Tin Hut: Symbol of Connection to Sister Church

GRAND FORKS, ND (January 4, 2011) – Three members of Hope Covenant Church built an entire home inside the congregation’s building.

Actually it is a full-scale replica of a hut in Ethiopia and is made of little more than old wood and corrugated steel. It is an educational tool and reminder of the church’s commitment to their sister congregation, the Evangelical Mekane Yesus Church, located in the town of Fiche.

The structure brought tears to the eyes of one African visitor to the church. The visitor, who came from Nigeria, declared, “That’s my home,” to pastors Bruce Helgeson and Paul Knight. “That’s where I grew up. I can’t believe it. How did you get it here?”

“He thanked us for building the home,” Helgeson says. “He believes the Spirit is in the home and is a tool for helping people understand his culture and develop hearts of compassion for those in need.”

Kurt Klemmer, Tim Ringuette, and Armando Moronez built the hut after studying a photo the pastors brought back from Fiche in February 2010. The 8-foot by 12-foot hut includes a bed, table, chair, pails, buckets, and an attached lean-to. If a family had a kitchen, it would be located in the lean-to.

The two churches began their relationship through Compassion International, which served as matchmaker. Both congregations have about 500 members and are located in communities of roughly the same size. The economic differences are vast, however.

Hope’s congregation provides food, clothing, and education to more than 120 Ethiopian children who also are schooled at the Fiche church. Many of the Hope members sponsor children.

After the congregations were matched, Helgeson and Knight traveled to Ethiopia and returned changed and inspired to help the people they had met. They told their congregation of how the Ethiopians, although financially impoverished, extended generosity to one another.

Knight recalled how he had brought mints to the child he sponsored. They were rare treat but rather than keeping them to herself, the girl immediately shared them with others.

The congregation’s own generosity is growing through such examples and working with their sister church. After a flood in Fiche wrecked the church’s washroom/toilet facility, causing it to sink four feet into the ground, Hope raised $13,300 to construct a 10-stall washroom.

Hope raised the funds for the washroom by participating in the Advent Conspiracy, a recent movement that Covenant churches are increasingly joining. The focus of the Advent Conspiracy is to “Worship Fully, Spend Less, Give More, Love All.”

At Hope, when people donated they also received Christmas cards and handmade ornaments. The mission team within the church made more than 300 ornaments for sale.

Several church members will visit Ethiopia, and Hope plans to offset some of the travel costs by holding “Java Jireh” for the community later this month. The event will include concerts, a chili cook-off, a silent auction, and also a further educational cultural experience—an Ethiopian coffee ceremony.

“The coffee ceremony is how they express their gratitude that you are their guests,” Helgeson says. The ceremony includes popcorn and coffee.

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