Ethiopian college president returns to Anabaptist churchBy Jewel Showalter Eastern Mennonite Missions
ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia — When the search committee of Meserete Kristos College invited Negash Kebede to become the school’s next president in March, he couldn’t have been more surprised.
He had grown up with the Meserete Kristos Church, attending a Mennonite-run elementary school in his hometown, Bedeno, and graduating with the first class from the Nazareth Bible Academy in 1963. But he had spent the last 20 years outside formal MKC circles.
“[The invitation] was unexpected, but somehow it feels right,” Kebede said.
Kebede was academic dean and then later director of his alma mater in Nazareth from 1970 to 1975. From there he was invited to serve at Eastern Mennonite Missions headquarters in Salunga, Pa., as associate director for East Africa.
While living in the United States, he earned a master’s degree in education at Temple University in Philadelphia and taught at Locust Grove Mennonite School in Smoketown, Pa.
During Ethiopia’s Marxist-dominated 1980s, many churches were closed and their properties seized — including the campus of the Nazareth Bible Academy, which Kebede headed until his own imprisonment in 1982.
After four years in prison, Kebede quietly took up math and science teaching at the International School.
“I was tired and disoriented,” he said. “I needed time to heal and understand where I fit.”
Since resurfacing in 1991, Kebede said, the MKC and other evangelical churches have grown rapidly. The MKC now has 144,000 baptized members, many of them young people who are eager for education.
“We must not become satisfied and complacent in the good things that have happened in the revival,” he said.
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