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The Story Behind “He Loves Me” – Part II

Our initial plan for the release of the “He Loves Me” album, DVD, Children’s Ministry Curriculum and Family Devotions Booklet was Christmas 2011, but as time went by, we realized that we were not going to make it. For the recordings of the DVD we wanted to include the Sunday school kids as the audience, and we wanted them to know the songs and the actions so they could actively participate, and not just be observers. Beza was going to have a major conference in January, so we pushed it back to have it ready by then. But that also became impossible, as we were all getting too busy around Christmas and then with the conference. We decided to have at least one song ready for the conference, so that we could show the congregation what we were working on. But that also didn’t work out.

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We pressed on. We had choir practices and action-team practices and recordings at the studio. When we started a series of many video recordings at the church, we ran into all sorts of problems. One day the sanctuary was being used for a special event we didn’t know about. Then one day we didn’t have the required crane. Another day the cameras were locked away and we couldn’t get a hold of the person with the keys. The problems just kept on coming at us. So we kept on praying. And we kept on going.

To top it all off, we were getting pressed for time as David was planning to leave for the States. He was the one to edit the DVD, and without him we were not going to be able to get it done. We could hire someone to help us out, but we didn’t have a budget for it. ‘We could announce it in church and ask if there are any people who could help out,’ I suggested. ‘No,’ David said, ‘We can’t do that. It will be too complicated to figure out if people are skilled enough to help us. Besides, it’s difficult to get other people to truly understand what we are aiming for.’

But in order to show the congregation that we were still working on the project, David put together a short video. On the day we showed the video, my husband told me, ‘I talked to a guy from South America today after the service. He name is Pablo and he told me that he’d be happy to help us put together the DVD if we needed help. He came here from India with his family, and video editing is his thing.’ A guy from South America? I had never met anyone from South America here in Ethiopia. ‘I wonder if it’s going to work out,’ I said. David’s questions ran through my head: was this guy skilled enough? Would he be able to get our vision and create what we had in mind?

It was pretty simple. We didn’t have any options. David was leaving, and we had no one else, so Musay was going to meet Pablo to see what he could do to help us. Kidist, my family and I were leaving to do training down south, so I didn’t have a chance to meet Pablo myself. When we came back, I did meet Pablo and his family, and their story made my head spin with thankfulness to God. They had been in India, and as they were praying about where they were supposed to go next, they felt strongly that they should go to Ethiopia. They had never been to Africa and knew no one in Ethiopia, but they decided to obey. They got themselves and their two little children on an airplane and came. They found an apartment to stay in for three months, and checked online to see if there were any English speaking churches in Addis Ababa. Sure enough, they ended up at Beza. And video editing really was Pablo’s thing. And I mean: it really, really was his thing. To top it off, he also had the right equipment to put it all together. He and his wife had been involved with Children’s Ministry and had a heart to reach children as well. We were all completely blown away by how God had led him and his family to us. We could only thank God for His divine delays. Pablo still had two months left in Ethiopia and he basically spend his entire time recording and editing. He totally loved the songs and understood exactly what we wanted to do. He recorded during Sunday School, arranged more evening recordings, and put together the material we already recorded for a Teacher Instructions DVD which went with the Children’s Ministry Curriculum.

Pablo and Musay worker very hard, and by the end of April they finished it. We could hardly believe it – the work was actually finished! The DVD included the songs recorded in different places, interviews with children, a short story, and a salvation message. And it was all beautifully and professionally done. Now we still needed to get the CD and DVD duplicated, and the lesson book and devotions booklet needed to be printed.

We set Sunday May 27 as the release date. To celebrate, we were going to have “Kids Sunday” – a service entirely done by the kids and the Children’s Ministry team for both the English and the Amharic service. The evening before the release date, the devotions booklets were delivered. The morning of May 27th, Musay went to pick up the duplicated DVDs… We were in charge of both services at Beza. The kids & youth choir led the worship, and we used one of the curriculum lessons, “The Way Back”, as the main message, rather than having a preaching. After the service we sold our first copies of “Yiwedegnal” – “He Loves Me”. What a celebration it was! People were blown away by how the children truly led them into real worship that morning– it was not just some singing, but they truly ministered to the congregation. This was such a new experience!

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The following Saturday we had a training day for churches from Addis Ababa to share these brand-new resources, to encourage and inspire them to reach the children of their churches. Many more people came than expected, and they were thrilled with the new resources. In the weeks that followed, many responses came from the churches and people. It was amazing to see God at work through this all. Only God… Only God could orchestrate all of this. Through all of this, I was incredibly aware of His deep, personal, strong, amazing love for all of us. His fingerprints were all over this project. What a privilege it was to be part of it. Through it all God confirmed again and again that the title of this project is true: “He Loves Me”. Indeed He does!

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The Story Behind ‘He Loves Me’

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I’m so excited that the Children’s Ministry Curriculum “He Loves Me” and the corresponding Family Devotions booklet will be available online soon! It’s been a long process to get these materials ready. Whenever I think about the story of how this all came to be, I cannot help but smile. I love it when God makes me smile!

When Kidist joined the Children’s Ministry team at Beza and became a full-time staff, we spend time each week talking about our ideas and dreams of what we wanted to see happen in our own church and in the churches of Ethiopia. We often had to slow ourselves down in order to focus on the things that were right in front of us. That was difficult, because we were so excited about all the things we longed to see God do, and the things He was already doing.

One of our dreams came out of our most pressing need in the Amharic service – the need for kids worship songs. In the English service we had tons of amazing, high-energy songs with lots of actions, and this was a highlight for the kids every week. We sang many songs, at least seven, and worshiping with the kids was such a powerful experience. But for the Amharic service there was nothing. There were no CDs, there were very few songs for kids to begin with, and it seemed that our kids were getting tired of singing the same ones every single week.
‘You should go ask Musay and the worship team to make songs for the kids,’ I suggested. The worship team had produced an English worship album for adults (It’s Time), so we knew they were capable of writing and recording songs. Kidist agreed and she did ask, but nothing much happened. As I prayed for this to happen, a burden started to grow in my heart. I knew how powerful it was to praise and worship with the kids in the English service, and I desperately wanted the children in the Amharic service to have the same opportunity. I longed for them to be able to worship God from their hearts, in their own language and in a way that allowed them to truly be kids as they worshiped. The more I prayed, the stronger my desire for this became. We realized that if we had songs for our kids in our church, we would be able to share them with other churches and reach the children of Ethiopia. My longing to see children all over this country worship God in powerful ways became stronger and stronger.

Some months later, I talked to Musay. He had been invited to sing at a school, and it had been amazing.
‘God is really doing something in my heart for children,’ he said.
‘That’s what I’ve been praying for,’ I answered with a smile.

When the worship team in Beza came out with a second worship album, in Amharic this time, I went up to David, the worship leader, and I said, ‘David, your next album has to be a kids worship album in Amharic.’
He looked at me and said, ‘Jacoba, I want to make a kids worship DVD in Amharic. I’ve had this in my heart for a long time.’
A DVD! Wow! I was not going to argue with that idea!

Shortly thereafter we began to meet regularly with a small team. We were thrilled as we shared our ideas and dreams. God had been putting the same vision in all of our hearts, and we felt that the time was right to put our plans into action. We discussed the types of songs that should be included, where and how we were going to do the recordings, and the details that needed to be taken care of. David suggested that we should include a booklet for the children. I felt that it should be a family devotions booklet, so that the parents and children had a tool to use to talk about the Bible and how they could live out their faith practically, as a family. We also decided to add a Children’s Ministry Curriculum book with a few lessons, so that churches would have a teaching tool to reach the kids using creative methods – ways that we saw were really working with out kids at Beza. And so I began to work on writing the lessons and the devotions.

Somewhere in the middle of all of this, Musay told me that he was worried.
‘I don’t know if the kids will like these songs,’ he said.
‘All you need to do is test them,’ I said. ‘Kids don’t pretend. If they like them, they will be excited. If they don’t like them, they won’t engage. That’s the beautiful thing with kids – they are honest.’

A few months later the opportunity to put the songs to the test arose. We went to our sister church in Ziway, about a 3 hour drive south to have a children’s program three mornings, and a Sunday School teacher training in the evenings. Our team members were Musay, a few youth, a group of our Children’s Ministry volunteers, Kidist, Adanech, our newest staff member, and I. The week before our trip they practiced the songs we had so far. When I was at the church office, I went to their practice to hear the songs. Seeing them jump around, sing in Amharic the very songs I had been praying so desperately for, brought tears in my eyes. God was doing it. He was making it happen. Our dream was coming through. The kids in Ethiopia were going to have their very own songs. They were going to worship God from their hearts!

The kids in Ziway went crazy. They absolutely loved the songs. Each day the group of kids grew. Musay and the youth were not able to be there on the final day of the kids program. When the kids realized this, they were upset.
‘Where are Musay and the others?’ We explained that they had to leave early. When we asked them which songs they’d like to sing, they answered, ‘Be desta! Kef yale new!’ Yes, they wanted to sing the new songs. Musay’s question had been answered.

Writing the songs and recording them was one thing. Recording a DVD was an entirely different thing. It was a lot harder than we had anticipated. But God was in it. He made it happen. To be continued… in part II of The Story Behind “He Loves Me”!

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