the one true God.
"The Oromo people–it turned out–were very receptive to the Gospel, because it's not as far of a leap for them," says Darilek. Not only had this Christian God met a serious need, but the Oromo were already accustomed to the idea of only one God.
"Our lead driller talked all the time about people coming to Christ," says Darilek. "He kept saying, ‘I don't even have to say anything. We just get involved in their lives. We serve. And the message becomes: 'We're involved in your lives because our job is to reflect the God who is involved in our lives.'"
The LWI teams remain in the villages in which they dig, sharing Christ and sharing life. People continue to come to Christ.
"The big message that we have for them there is: ‘We're here with you because God's here with us. So if it rains, we're here with you. If it's a drought again, we're here with you."