It was a great joy to meet our friend and host Mulugeta Ashagre when we arrived at Bolle airport, Addis Ababa on Wednesday 10th October. Mulugeta is the general secretary of the Ethiopian Christian Brethren Church (ECBC). James and I had flown on the new Ethiopia Airlines day service, leaving Heathrow at 12 noon rather than 9. We were well looked after at the ECBC compound until we flew to Jima on the Saturday morning.
This city, in the Kafa region some 250 miles SW of Addis, claims to be the home of coffee and is where our first conference was held. We preached at the new ECBC church plant in Jima on Sunday morning. Most of the congregation were students at the nearby university and they listened very attentively to the word of God. In the afternoon, we visited Mulugeta’s mother who lives in Shebe, south of Jima. Like many of her generation, Mrs Ashagre does not know when she was born, but reckons she is between 85 and 90 years old! She had organized a meal for us (six in total).
Back in Jima, we stayed at the ‘Honeyland Hotel’ and travelled 10 minutes each day to the church compound where the PTI conference was held. For the third year, we met our ‘students’ – 50 of them. They serve the Lord in churches from fourteen different evangelical denominations and some had traveled as far as 160km.
The third-year syllabus went well each day. James and I both felt great liberty as we shared the word of God with these believers and it was encouraging to see that their ability to rightly divide the scriptures had developed. Their written sermon outlines were taken in and marked by Mulugeta and the best ten were given prizes, then the best three presented their outlines to the class. It was a really encouraging conference and we sensed the prayers of people back home. Thank you. We flew back to Addis on the Friday evening.
On Saturday, Mulugeta had arranged an extra one-day conference for some of the Church leaders in Addis. He expected thirty to come, but in the end fifty-one turned up. We adapted our material to give three sessions with an emphasis on the importance of preaching the word of God. In the end, we had a longer morning of study together before we finally shared some lunch. It was a blessed time.
Then on Sunday James and I preached at two different churches south of Addis, visited a family in the afternoon and were somehow involved in an ECBC board/elders meeting in the early evening!
Our second conference began on the Monday morning at the ECBC compound. Mulugeta had invited the fifty students from last year and a few others – in case some couldn’t make it. O ye of little faith. In the end, eighty students turned up from eleven different evangelical denominations! New mattresses and blankets were hurriedly bought since most would sleep in the compound – and the injera was made to stretch. But the atmosphere was electric. More importantly, we believe God blessed the second conference as he had blessed the first. At the end, we were tired but satisfied. What a privilege to share the word of God with so many keen believers.
The church in Ethiopia continues to grow and new churches keep being planted. For example, in the past year the ECBC has planted fifteen more churches, making 237. The need continues for new pastors to be trained. Please pray for the Christian believers in Ethiopia. Tribal/ethnic tensions have increased recently in the country. Yet the gospel continues to be preached, the message spreads and the spiritual harvest keeps on growing.
Ken McIntosh and James Sercombe