A friendship sculpted by God

By Tianna Haas | Ethiopia in África oriental

Frealem teaches pottery with her wheel.

SIM workers Meredith and Rob Ward connected with Frealem when they first came from the US to Ethiopia, and their ongoing friendship has been intentionally shaped by God.

In 2010, the Wards moved in down the street from Frealem’s little pottery shop. As Meredith made grocery trips, she hit it off with Frealem. Soon, Frealem had invited Meredith and Rob, who was the art teacher at Bingham Academy, over to discuss ceramics.

Meredith said: “It was wonderful. She showed us how she and her husband were building a tiny home outside the city where she hoped she could grow her pottery business.”

Frealem sold traditional Ethiopian pottery, which involves shaping clay on a wooden plate rather than on an electric pottery wheel. Frealem had tried an electric wheel years before and was eager to learn more about the technique.

When she asked Rob about electric wheels, she was delighted to find out Bingham Academy had one.

As the Wards continued to bond with Frealem, they shared the love of Jesus with her. Frealem is an Orthodox Christian, so Meredith asked God to reveal the grace of salvation through Christ to her.

Two years later, their developing relationship was put on pause when the Wards decided to return to the US. They realised they had a fitting present for Frealem – Rob asked if Bingham Academy would give their wheel to Frealem, since they would no longer have an art teacher to use it.

The school readily agreed. Just days before their departure, Rob surprised Frealem with the gift. In tears, she gratefully accepted it.

A single gift multiplies

In 2017, the Ward family moved back to Ethiopia but did not expect to see their old friend until the biannual bazaar. But on one of their first weekends back, they met her at a local charity bazaar.

They found out that Frealem had proposed an idea to a local charity: She wanted to teach women ceramics as a source of income.

Meredith said: “She was overwhelmed to see us in her life again and was so excited to share what has happened in her life since the gift of the wheel.”

Frealem explained that the wheel had allowed her to earn enough to complete the construction on their house and add on extra living space for her, her husband, her mother and their newly adopted son.

Meredith said: “It is a joy to see many Ethiopians rising up to care for the kids that need love and support.”

     

Meredith was able to glimpse the impact of the gift still further when Frealem invited her to a family member’s wedding. Frealem took Meredith aside and told her that the joyful celebration was possible because of the pottery business. The ceramics funds had helped her brother go off to school, where he met his bride.

Frealem also is striving to care for orphans with her extra income, and she intends to raise about 10 children as her own. Since Ethiopia has now closed foreign adoptions, in-country orphan care is all the more needed.

Meredith said: “It is a joy to see many Ethiopians rising up to care for the kids that need love and support.”

The Wards are now set to leave Ethiopia at the end of this year. Since Frealem will let others teach Bible stories to and share the gospel with the orphans, they are introducing Frealem to other Christians who can step in and point the children to Jesus.

Meredith and Rob are now more openly encouraging Frealem to trust in Jesus alone for redemption. Frealem indicated a remarkable understanding of God’s generosity when she said: “God has blessed me with so much success because of the pottery wheel, so I want to bless others.”

“God has blessed me with so much success because of the pottery wheel, so I want to bless others.”

     

God reconnected the Wards with Frealem almost ten years after they met, and this friendship is no mistake. Meredith and Rob fervently pray for Frealem to know Jesus as her personal Saviour. Their continued friendship with her is a display of God’s pursuing love.

Pray for:

• Frealem to come to saving faith in Jesus.

• other Jesus followers to come alongside Frealem in place of the Wards.

• the Wards’ teaching at Bingham Academy to glorify God and point to the cross. Pray for them as they prepare to leave Ethiopia.

• the children who will be raised by Frealem to one day understand and live out the gospel.