Water Projects and Wise Words in Adigrat, Ethiopia

Jamie Mueller is one of eight seminarians from Mundelein Seminary who recently traveled with CRS Ethiopia as part of the Global Fellows program. Here he shares his thoughts after a day visiting water projects.

Today we traveled to Adigrat, which is the northern region of Ethiopia. We had two main objectives on the agenda for the day: visit two CRS integrated watershed projects and meet with Abune Tesfaselassie Medhin, the Catholic Bishop of Adigrat.

It is hard to adequately describe the importance and communal impact of a watershed project. So far we have visited four, including the two today. All are different in their appearance and location, yet each has the vital effect of providing clean water for people and irrigation water for the farmers of the surrounding area.

Imagine all we do with water in a single day—and then imagine having that water disappear: No water to drink, to water plants, to wash, to feed the animals, to cook with. It is terrible when the water is shut off, but most people in the United States are confident their water will be turned back on within hours, let alone an entire day. Now imagine turning on your faucet and not knowing whether or not clean water would come out. What a nightmare both of these situations would be, and yet this is a daily reality for so many in Ethiopia—either the lack of clean water or no water at all.

Ethiopia bishop

The Global Fellows group with Bishop Tesfaselassie Medhin of the Eparchy of Adigrat in front of the diocese’s Catholic Church. Photo by Debbie DeVoe/CRS

The CRS integrated watershed projects we saw solve this problem for thousands of people. Working with diocesan partners, CRS identifies water sources, contains them, and then routes them to three primary ends: a water supply intended for humans, another for animals, and yet another for crops.

After many informational presentations and statistics, I admit that I still did not understand the vital importance and impact these projects have. Then we drove for what seemed like hours on unpaved, dirt roads with nothing surrounding us but barren, eroded, dry land that made me thirsty even to look at it. When we arrived at the project site, it took only a glimpse of the long, green, cultivated, life-giving, irrigated land to deeply comprehend the watershed projects’ importance. What a shock and awe I felt to see green, fertile, cultivated land after driving by miles of brown nothingness. I didn’t need the villagers to tell me (though they did) that the money that had been generously put into the project (and for which they are so grateful) was not wasted or squandered but carefully invested and multiplied.

I have to admit, I never valued water so much as I did that day. I have returned home both with a greater appreciation for the clean and plentiful water I use on a daily basis and with a great gratitude and pride for CRS, which allows me (and all of us) to help share what I daily take for granted with my brothers and sisters in Christ who go without so unnecessarily.
Later in the evening, we had the great privilege of meeting Abune Tesfaselassie, bishop of Adigrat. I have to say I have never met a more peace-filled or gracious man, not to mention one who has so many reasons to be anxious. Upon entering his private chapel with the Blessed Sacrament, he said to me, “This is where I go when I get tired of it all.” He spoke with us, entertained our questions, celebrated Mass with us, and hosted dinner.

Out of the many wise and relevant things he said to us, I took away two main points I wish to share with you. First, he spoke to us of the importance of faith, not only in one’s everyday life (though that is crucial) but also and especially in the field of social work and international humanitarian aid. He expressed his gratitude for CRS, a faith-based international aid organization, because, he explained, it is so easy to get burned out and callous without faith and the grace of God to aid you. He also said something that I will never forget. He described to us how, despite their deep suffering and familiarity with death, the lives of Ethiopian people are permeated with faith. He told us that although they may have something to learn from the West as far as technological and economic development, perhaps the West has something to learn from them as far as deep-seated, disaster-resilient, life-permeating faith in God. I tend to agree with him on this point.

Abune Tesfaselassie went on to tell us about all the work the Catholic Church does in Ethiopia, despite representing less than 1 percent of the population. What particularly interested me was how much the Catholic Church has worked together with the Orthodox Church and the Islamic Faith to solve social matters, including HIV care, refugee aid, education and health care. He told us that the three religions had much more in common than they tend to admit and that they were very powerful when they worked together. The all-too-common atheistic critique of religion that all it has ever wrought are war and suffering immediately came to my mind. I realized that we were in a country where the exact opposite is true. These three major religions—which are so often criticized for violence, and sometimes rightly so—were bringing nothing more than unity, relief and hope to a people who so desperately need them.

In that moment, I felt so proud (though not from anything that I had done) to be Catholic. This is a feeling and knowledge that I will not soon forget and for which I am so grateful both to CRS and to the Catholics of Ethiopia, who work so hard day in and day out to love and serve Christ in their brothers and sisters around them.

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2 Responses to “Water Projects and Wise Words in Adigrat, Ethiopia”

  1. Tsigab Beyene Says:

    Water is life. Water for all living thing let alone for human beings.

    CRS is doing well but I want to hear more and more
    Tsigab Beyene
    From Dubai
    Former Seminary College student

  2. yami Says:

    God bless to the Catholic Eparchy of Adigrat.

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