Belo Partnership (Food for the Hungry)

What is Belo:

Since 2005 LPC has been in a partnership with Food for the Hunger Canada (FH Canada) in a holistic development project in the Sasiga region of western Ethiopia. The project is centered around a number of villages in Belo District. The project works with churches, leaders and families with aims of bettering health, supplying clean water, creating agricultural and economic options, increasing education for all, gender empowerment, care for a fragile environment and ultimate sustainability.

The project started in 2005 as a 5-8 year project, but has been extended to a 12 year long project (ending in 2016) because it has been successful and has grown to include a number of the surrounding villages. There was a nearby conflict in 2008 that also delayed the project.

A number of the initial villages have now matured to the point where they are able to continue their development with very little assistance from FH. Recent feedback indicates that many of the farmers have moved from subsistence farming to having some surplus that they can market.

Why LPC originally became engaged in Belo:

  • A group of Christians began to grow in Belo, Ethiopia following the razing of the land by the communist government of the 90’s who recognized the arable land value of the area. It was not the historical landsite of this group of people. The area was previously almost completely undeveloped.
  • In 2003, after a horrific famine, the Ethiopian government recommended a voluntary relocation possibility to a large group of Muslims slightly to the east of Belo. They accepted the recommendation but their arrival put strain on already limited resources in an undeveloped area susceptible to food shortage.
  • Belo was highlighted as having potential for a sustainable development initiative by Food for the Hungry
  • Concurrently, in the early 2000’s, The Place was developing a relationship with David Collins, then president of Food for the Hungry Canada. David knew and understood the FH global projects and recommended their new Belo Project as a project that would be a good fit with the interests of the people at Lambrick Park Church.
  • When the first LPC delegation arrived in Belo in February 2005 a mix of Christians and Muslims, attempting to create viable community together, welcomed us. This first vision trip was unpacked in the following months and a recommendation to partner was brought to the Board and congregations.  The phrase 'it's not what we can do for them, but what they can do for us' was used. The stated objectives were Partnership, Relationship, Unity and Stewardship.

History of Transformation:

  • 2005 – Vision trip, Hearts & Hands formed, presentations to the elders and the AGM
  • 2005-2008 - Multiple fundraising and awareness building initiatives 2-3 Gospel choir performances, Art shows, Cake-offs
 (building public awareness), DVD and CDs created by the artists and musicians
, Ethiopian Coffee Ceremony and Cooking courses
(building local Ethiopian community involvement) and Involvement with Victoria “Canada Cares” conference
  • 2005 - Theology and practice from Food for the Hungry provides foundations for our Mosaic course, kids and youth ministries and missions.
  • 2006 - Staff member took professional development with FH in Uganda
  • 2006 - Regular Belo support into budget
  • 2006 - Regular ‘Belo month’ on Sundays began
  • 2006 Advent - Kids sports project for equipment and uniforms. Canadian Belo worker (Rob Bustin) visits us. Art donated.
  • 2007 - Child sponsorship for the most vulnerable (40 kids sponsored)
  • 2007 Nov - Progress Visit and Belo offered us fellowship
  • 2008 - Emergency relief due to neigbouring conflict ($10K) and we sent letters of encouragement
  • 2008 - now Kids candy cane fundraisers for Sponsored kids
  • 2009 - Lambrick responds to Food shortage. Sends letters and pictures of encouragement
  • 2009 Advent - $10K to pay for new wells and much-needed bibles in Belo
  • 2010 Winter – Cards/letters from Belo
  • 2010 Fall – FH Ethiopia project manger visits (Feye Tolle)
  • 2010 Advent – $10K to pay for new wells
  • 2011 Summer - regional government calls FH “best education partners”
  • 2012 Advent – Promo video and call to give to the ‘budget for Belo’
  • 2013 Fall – Greeting package (translated in Victoria) sent to Belo

What is our current engagement in Belo:

Initially our involvement invigorated the church, helped define the church, and united many of the different groups at LPC in a common cause. There are people at LPC now who are here because they were impressed with what we were doing in Belo, and how we were doing it as a church. However our involvement is less than it was, but we are still heavily involved financially. It is one of the core recipients of this year’s advent appeal. From our core budget we support FH’s work with $15,000 per year. There are also 30-40 LPC or former LPC families that sponsor a child in the Belo Project. That is another $12,500 to $16,500 per year. It was planned that there would be a third trip in 2009 to continue the relationships and learning that were started in the first two trips, but with the changes in the church and the economic downturn that trip was postponed. A third trip is proposed for early 2014. We continue to get regular updates from FH Canada, and the Kids Ministry sells candy canes for Belo each year around Valentine’s Day.  At the end of October 2013 we prepared a greeting package and sent it with a group from Calgary that was going to visit the project, and will hear more about this on our Belo Advent Sunday in December.

What we understand the reasons for our continued engagement in Belo are:

As North Americans Christians:

  • we need distant points of reference to give us an understanding of how undeservedly blessed we are with material wealth, education and healthcare. Not to feel guilty, but to feel blessed, to feel grace, and to feel a sense of responsibility and a need for great stewardship.
  • we need distant points of reference to remind us that our material wealth does not make us spiritually superior, nor our churches any stronger, any better, or any closer to God than churches in other parts of the world.
  • we need places where we can share our material wealth knowing that it will be used with great stewardship and that as a result it will have a significant positive impact on the lives of others.
  • we need opportunities to see that others, with very little in the way of resources, can be resourceful, intelligent, and full of joy and happiness.
  • we need places to personally share some of the gifts and talents that we have been blessed with.

As a church LPC’s continued engagement:

  • is good because it helps us understand our role to share the gospel both locally and to the whole world
  • is good because we can see the need for the whole gospel to be preached and lived; a gospel that looks after the whole of people; their souls and their physical, mental and emotional well-being.
  • is good because it gives us a chance to be actively involved in peace making.
  • is good because it shows inquirers that we are other centered, not self-centered.