This was PTI’s tenth visit to Ethiopia. Two conferences were planned – one at Addis Ababa and the other at Jimma (a city of 200,000 we have never visited before), which is 360 km south west of Addis and which claims to be the home of coffee. There was some doubt a few days before we travelled whether we would be able to go because of current unrest within the country; some of the major roads had been blocked and vehicles and factories set on fire. However, the decision was taken to go and to travel to Jimma from Addis by plane instead of road. (Thankfully, we did not encounter any of the trouble – or the famine which is currently affecting 8-10 million people in the east and north-east of the country). At Jimma we met with fifty-four students from all fifteen evangelical denominations. This was our first time teaching the new PTI syllabus and it was well received by the keen students. The conference was held in the fairly large compound of one of the local evangelical churches which meant that there was enough room to have lunch together every day. This was provided by a local Christian family who then had the food brought in by a three wheeled Bajaj! Along with morning and afternoon coffee breaks, these times gave opportunity to get to know the students better.
One lunch time we also met a local UCCF worker who helps to look after 8500 Christian students at Jimma University! The flight back to Addis on Friday afternoon took only 35 minutes and the following day we had an extra ‘Day Conference’ for about fifty local pastors, evangelists and youth workers. On Sunday we preached at two churches to the south of Addis, before the second conference began on the Monday morning. This time fifty students came who were particularly sharp in their thinking. As at Jimma, they were given three books at the end – a two volume simple commentary on John’s Gospel and a book on Servant Leadership.
God answered people’s prayers in giving us a safe trip and we both experienced the help and liberty of the Holy Spirit as we spoke. The average student seemed younger this year (I don’t think it was just us getting older!) and there is still great opportunity in this land for the gospel. Please pray for the current unrest. Put simply, it is caused by the two biggest tribes within Ethiopia feeling that they are not fairly represented within the government. There is plenty of scope for the situation to escalate and the country to divide into factions. Pray for the Government, that it may be given wisdom and for peace to return. Please pray, too, for the continuing growth of the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ and the usefulness of the pastors who attended the Conferences.
Ken McIntosh and James Sercombe.