“Come Over to [Ethiopia] and Help Us.”
(by Victor Kanyense, Coordinator Mission to Ethiopia)
“During the night Paul had a vision of a man of Macedonia standing and begging him, ‘Come over to Macedonia and help us.’ After Paul had seen the vision, we got ready at once to leave for Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them” (Acts 16:9-10 NIV).
The great apostle Paul is said to be one of the great pioneer missionaries who ever lived. He had a great missionary heart for the gospel enterprise. He spared no resources and energy to cross land and sea, risking his own life, for the cause of the glory of his glorious Saviour in the spread of the gospel message (see 2 Corinthians 11:23-32). He had a singular passion and vision to spend and be spent for the crown-rights of King Jesus. To this very land where he was been summoned, as it were, he declared: “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21). This was not a mere life-motto or cliché. It was the driving passion of his life. Everything in life was to be measured against that very principle. For Paul, life meant Jesus Christ, that is, spending and being spent for the glory of Jesus Christ. Yes, to see Jesus glorified not only in his life, but also in the lives of many others who he came in contact with. Indeed, as it is said, the measure of a persons greatness is to be seen in what that person he lives for. This passion to spend and be spent for the glory Christ, and to see Him glorified in one’s life through the proclamation of the gospel is well captured in a hymn by Charles Wesley:
Happy, if with my latest breath
I might but gasp His name;
Preach Him to all, and cry in death:
Behold, behold the Lamb!
The ‘Macedonian call’ was measured against that very principle, and Paul and his apostolic missionary team concluded from the vision ‘that God had called [them] to preach the gospel to [Macedonians]’. Hence we read simply: “From Troas we put out to sea and sailed straight for Samothrace, and the next day on to Neapolis. From there we travelled to Philippi, a Roman colony and the leading city of that district of Macedonia. And we stayed there several days” (Acts 16:11-12). What followed, is a dramatic story of the triumphs of the gospel of our Saviour and the establishment of His church in the province of Macedonian.
Anthony Mathenia visits Zambia
September 21st – September 28th.
The fourth mission to Ethiopia began with a visit to Zambia by our brother Anthony Mathenia. His visit was as a guest of the Kabwata Baptist Church. During his weeklong visit, Anthony preached to the Kabwata Baptist and Mount Makulu Baptist congregations, in the morning and evening services respectively. He also visited Bethel Baptist Church in Kabwe, a town 135km north of Lusaka were he met with the church pastor, Lawrence Lama and some of the elders and members of Bethel Baptist Church.
One of the major reason for Anthony’s visit to Zambia was to chart the way forward for the mission to Ethiopia with Conrad Mbewe (pastor, Kabwata Baptist Church) and Victor Kanyense (pastor, Mount Makulu Baptist Church and co-ordinator of the mission to Ethiopia). It was agreed that during the upcoming Ethiopia mission trip, the team was to find out what possibilities there were to send a missionary pastor from Zambia for work either as pastor of an already established church within the Ethiopian Addis Kidan Baptist Church (EAKBC) or planting a new work under the auspices of the EAKBC. Anthony also mentioned the possibility of such a one lecturing once or so a week at the Evangelical Theological College (ETC) in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, an evangelical undergraduate theological institute (like our TCCA in Ndola). However, that would require the missionary pastor to have at least a Masters degree in theology (anyhow, it was not so much a serious criteria for the missionary pastor, but an added sphere of ministry). It was clear for us, even before this meeting together, that we may need to begin thinking of planting a Reformed Baptist church, that will be set like a “model-work” for the work of biblical Reformation in Ethiopia. Nevertheless, we concluded our meeting with the the question: “Where do we go from here?” The task now was to use the coming mission-trip to facilitate information gathering for us to enable us to fully answer the question. We could only pray and trust the leading of our great missionary God.
Anthony, Isaac and Victor to Ethiopia
The team to Ethiopia comprised Anthony Mathenia, Isaac Makashinyi (pastor, Emmasdale Baptist Church, Lusaka) and Victor Kanyense (pastor, Mount Makulu Baptist Church, Chilanga). The team departed from Lusaka for Addis Ababa on September 28th. Yoseph, our good Ethiopian brother and friend, was at hand at the Bole International Airport to welcome us to Ethiopia. The team was kindly hosted by Yosie and his dear wife, Mekedi, who gave us a taste of genuine Ethiopian hospitality.
Ethiopia is old, old beyond imagination. Situated in the north-eastern Horn of Africa, equidistant between the Equator and the Tropic of Capricorn. The city of Addis Ababa (which is translated, “New Flower”, and is often shortened to plain “Addis”) lies in the central highlands of Ethiopia at an altitude of 2,400m, thus ranking it the third highest capital city in the world. Addis is a very large city, most of its streets are unsignposted, and many of its main roads and other landmarks have long gone by two or even three names, with names shown on the most maps differing from the one in common use. The city is reputed to have a population of about 8 million people (that is two thirds of Zambia’s total population in one city). And that is merely a tenth of the national population which is officially estimated to be around 85.8 million people.
Meeting with Zemen Endale
In our earlier reports of the mission to Ethiopia, we have continued to called upon all our readers to pray earnestly for the translation of biblically sound and solid Reformed literature and theological works into Amharic, the official Ethiopian language. The Lord has been pleased to answer the prayers of His people. Since the beginning of Anthony’s work in Ethiopia the issue of making biblically sound Christian literature available into Amharic has been a burden and desire for the work. God, over the past several months, has sovereignly orchestrated a translation team, publication rights, and the financial resources so that this long prayer request and great need has now begun to come to fruition in a very real way.
On Wednesday morning we arranged to meet with Zemen Endale, a former teacher who together with four other Ethiopian Christian friends of his have established a Christian organization called Media ministry, which among other things, is involved in translation work. We were engaging him into doing some translation work for us of good sound Christian literature. The meeting culminated into the signing of a contract with him and his ministry to translate some Christian literature into Amharic and Afaan Oromo. We gave him our first book instalment in the Christian classic series by Grace Publication, entitled Absolutely Basic by Horatius Bonar and J.C. Ryle. Zemen helpfully led us to think through not only translating into Amharic, the official language of Ethiopia, but also into Afaan Oromo, the language of the Oromo people, Ethiopia’s largest ethnic group. We are prayerfully working towards contributing to making biblically sound Christian literature available to the Ethiopian readership. We are persuaded that biblical reformation will be greatly advanced in the land of Ethiopia through sound Christian literature.
“Meeting” with Steve Burchett and Salamab Assefa
We had a get-together with Steve Burchett (a pastor with Jim Elliff at Christ Fellowship of Kansas City and Christian Communicators Worldwide [CCW]) and Salamab Assefa (an intern at Christ Fellowship of Kansas City is also working on translation work with CCW. He recently graduated with a MDiv from Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, Missouri. They were preaching and teaching among the Kale Heywot churches in Addis. The Kale Heywott (which is translated the ‘Word of Life’) Church is said to be the largest evangelical denomination in Ethiopia, established 83 years ago, by what was then called the Sudan Interior (or, Inland) Mission, now ‘Serving In Mission’ (SIM). It is said that this denomination has more than 6 million members in over 6 thousand congregations spread right across Ethiopia.
Coming back to Steve and Salamab, one can read more about their mission to Ethiopia on Steve’s twitter (www.twitter.com/steveburchett) and Selamab’s blog (www.Selamab.wordpress.com). Our brethren are busy working on translating some of Jim Eliff’s evangelistic tools, like Wasted Faith and Pursuing God into the Amharic language. This was exciting news indeed for us. Talk about likeminded brethren! The Lord has evidently been stirring His people around the world to respond to the great need for biblically sound Christian literature for the people of Ethiopia. We give thanks to the Lord for His wondrous providence!
Later that day, we headed for Bole International Airport to pick an American brother, Phil Nichols, an elder at Sovereign Grace Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Florida, who was making his second mission trip to Ethiopia. The purpose of his trip was to find out God’s will for them in Ethiopia, as a church back home. They are also involved in supporting the work towards homeless and orphaned children on the streets of Addis, under a Christian NGO called Children’s Home Ethiopia. Phil was to be part of the team as we preached at the two conferences.
Ministry to the churches in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
September 30th – October 2nd.
The gathering for the semi-conference and church leaders training programme was at Gullele Addis Kidan Baptist Church. 43 people (which included 8 ladies) were gathered together enthusiastically to listen to the preaching of God’s word. It reminded us of the beginnings of the Zambian Reformed Family conference 21 years ago this year. The number increased slightly over the 3 days of ministry. Our brother Alem, part of the Ethiopian Addis Kidan Baptist Church denominational leadership in charge of Christian Education, was at hand to welcome the team.
The theme of the conference was ‘Redemption: Accomplished and Applied’. Our excellent translator, Solomon Abebe, joined us on the first day of the conference. It was good seeing him and his wife again, for the Lord has truly endeared them to our hearts. Solomon is a man of likemind in theological perspectives and kindred spirit for the cause of the gospel and missions in Ethiopia. He has just commenced his postgraduate study programme in theology at the Ethiopian Graduate School of Theology (EGST) in Addis.
Anthony opened the meetings with a keynote address from 1 Peter 1:1-12. He pointed out the importance of the gospel message in the Christian’s faith and life. He showed how Peter encouraged the Christians who were undergoing persecutions and trials with the truths of the gospels of Jesus Christ.
Over the next three days, Isaac handled the aspect of the ‘accomplishment of redemption in Jesus Christ’, from Hebrews chapters 9 and 10. He through his usual style of a thorough expository treatment of the these two chapters of Hebrews, illustrated how the earthly Old Testament tabernacle was a picture of the work of Christ as our great High Priest. He showed just how the Old Testament prefigured the work of redemption in the New Testament in Christ as our great High Priest. He showed how Jesus Christ was both the tabernacle itself and the sacrifice offered. He argued that the work of redemption was what was called substitutionary atonement. “It is Jesus Christ and Him alone who has secured for us an eternal redemption. He secured it through His own death on the cross. He secured these for us by a payment of a ransom, His own life.” He showed the sufficiency and completeness of the redemptive work of Jesus Christ.
During the same period, Victor dealt with the aspect of the ‘application of redemption by the Holy Spirit’ from Romans 8:28-30 and other texts. He began by pointing out that there was no singular text of passage in God’s word that dealt exhaustively with the application of redemption. He pointed out that salvation was a sovereign work of God – not only in its design but also in its application. He emphasized that God planned the whole scheme of salvation to be accomplished in His Son, Jesus Christ. In His death on the cross, Christ obtained eternal redemption securing for us the forgiveness of sin, peace with God and eternal salvation. However, God did not just plan the whole scheme of salvation, He also sovereign planned its application by the work of the Holy Spirit is those who were to believe in Jesus Christ. He demonstrated that the application of redemption to the life and soul of a person was a sovereign work of God’s distinguishing grace. He argued that God engages a process in the application of salvation (technically referred to as the ordo salutis). He sketched a biblical model of the ordo salutis, showing that the whole process is a sovereign work of God. That even at the points were divine and human activities may be recognized, the divine always takes the initiative and the human is a response to that initiative. He further argued that the process in the application of salvation was a sequential process, that is, following in a logical order or sequence. It is commenced, continued and consummated by a sovereign work God. He concluded by showing the practical value of embracing a biblical ordo salutis. He argued that understanding the biblical order of the application of salvation had both personal and pastoral significance as we engaged in biblical counseling with oneself and others.
Behold Him there! the bleeding Lamb!
My perfect, spotless Righteousness,
The great unchangeable, I AM,
The King of glory and of grace.
One with Himself, I cannot die,
My soul is purchased by His blood;
My life is hid with Christ on high,
With Christ, my Saviour and my God.
The brethren responded well to the ministry of God’s word and trust that the Lord will continue to establish His truth in the hearts of His people in Ethiopia. Oh, that His people in Ethiopia will embrace and love His truth, proclaiming it far and wide across their beautiful land.
Dinner with the Addis Kidan Baptist leadership
The EAKBC denominational leadership, consisting Kifle (the General Secretary) and Alem (the Christian Education Coordinator) arranged a welcome dinner for us at one of the restaurants in Addis. Our time began with the usual pleasantries and proceeded on a very friendly note. We had no clue what the Lord had in store for us. Kifle began to share with us their vision for the development of Church leadership for the EAKBC. They shared how they were planning to draw up a Church leadership development programme for the whole EAKBC, and requested us to take up the training and to micromanage the development of doctrinal section of the programme. The programme will also involve the training of men aspiring for the Christian ministry through a mentoring programme. What could we say in response, besides bowing down in worship to our great missionary God:
How good is the God we adore,
Our faithful, unchangeable Friend!
His love is as great as His power
And knows neither measure nor end!
‘Tis Jesus the First and the Last,
Whose Spirit shall guide us safe home;
We’ll praise Him for all that is past;
We’ll trust Him for all that’s to come.
In many ways, our brethren were answering the question raised in our meeting in Zambia: “Where do we go from here?” Listening to Kifle and Alem share their vision with us that evening, we just realized how the Lord was opening up a door for us in Zambia to partner with our brethren in Ethiopia in the work of biblical Reformation. Truly the Lord is answering the prayers of His people for the work of missions in Ethiopia, and is uniting our hearts with those of our Ethiopian brothers and sisters. Let us continue to pray for much and lasting fruit from this developing fellowship between the Reformed Baptist fraternity in Zambia and the EAKBC churches in Ethiopia.
Our brethren were clearly extending a ‘Macedonian call’ to the team to play a role in the Church leadership development programme. We assured them of the prayerful interest and support from the Zambian Reformed Baptist churches. This was beyond what we had expect, even in our most wildest dreams. However, it was as the apostle Paul declared to the Ephesians: “Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us” (Ephesians 3:20 ESV).
Worship at the International Evangelical Church
On the Lord’s Day, we headed for International Evangelical Church (IEC). It a multiracial and multinational church, with a significant middle to upper classes of the Ethiopian and international society. Addis host a number of international institutional like the African Union, the Economic Commission for Africa, and several other United Nations agencies. The IEC is strategically placed, on a beautiful and central property, with a great opportunity to influence the direction of the nation through a powerful expository ministry. The pastor of the church is an American, Gary Threatt, who served as a missionary with the Southern Baptist Convention in Ethiopia some 15 years ago. He was called back to pastor the IEC. As we approached the main worship sanctuary we could not avoid noticing an advert for the “Alpha Course”. It spoke volumes of the doctrinal direction (or should we say, the lack of it) of the church. There was also a Book Table, and out of interest we turned to look at the various titles on sale. Out of the more than hundred titles on display, only two deserved a second look. Isaac and Victor snatched the two books, the rest, as C.H. Spurgeon would say, “…were only good to lighting kitchen fires with.” Undoubtedly the worship was heartwarming, though with the conspicuous evidence that the congregation had not been spared from the pseudo-Charismatic influence that has dreadfully infected much of African evangelicalism.
The pastor, it would appear, has been preaching through Colossians, and that Lord’s Day he was handling Colossians 1:24-29 under the theme ‘Worth it All!’ The dearth of sound exegesis in the sermon, late alone application, would be clearly evident to anyone who has been raised on the rich diet of consecutive sound expository preaching ministry. As we left the church building, we were unanimous in our conclusion that Ethiopia needed a Reformed Baptist presence like yesterday.
Ministry to the churches in Debre Zeyit
October 4th – October 5th.
Early Monday morning, we headed for Debra Zeyit to the east of Addis Ababa. Formerly known as Bishoftu, Debra Zeyit, which means ‘Mountain of Olives’ was the “Christian” name imposed on it by Emperor Haile Selassie in the early 1960s, and is still marked as such on many maps despite having officially reverted to its more historically valid Oromo name of Bishoftu in the late 1990s. Set at an altitude of 1,900m about 50km drive from Addis. It is the tenth largest town in the country, with a population of about 200,000. Debra Zeyit straddles the surfaced Adama road. From the main road through town, there is not a hint of the fact that it lies at the epicentre of what is perhaps the most accessible crater-lake field in Africa. At least six such lakes are dotted around Debra Zeyit, two of which – Bishoftu and Hora – lie practically within the town centre – making it an excellent outing spot for any family.
We picked Abinet, a friend of Solomon, a final year student at ETC, who was to translator for us on Monday, for Solomon was taking classes. Our new translator plans to pursue a Masters degree at the Nazarene Theological institute in Nairobi, Kenya. He was an exceptional translator in the high class as Solomon. We were informed by our Amharic speaking brethren that he did it with extraordinary skill and a good command of the language as used the language as set forth in the Amharic translation of the Bible. This may not be the last time we will be knocking on his door for this service. Solomon rejoined us on Tuesday, the second and last day of the conference in Debra Zeyit.
The gathering in Debra Zeyit was between 15 to 20 people. We also noted about 3 to 4 ladies who had come to prepare the meals, but also joined the conference. Our brother Kifle was there to welcome us. He lives in Debra Zeyit and commutes to Addis for work at the EAKBC offices. He kindly welcomed us and extended an invitation to preach God’s word to the gathered brethren. Anthony began by giving a brief exhortation from 2 Samuel 6:1ff. He noted from the passage, that the foundational problem was not so much that Uzzah touched the Ark of the Covenant. Yes, Uzzah was wrong in reaching out to touch the Ark. However, the foundational problem was David imitating the Philistines. The Philistines had moved the ark from Jerusalem by use of an oxen driven cart. It had proved more efficient and quicker. David thought that that was a brilliant option to move the ark back to Jerusalem. However, God had earlier indicated that the ark was to be carried on the shoulders of the appointed men. Anthony said that was essentially the problem that plagued the church today. “So when we, looking at the church and how we are to move it forward, we don’t look to the Bible for guidance, but to the world and its definition of success. All that we need is given to us in the Bible.”
With slight modifications over a period of two days, Isaac and Victor delivered condensed versions of the Bible exposition they preached earlier to the gathering at Gullele Addis Kidan Baptist Church in the capital city. The attentiveness to the preaching of God’s word and the enthusiastic response it brought forth was typical of our Ethiopian brethren. The Lord has granted to them a humble heart to learn. To witness this was simply heartwarming and encouraging. It was becoming clear with us that the Lord was showing us an open door for the work of missions to the land of the Ethiopian eunuch.
We ended the ministry in Debra Zeyit with an extended time of Q and A session (Question and Answer). As may be anticipated, the questions revolved around issues to do with the relationship between divine sovereignty and human responsibility. A lively discussion, characterised by a friendly and mutually respectful atmosphere. Clearly they had understood what was been taught and were seeking to engage with the practical implications of it. At the end of the session, our brother Kifle closed the meeting and thanked everyone for coming and participating. As we were exchanging our final pleasantries with Kifle, he mentioned again their desire to partner with us in Zambia in the work of the Lord in Ethiopia. It became clear that this was not merely parting pleasantries, but again an echo of their earlier ‘Macedonian call’.
A Courtesy Call on Frew Tamrat
On our back from Debra Zeyit, Anthony and Victor dropped off at the Evangelical Theological College (ETC) in Addis, for a courtesy call with Frew Tamrat, the principal of the institute. The ETC campus is situated at the same premises as the IEC. Both the church and the theological institute were established by Serving In Missions (SIM) missionaries. The ETC was officially opened on March 4th, 1989. Like our TCCA, ETC has contributed much to the growth of the evangelical movement in Ethiopia. Our appointment with Frew was arranged by Dr Steven Brians, a friend of Anthony’s who is a theological professor at the graduate school of theology. We discussed the possibility of lecturing at the college on a part time basis.
Isaac and Victor back to Lusaka
Yoseph and Anthony escorted Isaac and Victor to the airport to catch their morning flight back home. We rejoice in Lord and thank Him for what He was pleased and continues to do among His people in Ethiopia. Clearly the Lord has been working among them even before we came to know about them. However, much needs to be done by way of biblical Reformation in the EAKBC. Let us continue to pray that a wonderful work of biblical Reformation does take root in Ethiopia.
Reflections on the Mission to Ethiopia
Allow us now to share with you some areas that are being impressed on our hearts while we continue to carry out these mission trips to Ethiopia. We invite you to prayerfully reflect together with us on of these issues that we believe the Lord may be calling us to do:
- Let us thank the Lord for the ‘Macedonian call’ coming to us Reformed Baptists in Zambia from the EAKBC to partner with them in the work of missions in the land of Ethiopia and beyond. Let us pray that the Lord would truly unite our hearts for His glorious redemptive purpose with the brethren in Ethiopia that this partnership will bring forth lasting fruit to the glory of His name.
- Let us pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest for a missionary pastor to be sent from among us to plant a new English-speaking Reformed Baptist church in Addis under the EAKBC that will become a ‘model work’, and to assist run the EAKBC’s church leadership development/training programme.
- Let us continue to pray for the evangelization of the various ethnic groups across the length and breadth of Ethiopia. There is an estimated 85 million people to be reached with the gospel of Jesus Christ. Let us also continue to pray for EAKBC churches across Ethiopia to embrace a true biblical reformation in doctrine, worship and life. Let us pray for the planting and establishment of biblically sound local churches across the country.
- Let us continue to pray for more to respond to the challenge to translate and publish biblically solid and sound Christian literature and theological works in the Amharic and Afaan Oromo languages (and indeed the other languages of this beautiful country).
- Let us continue pray for Solomon and his wife, Alex. For Solomon as he settles down in his postgraduate studies in Addis and for suitable accommodation so that his wife may speedily join him. Solomon is a strategic brother to our mission to Ethiopia. He has greatly contributed to our ministry and mission in Ethiopia, and we pray the Lord would grant us more days of labour together for the extension of His kingdom in Ethiopia and beyond.
Oh, may the Sovereign Lord our Saviour be pleased to enlarge our hearts for missions to Ethiopia and beyond: “Enlarge the place of your tent, stretch your tent curtains wide, do not hold back; lengthen your cords, strengthen your stakes” (Isaiah 54:2). Amen!