In a chaotic and uncertain world, firm paths can be hard to find. Join us for a seven-part devotional series on the Beatitudes for Lent as we walk the way of love in an upside-down world. Get the email series or the printed version (printed series available for a limited time).
Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Matthew 5:7
In the red light districts of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Tearfund partner Ellilta Women at Risk (EWAR) is demonstrating God’s love in action. They’re fueled by the desire to see marginalised women experience the kind compassion and mercy that their communities, and sometimes their own families, have withheld from them. Here, EWAR’s director, Nebiyu Haile, shares how God’s mercy has transformed his own life, and how a movement of mercy is leading to restored relationships for the women EWAR serves.
This reflection is adapted from a full-length interview with Joel McKerrow and Gracie Naoum, hosts of the podcast ‘An Upside-Down World’. This 8-part podcast has been created especially for Tearfund’s Lent 2022 series.
Views expressed by contributors are their own and do not necessarily reflect that of Tearfund.
Why is being forgiving so hard? I think it's because of our human nature. I mean, the flesh part has been causing lots of mess. We don't enjoy this beatitude very much. But it does bring freedom.
It is very personal for me. I grew up with my granddad, and I met my biological father just a few years ago. During my early age, there was this desire to know my father, especially knowing that he was living abroad with a very good economical status. When I looked at my life and how I was struggling to live, I felt that if he was around, if he was willing, he could have changed my life, and it would be a great help for me and my family. I grew up with that mindset, and that attitude of some bitterness.
When I grew up, I came to know Christ as my personal saviour. And there were certain moments, especially when I was in my early 20s, where the Holy Spirit really helped me. God presented himself as a father and he confirmed to me through his Spirit that, Okay, so since I am your father, what did you miss? Is there anything that you are lacking, because I am your Father? He brought to mind all the people that had played the father figure in my life through the church, through my community. He literally showed me how God filled through his miraculous way. And then he confronted me, so what are those things that you are missing since I've been your dad? I was convicted of the bitter feeling towards my dad. I confessed and in that moment God helped me to forgive him. I was free. So all those positive attitudes came to my mind after God’s forgiveness event. The fact that I managed to forgive my dad helped us to develop a very close relationship afterwards. Whenever we meet, it's as if we've been in touch since my childhood. I have a very positive feeling in me, that's the fruit of being merciful.
Whenever we practice forgiveness and mercy towards others, I think the first beneficiary of that action is us.
Whenever we practice forgiveness and mercy towards others, I think the first beneficiary of that action is us. It’s not only the person who's at the receiving end, but I myself will enjoy freedom, grace, ease, satisfaction. Being merciful is an opportunity and a challenge. It's not an easy thing. But if you manage to practice it, by the help of God, then it's a great opportunity to enjoy God's blessing in your life.
Meditating about the mercies of God, that I personally receive from him, helps me to apply the same thing to others. God has forgiven me without needing anything from me. He's not showing mercy because he would like to get something out of me. He just forgives me because he loves me. So if the Holy One has forgiven me, who am I to reserve my forgiveness towards my brother or sister? Or towards myself?
I know all the wrongdoing that I've committed against the Holy God, and I think we should not be forgetful of our enemy who keeps accusing us, telling us that we don't deserve God's forgiveness. He can bring so many justifications to our thoughts – okay, you did this thing last time. You're expected to improve, now you're doing the same thing again. It might complicate issues for us and we might find it difficult to forgive ourselves, which is the goal of our enemy.
We try to demonstrate God's love through relationship.
Ellilta Women at Risk (EWAR) works with women who have been in prostitution. These women have suffered from lack of mercy, lack of compassion, lack of love and acceptance from the community, from the men that have been abusing them from their neighbourhood, because of the lifestyle they are in. Coming to EWAR, they find a new environment, because we provide all our services in the context of relationship. We try to demonstrate the love of God through our relationship. The fact that a person like me, the director of this organisation, will meet a lady in our centre, and take a few minutes just to ask about her life – that is something unique for her. She is marginalised, discriminated because she's a prostitute. The men in her community might not greet her, because other members of the neighbourhood might consider that he's having an affair with her. And for a lady in the neighbourhood to greet that woman also implies that she might be in a friendship with a prostitute, meaning she might be following the same rules. So even the women in the community avoid these girls.
So when they come to our centre, they're kind of experiencing a very different approach: accepting, forgiving, greeting each other, hugging each other. That shows compassion, that shows love, those are the things that they missed. Even without getting other support, like economical support, just by the fact that we are greeting them, we are considering them as people. It raises a question for these women: why are these people treating me like this? And that gives us the opportunity to share about the love of God.
Prayer by Nebiyu Haile.
Dear God, my loving Father, I am so grateful for your mercy you have poured upon me! While I am deserving of your judgement and wrath as a result of my sins, you showed me mercy and love, covering me with the righteousness of Your Son, Jesus Christ.
I ask for your grace so that I can extend mercy and compassion to all those whom I come in contact with. It is my desire and prayer, dear Lord, that being merciful and compassionate be my identification marks. In Jesus’ name!
Tearfund’s partner Saahasee articulates their mission as “called by God’s love to see every poor home in our nation empowered and celebrating life in community where dignity, freedom and justice prevail.”
The outworking of this mission has transformed the lives of women like Vimel (pictured). Connecting with other local women through a self-help group run by Saahasee, Vimel has grown in her sense of self-worth, independence and hope, even in the face of daily challenges.
“Despite the struggles I face in my own home, I feel so much respect and people are willing to listen to my worries. I feel so proud and I know other people outside love me a lot; it gives me so much strength.”
Saahasee’s self-help groups create a safe and collaborative environment for women to grow together, offering women training to become community leaders and providing economic and social opportunities.
Hear Vimel and other women from her self-help group share their hopes for the future:
Related projects have received support from the Australian Government through the Australian NGO Cooperation Program (ANCP).