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Ethiopian church is “not ashamed of the Gospel” says LCC pastor

February 18, 2011 3 Comments

Ethiopian mission conference closing service choir

 

Following three days of discussion, worship and fellowship the Ethiopian Evangelical Mekane Yesus Church’s (EEMYC) International Theological and Mission Conference in Addis Ababa concluded with a closing service marked by singing, preaching, prayer and the celebration of the Lord’s Supper. Organizers asked the pastors to be in prayer for about one hour prior to the service. “Just imagine about 3.000 voiced and silent heart-felt prayers being lifted up to our God for about one hour!” remarked Rev. Dr. Leonardo Neitzel, Lutheran Church–Canada’s mission executive and representative at the conference. 

The sermon was based on Romans 1:14,15: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile. For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: ‘The righteous will live by faith.’” 

Dr. Neitzel noted that although only 20 percent of the Oromo population is Christian, their goal is to reach out to the entire nation. “Our Lutheran brothers and sisters in Ethiopia are not ashamed of the Gospel.” 

While at the conference, Dr. Neitzel received a copy of the Book of Concord recently translated into Amharic. According to an Ethiopian representative of the St. Louis-based Lutheran Heritage Foundation, the EEMYC has published about 800 copies, but wants to increase the number soon so that every pastor can have a copy.  

Dr. Neitzel with pastors from rural Ethiopia

 

The EEMYC has a history of Bible translation. Towards the end of the 18th century God miraculously used three Oromo slaves to translate the Bible into the Oromo language, Oromiffa. The church continues teaching and distributing Bibles and Christian literature to their countrymen. 

Along with other North American Lutheran representatives, Dr. Neitzel enjoyed a dinner at the home of Guddinaa Tumsaa’s daughter and her family. She and her husband were among the organizers of the conference. With their children, they are strong leaders in the church. 

Guddinaa Tumsaa was born on May 5, 1929 into the Oromo society—a people oppressed and deprived of all freedoms in their own country during the second half of the 19th century. He was the General Secretary of the EEMYC from 1966-1979 and strongly opposed and confronted the oppression inflicted on his people by the communist regime during his time. He refused to take an assignment on behalf of the regime, was imprisoned and subsequently executed. His body was buried in an unknown location 13 years. After the regime was overthrown, he was reburied by the family. 

They are not ashamed of the Gospel because they live by Jesus’ promises 

“Our Lutheran brothers and sisters in Ethiopia have other interesting stories about their people enduring suffering and death for the sake of their witness to the Gospel,” reported Dr. Neitzel. “When a pastor shared about a faithful Christian woman who was killed by a gun shot with her baby in her womb as she was trying to keep the door of her house closed when threatened by her enemies—or enemies of the cross of Jesus, the conference stood up and praised God.” The attackers wanted her to deny her faith in Jesus Christ and she wouldn’t. From inside her home she shouted, “Please, don’t hate me, don’t beat me, don’t kill me”, but they didn’t listen. Today, where her home stands, there is a flourishing, faithful church committed to proclaiming the Gospel in the surrounding community. 

Dr. Neitzel observed that Jesus’ warnings and promises, especially in Revelation 2:10, are very alive to the Oromo Christians, “Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you life as your victor’s crown.” 

“They are not ashamed of the Gospel,” he continued, “because they live by Jesus’ promises that even the gates of Hades will not be able to overcome the Church of Jesus Christ and His message. Tertullian, the church father from the second century said that ‘the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.’ This saying, referring to the Early Church’s martyrs, couldn’t apply better to the Ethiopian Christian church as it has endured suffering, persecution and death for the sake of the same Gospel of Jesus Christ. 

Dr. Neitzel and conference organizer Dr.Gemechis Desta Buba, mission executive for the North American Lutheran Church.

 

“Their endurance and suffering is certainly not the cause, goal or purpose of their boldness, neither do they see it as a meritorious way of deserving or gaining salvation. They do not look for suffering in order to earn salvation, but they endure all trials because of the salvation received through the merits of Jesus Christ our Saviour and Lord. They know that suffering came and may come as they confess Jesus as the Only Saviour, Lord and way to heaven. They refer to their suffering as one of the marks of the militant church, distinguished from the marks of Word and sacraments, as well as an identification with the Early Church, the Apostles and many others who surrendered their entire lives and possessions for the salvation of many and for the glory of the name of Jesus Christ. 

They are not ashamed of the Gospel because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes 

“They are not ashamed of the Gospel because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes. They acknowledge that it is the Holy Spirit who models their lives and witness after Jesus Christ, ‘who being Himself God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped to His own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross!’ (Phil. 2:5-11)” 

Children's choir

 

Addis Ababa means “New Flower” in honour of Empress Taytu Betul, wife of Emperor Menelik II, the founder of the city. She would go out daily to pick flowers in her garden and joyfully exclaim at each flower, “a new flower!” As a result of the Christian presence and witness, Ethiopia is a new and flourishing country. After the persecution, the Christian church is new and flourishing and Dr. Neitzel observed that the Lutherans are “sharing about their new life of freedom from bondage of sin, living in a free country making the best of the time in a new era of Gospel proclamation to their country and the entire continent. What a tremendous identification—new flower, new life, new opportunities of witness—because Jesus, the Lord of the Church makes everything new!” 

In a final note, Dr. Neitzel challenged all Christians saying: “May the determination, faithfulness and commitment of our brothers and sisters in Ethiopia fill our hearts with joy and gratitude to our Lord. May the Holy Spirit continue to inspire, comfort and encourage them and us in our witness to the same Gospel in our society and geographical context today.” 

Rev. Dr. Leonardo Neitzel is responsible for overseas mission and social ministry for Lutheran Church–Canada. He also coordinates the Pastors with Alternate Training program. His conference reports are at www.lccontheroad.ca

  • Observer

    Evangelical westerners continue to expolit africans.

    Shame on you!

    • canluth

      Thanks for reading the report. Perhaps you can explain how learning from the Ethiopian church is exploitation.

    • Missions

      In what ways do you see exploitation? I would appreciate knowing about this from you.

      Thank you.

      Leonardo