Ethiopians trained for cross-cultural gospel outreachBy J. Showalter Eastern Mennonite Missions
DEBRA ZEIT, Ethiopia — The Meserete Kristos (Christ Is the Foundation) Church is fanning the flame of indigenous movements to Jesus.
The MKC — the Mennonite church in Ethiopia — is stepping up mission training for new cross-cultural outreaches in each of its 27 districts.
Yemiru Tilahun, director of the MKC evangelism and missions department, believes God is trusting the MKC to help empower movements for Christ in the Coptic Orthodox and Muslim communities.
“God gave us fire, and we want to give it away,” said one of the 35 MKC church workers from all over Ethiopia who came to Meserete Kristos College in Debra Zeit April 6-May 12 for the first of four monthlong School of Missions training programs in cross-cultural church planting.
Participants learned mission theology, history and strategy in English and Amharic.
For three days the students studied “Tentmaking in Missions” and came up with business ideas to help support themselves in the work to which they feel God is calling them.
Another three-day seminar focused on “Outreach to Muslims.” Many of the students come from Muslim-dominated regions and several from Muslim backgrounds.
While Ethiopia’s Coptic Christianity dates back at least to the fourth century, it’s been surrounded by a vigorous, expanding Muslim community for centuries. The road to Awasa in the Rift Valley that leads through rural Oromo country is punctuated with colorful little mosques. While this kind of encroachment feels unsettling to many of Ethiopia’s Christians, MKC’s response is not one of fear but of compassion and concern for their Muslim neighbors.
“We intentionally moved into this majority-Muslim community,” one MKC pastor said. He told of a Muslim girl who attended the weekly children’s club he hosts for more than 60 children in his small apartment. One night when her mother was desperately ill, the little girl knocked on the pastor’s door.
Though it was 3 a.m., the pastor and his wife hurried to the bedside of the distressed woman. When they prayed for her, she was released from evil spirits and regained consciousness. They led her and her family to Christ.
In one community a group of Muslim sheiks asked an MKC businessman to teach them about Jesus. In response to this request the church has started monthly training sessions for a group of leaders. The men remain active in their Muslim communities while also beginning to teach the Bible to their people.
MKC Missions supports 130 full-time cross-cultural missionaries, seven of whom work internationally. Ethiopian businessmen and partnering mission agencies such as Eastern Mennonite Missions assist with the support of these indigenous mission workers as well as with mission training.
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