Ethiopia

by Mulugeta Ashagre

 

It is 62 years since mission workers arrived in the predominantly Muslim area of north-east Ethiopia during Emperor Haile Selassie's reign. They ran schools and clinics in three areas: Bati, Degan and Gofa Sefer in Addis Ababa. 

When the Communist government took over in 1974, missionaries were deported, schools and other church properties were confiscated and some of the leaders were questioned and imprisoned. I was converted a few years after this difficult time. 


The Communists did not realise that when a church building is closed, God opens many other doors for His children - He is in control of everything. He gave our leaders wisdom and we began meeting in people's homes for Bible study and prayer. However, as Christian young people we faced challenges; we did not have our own houses and we were under the authority of our unbelieving families. For many of us persecution came from two directions: the Communist government and our unbelieving relatives. By God's grace we chose to follow Christ and to work for Him.


God gave us this task: to bring people into the kingdom of God by earnestly preaching the gospel. 


         Ethiopia

 

Underground churches were an excellent place to practise the priesthood of all believers and to train workers effectively. As we studied the Scriptures, we got to know each other and built a strong fellowship. It was during this time that we developed our vision for church planting and making disciples. 


While we were an underground church in Addis Ababa we started holding evening Bible schools in believers' homes. This lasted for eight years and most of today's elders and full-time workers grew in maturity and knowledge of God during this time. When we finally gained religious freedom we planted churches in six local areas. 


Our main strategy for church planting is to visit believers where they live and encourage them to continue their Christian life and work for God. We encourage them to pray and witness to their neighbours. This is the most effective way to see church growth. For example, we went to visit a young girl who was converted in Gofa Sefer but lived in Akaki with her family who were opposed to the gospel. After our visit the Lord encouraged her to live and witness for Him. As a result of her witness we started a work in Akaki; many were converted and a church was planted. Now there are over 500 believers in Akaki who are church planting in three nearby villages. 


A church has also been planted in Ambo, 130 km from Addis Ababa, by students from Chobi and Ginchi. Similarly, a church was planted in the Muslim stronghold of Kemise by government workers who relocated from Ginchi. God used these believers as a bridge to start a work there. If we had sent evangelists to this area it would have been very difficult. But now, there are more than 100 believers and they have begun fellowships in two neighbouring villages. 


Weddings and funerals are good opportunities to preach the gospel. Many people attend these important occasions in our community, including unbelieving relatives and friends who will not come to anything else. However, it is essential to be strategic and wise when preaching to and talking with unbelieving visitors. Preaching should be short and to the point. 


Walking to the market gives Christians opportunities to witness, as most people have to walk for a couple of hours and will talk all the way. Believers are trained to witness to people as they walk with them. 


House-to-house visitation is another way of evangelising. We visit the sick and any who have social problems, to counsel them, preach the gospel and pray for healing. Through this ministry many people with alcohol problems have come to church and now they are witnessing to their community. 


Schools and colleges are a key mission field. Peer evangelism is fruitful in a lot of ways as good numbers of Christians attend college and many students are converted there. 


In Ethiopia, many people still have a fear of God and whether they are Muslim or Christian they will go to their religious places. So we don't have to discuss or prove the existence of God. The questions are: Do you preach Christ? Do you preach the gospel? Or do you preach something else? Preaching Christ is not an easy business - it is costly. 



The other vision that God gave us was to protect believers from false teaching by equipping them with the Word of God. 


As I have already mentioned, we started a Bible school in Addis Ababa when the church was underground. This has been the backbone of the churches in the area and many have benefited from it. Now it has moved to Chobi where God is mightily working and building His Church. 


Chobi Rural Bible School is a centre for 60 churches and benefits over 150 Brethren churches in the area. Almost all of our rural church workers are trained here in Chobi. The teachers travel from Addis Ababa, a distance of 129 km, but now we are training some of the students to a higher college level so that they will gradually take on the teaching. Chobi Bible School is designed not only for full-time workers but also for elders and other church workers who are willing to be trained. For example, farmers can be trained at times when they are less busy. The school's policy is that the students cover their costs and the office pays for the teachers' transport. Just as we believe mission workers need to be called by God, we also need to believe that they require training before they go into full-time ministry. All the full-time workers in our Christian Brethren churches are required to attend the Bible school. 


In 2011 we began a discipleship programme with ten courses. The courses are about obeying the Great Commission and have three components: Discipleship, Church Planting and Training. Each student is responsible for the discipling of future leaders in their local church, and training of a further four workers to be church planters. It is a specific training for those who want to help the church focus on making disciples. This programme aims to help every believer to work for the growth of God's kingdom. We have already trained 100 full-time workers who have had a big impact in each of their local churches. This programme will continue every four months for three years. We are planning to help churches in Ethiopia become disciple-making churches. 


As a church we are working on seven projects with Compassion International. Through these projects more than 1,500 children from poor families are supported and given Bible teaching. 


God has given us 215 full-time workers in our churches. They are from a wide age range: young, middle-aged and a few older ones. Some have been trained to college level - most of them in Chobi Bible School. In addition, the majority of them are studyingEmmausbooks. We follow the pattern of leadership demonstrated in the New Testament, so our leaders are in teams, with groups of elders having responsibility at a local or national level.

 

Allow me to say "Thank you very much" to the mission workers who laboured in our country and to their sending churches. It is through them that we saw Christ.

 

 PRAISE

•  Thank God for the growth of the work and the faithful support of believers from the UK

 

 PRAY

•  For the faithful evangelists, that they will continue to work for God

•  That the discipleship programme will produce effective results for the Church of Jesus Christ and for the glory of God

 

 

 

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