"The most basic and fundamental of all human needs - the one that underlies all others - is the need to be literate. There is absolutely no way a country can move ahead socially and economically until a majority of its people are able to read and write. Illiteracy is a millstone around a nation's neck.After helping get the New Testament into both the Sebat Bet Gurage (spoken by about 500,000 people) and the Aari (spoken by about 160,000 people) I felt frustrated. The Scriptures and other books were available, but the percentage of people reading them was quite small. ... mainly because the percentage of people who could read was so small. So when I was invited to attend a "Global Literacy Consultation and Workshop" led by Dr. Rice (whom I had not heard of before) in July, 2002, I jumped at the chance. I invited Ermias Mamo, an Aari church leader from Ethiopia studying at Fuller Seminary, (In June 2003 he graduated with a Master's Degree in Intercultural Studies.) to join me. He readily accepted, commenting: "Based on some classes on development, I started thinking how I can help my people to grow both spiritually and economically. One of the strategies would be teaching the people to read and write in their own language that helps them to understand the scripture as well as what is going on around them." Toward the end of the workshop, he told me that he would like very much to work with me in literacy evangelism among the Aari for 6 months as part of his doctoral studies. This is a powerful testimony to the effectiveness of the workshop for motivating as well as training people for literacy evangelism. Dr. Rice agreed to come to Ethiopia in March, 2003, and lead a primer construction workshop for the Aari people. God chose to take Dr. Rice home in December, 2002, but Allen and Joan Lovekin from Literacy Evangelism International graciously led the workshop in his place. Click here to see my slide show of the workshop.
Dr. & Mrs. Rice had been missionaries in Korea for a number of years. Dr. Samuel Hugh Moffitt, the son of a pioneer missionary to Korea and professor at Princeton, listed 57 reasons for the phenomenal growth of the Korean church. The number one reason was the commitment early on by pastors to make reading a prerequisite for church membership, with the aim that each member read his Bible daily. (People could be baptized without knowing how to read, but they could not become full church members until they knew how to read.) Korea now has more than 10,000 missionaries to other people groups and is known throughout the world for the commitment of its Christians to prayer. The SIM Prayer Guide no longer specifies the literacy rate of each country, but a few years back it did. South Korea was the ONLY country where SIM worked that had a literacy rate of 100%. I covet this for the Aari people ... and the Banna and Gurage and all the people groups of Ethiopia.
In September, 2003, James Kigamwa of Literacy Evangelism Fellowship (daughter organization of Literacy Evangelism International, located in Kenya) led a primer construction workshop for the Banna language. Click here to see my slide show of the Banna workshop.
We held tutor training workshops in 2004 to train those who knew how to read Aari or Banna in the use of the primers for teaching others to read. Another organization is now working with the Aari church leaders to promote literacy. In 2007 another tutor training workshop took place among the Banna. Each of 15 tutors began teaching 2 or 3 others to read. When the rains failed a few weeks later, everyone was busy finding water and grass for the cattle. As a result the literacy effort stopped. Please pray that the Holy Spirit will motivate both tutors and learners to renew their commitment and follow through with the literacy effort. Otherwise, how can the church ever be strong?
#1 Prayer Request: Ask God to give the Aari and Banna church leaders, every one of them, a vision and strong burden for literacy evangelism. Ask Him to show us how to partner together in developing a literacy program that will reach every Aari speaker and every Banna speaker in southwest Ethiopia.