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‘Sharing the good news comes with love…’: Breaking the chains of prostitution in Ethiopia

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For more than 20 years, Tearfund’s partner Ellilta Women at Risk has been restoring hope and freedom for women in Ethiopia who have been drawn into prostitution. Ellilta’s work is God’s love in action – raising awareness of the inherent value and dignity of all women and men, and allowing women the space to heal from trauma and gain essential life and vocational skills so that they can be free from the chains of prostitution.

Copy of Nebiyu Haile

Nebiyu Haile, director of Ellilta Women at Risk, talks to Tearfund’s Africa team leader Marshall Currie about how he sees God’s love being lived out in Ellilta’s work.

“The time has come, the Kingdom of God has come near…”. How do you respond to that call from Jesus?

As you said, it’s a call. There’s a sense of urgency in that call which makes me think that, “What is something that I should contribute as part of this Kingdom in this world?”. So it’s kind of a deep question that makes me think about myself, about my surroundings, and about the capacity of the gift or talent that God has put in me that I could extend to others as a believer, what’s that something that I have to contribute? That call makes me ask this question “What do I have to contribute?”.

Do you see God’s Kingdom breaking in around you? Where do you see God at work now?

God is really working around and surrounding me – it just needs my attention and focus. An intentional effort from my side to look at what is going on, what God is really doing in my surroundings. But for sure, every day, God is working around me. I see it in my family, in my life, my work and my mission, that there are things that are “God things” going on even at the moment. Like in the way that, in the work that we are doing, as part of the Ellilta work, we can bring women who’ve been in the darkness, in that lifestyle of prostitution, coming up with a hard face and kind of confused look on their faces.

And as we keep going on that journey with them, I can see their face being changed, being transformed, and getting more shining. That tells me that God is doing something in their life as well.

And even when I look at my own kids, the way they interact, the maturity they are demonstrating, for me, that God is doing something in them. Even in the way they are asking questions, that tells me that God is really up to something in their life.

What does it mean to share the good news?

Sharing the good news comes with love. Loving one another. Welcoming people, even the stranger, and extending my willingness to help and to serve – that is sharing the good news for me. I know for sure that there will be a question raised in themselves, whenever I extend my goodness to them, why? Because doing something good for someone else, especially for the stranger, it is not normal. So by doing the abnormal thing for society, I can help them to raise why? And if they’re bold enough and start asking myself why, I will share about it. But without even telling or telling them using words, I can share the good news by my actions, by the way I treat them, by the way I uphold them, and by the way I love them. Sharing the good news is one of the ways we can show our love.

Every day, God is working around me. I see it in my family, in my life, my work and my mission, that there are things that are 'God things'.

What is it that gives you courage to take action and live this Kingdom now?

Looking at the change that’s happening in people’s lives, that gives me [the courage] to share the good news, to be part of that Kingdom. The peace and the love that is happening in my life also gives me the courage, because I want everyone to access that peace that I’m having, that joy that I’m having, so I want everyone to have that peace and that love – that gives me the courage to share and demonstrate.

There is also that sense of urgency, especially as we look at the scriptures, that there are some signs of the end times. I’m kind of seeing those signs at the moment. I’m not sure when it will be, but the signs are indicating that time. So I think there is that urgency – also that gives me courage to share. We are not sure about tomorrow, we are not sure about what will happen. So it is just good to share that good news, share that love to everyone else.

In Jesus’ words about the Kingdom, there is a challenge to political and religious rulers. What are some of the challenges for our leaders today?

If they give time to think about it, I think it would give them challenge to how they see the direction that they are taking for their leadership as they lead this nation. So like whether it is economical aspect, politically or societally, it has another kind of value for a leader or a nation that should follow. I would really think that if they give more emphasis on this Kingdom of God thing, it would really challenge the way they see their leadership, the way they do their politics. I think that would be a great challenge for them.

How do you see, or struggle to see, your work as part of something bigger? Sometimes our efforts seem weak or small or struggling to make a difference...

That brings me back to the scripture again. Jesus gave that illustration about the Good Shepherd – he just left the 99 and looked for the one that was lost. It seems that it’s just only one, but by saving that one, he’s also demonstrating his care for the others. If the other 99 put their [feet] on the lost one’s feet, they could be the one that could be lost. By just focusing only on a small portion, it doesn’t mean that we don’t care for the others. But again, it’s also a way of trust, that we can start small, but we can grow, our effect can grow.

It seems that we only have reached like 1300 women in prostitution for the last 23 years, so comparing that number with the years we have been working in this work it sounds very small. But looking at this 1300, that one lady which we helped to get out of that lifestyle, has been causing lots of problem for many families – you know there are many men who have been going with her, so there is the aspect of diseases, the conflict, the marital affairs, all those social crisis, so for me by saving, by helping that one lady, I’m just affecting the entire community in a way. So I view my work from that perspective. But again it also shows that we need to use the limited resources to impact people. We shouldn’t wait until we have many resources in order to start our program or our ministry of helping someone, but with the limited resources we have we can go and start whatever we can.

Pray Hands

Pray with us

Nebiyu Haile shares some prayer points below to guide you in your prayers:

  • For peace and stability to prevail in Ethiopia (having the current political situation in mind).
  • At Ellilta Products, we are looking for a new business manager. We need prayer to get the right person and also a smooth transition.*
  • Pray for God's provision of resources to Ellilta Women at Risk. We have some project sites that still need funding and the government is requesting us to engage in women’s economic empowerment activities for those who have been affected by the war.
  • For God's grace, favour and wisdom as we continue to serve the women, their children and the community.
  • For health and protection for staff.

* Ellilta’s social enterprise, Ellilta Products, employs some of the women in making scarves, jewellery and soaps. It also provides income to Ellilta.

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