When Hailesalassie Tefera first suggested to Tracy Roper that he should travel to Ethiopia, Roper was more than a little skeptical. But after Tefera explained his idea to build a Christian school in the African nation, Roper knew it was a trip he had to take.
"At that time I was somewhat exited about it," Roper said. "I thought the possibility of our church actually going over and building a school was phenomenal. It would be a great ministry and a great opportunity for people in the church to get involved in something bigger than what is around them in the area here."
So in December 2005 Roper, Tefera and two other CrossPoint Baptist Church members traveled to Ethiopia where they spent five days meeting with parliament members including the minister of education and the minister of human rights.
Since that time, plans have come together very nicely for CrossPoint Christian Academy.
"There are schools there, but there has never been one labeled a Christian school before," Roper said. "So I felt like God was opening some doors for us."
The school, which is expected to open in a few years, will be a joint venture between CrossPoint Baptist and the Source of Light Ministry out of Madison.
"We're exited about it. We don't know where all the money is going to come from yet, but God has brought the money so far," Roper said. "It will be there when the time is right."
The two organizations have been able to secure 9.1 acres of land outside Addis Ababa, Ethiopia's capital city. Four of those acres will be used for the CrossPoint Christian Academy with the rest set for to become a Source of Light conference and training center.
Roper expects the complex, which will to be one of the nicer buildings in the area, to cost about $200,000. The building will be the equivalent to a multi-million dollar complex in the U.S.
Ethiopian's official currency, the birr, is the worth about a ninth of the U.S. dollar. Most people make about three birr a day, Roper said, which is enough to comfortably feed a family.
"So the cost of living is very, very cheap," Roper said. "The economy is so fragile over there. They can't get the momentum needed because they don't have the infrastructure like we do."
Many of the places Roper saw on his trip to Ethiopia did not have sewage, trash pickup or even a supply of clean water.
"We went through a slum area with 300,000 people living there, most in mud huts," Roper said. "They had electrical lines going right over the top of them, but they cannot afford to bring electricity down to their areas. There is no middle class. It's the haves and have nots."
This was quite a shock to Roper, who had never imagined it would be so bad.
"If you picture the most impoverished areas you've ever scene in the United States, they are compartmentalized in small areas," Roper said. "But most of Africa is that way."
After his visit, Roper decided the only way to help the people of Ethiopia was to change the culture they lived in, which is why the new school will be so important.
"The only way we are going to be able to change the culture is to change the people growing up in it," Roper said. "And the best way to do that is through the school. We're going to have to just start in our little corner and work in that direction. And changing children's lives is how we are going to change the culture."
The school will teach first, second and third graders with many of the students attending at no charge, depending on their family income.
"At first we were going to offer more grades than that, but then we realized that if we did that, we'd have 13 and 14-year-old kids that couldn't read," Roper said. "So we would have 13 and 14-year-old kids basically in first grade. It was hard because you are going to turn away kids that really need you, but you have to have to start somewhere."
The church is currently seeking any donations from the community. The school has so far received donations of 400 desks, 150 light fixtures and a dump truck, along with financial contributions from church and community members.
When the school opens, the curriculum will be Christ-centered and taught by trained Ethiopians. All aspects of the curriculum including math, science and Latin will involve Christianity.
"The word is out over there," Roper said. "They know we are coming."