Ethiopian children light up reading

A Child's Garden of Bible Stories

May 2017- It's time for religion class, and a Lutheran school teacher walks into her classroom of 50 first graders. As she meets their expectant gazes, she sighs with frustration. How to teach them? She has no books, no materials. She's out of ideas.

For the past decade, the scenario described above has been all too common in Ethiopia's Lutheran day schools and Sunday schools.

Rev. Dereje Tilahun, a pastor in the Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus (EECMY) and coordinator for LHF translations in Ethiopia, knew that something had to be done for the children of his church and others throughout the country.

"About 8 million Lutherans live in Ethiopia, and the number of children is more than a million," he explained. "But for all our churches and schools, we have not had any Lutheran Bible storybooks. The teachers have had nothing to teach from."

Now, they do.

In April, LHF Executive Director Matthew Heise traveled to Ethiopia to begin the distribution of LHF's Amharic translation of A Child's Garden of Bible Stories. The colorful Bible storybook provides 60 Old and New Testament lessons, along with simple discussion questions.

"The book is well prepared and translated according to a child's level of understanding," said Rev. Tilahun. "It is also attractive and excellent, quality-wise. Once our children know these Biblical stories, it is very simple for them to understand the whole message of the Bible. I have good respect for this book."

"The children like this book very much!" exclaimed Chali Bijiga, director of Addis Ababa Mekane Yesus School. "They always carry their books in their bags when they go home and return to school."

More than 500 students in 10 grades attend Bijiga's Lutheran school, where the students come from a variety of backgrounds, including Orthodox Children and Muslim.

"It is very important for children to learn about God while learning their secular subjects," Bijiga said. "Most of our students are not Christian, but here they learn the Bible and of the Savior, Jesus Christ."

Future plans

Rev. Tilahun said that the next step is to train Sunday School teachers how to use A Child's Garden of Bible Stories in their classrooms using LHF's teacher guidebook, which is nearly finished being translated.

"Additionally, we have started translating the book into Ethiopia's other major languages, in order to reach more children in their mother tongue," he said. LHF's Oromo language edition has been completed, and the Tigre, Haddiya and Sidama translations are underway.

"Our people have been amazed to get such quality children's books for each student in the church schools," Rev. Tilahun concluded. "There has been no book prepared for children for the last 30 years, and this book is the first in its kind and quality. We all thank LHF supporters for their generous gift to our children."
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