Ethiopian Lutheran church rises stronger after persecution

February 17, 2011

Dr. Neitzel with EEMYC pastors

by Rev. Leonardo Neitzel


ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia – The second day of the Ethiopian Evangelical Mekane Yesus Church (EEMYC) Theological and Missions Conference saw around 3.000 pastors and other church leaders gathered for education, inspiration and fellowship. It was a day packed with music, preaching and essays focusing on different areas under the major theme of mission.

Some statistics presented about the EEMYC filled our hearts with joy and gratitude for the boldness of our Lutheran brothers and sisters in regards to the expansion of the Lord’s kingdom in Ethiopia and beyond. We learned there are:

  • 7.000 congregations (The goal and plan is to reach 10.000 shortly.)
  • 3.000 preaching or mission stations
  • 5.6 Million members
  • 21 synods (which we call districts)
  • 34 Bible colleges
  • 5 seminaries

Following the fall of Ethiopia’s communist regime in 1991, Lutheranism grew quickly. Here are some of the factors related to that growth:

  1. Strong investment in Bible schools and Bible institutes;
  2. Production and distribution of Christian literature;
  3. National outreach plan for planting churches;
  4. Comprehensive and holistic ministry – ministering to the whole person, body soul and mind;
  5. Impact of the church’s persecution under the Communist regime. This fact revitalized the house churches, family prayer and Bible studies. In a certain way the Ethiopian Lutherans thank the Italian and communist regimes which banned missionaries from the country. When these missionaries were allowed to come back, the “underground church” was stronger and revitalized. As early Christian writer Tertullian says, “The blood of martyrs is the seed of the church.”
  6. Laity training and delegation for mission;
  7. Rediscovery of the power of the Holy Spirit in providing for the person in all aspects of life – spiritual and physical. People who had received a prayer during a difficult physical illness, a tragedy, or at a death-bed committed themselves completely to the witness of their faith in Jesus Christ. The church has a strong social ministry with a budget of about 3.1 billion birr (their currency) or about US$18.3 million.

 Theirs is this strong slogan and confession: “If the Lord is with us, who can be against us?”

 Rev. Dr. Leonardo Neitzel is Lutheran Church–Canada’s mission executive

Ethiopian Lutherans are bold in their Christian faith

February 16, 2011

More than 2500 pastors and church leaders are participating in the conference

by Rev. Leonardo Neitzel

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia – The first day of the Ethiopian Evangelical Mekane Yesus Church’s (EEMYC) Theological Conference was attended by easily more than 2,500 pastors, including Lutheran delegations from North America, Europe and African countries. This conference is the first of its kind in the EEMYC and is focusing on areas such as the biblical foundations for church, ministry and mission and practical aspects of mission.

The Lutherans in Ethiopia are vibrant in their worship, fellowship and interaction with all people, regardless of country, language and cultural background. The are also committed and bold in their stand on the Holy Scripture and on the Lutheran teaching and confession. We see they are deeply disturbed and challenged by the decisions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) on homosexuality. During the conference they reaffirmed, by repeating several times in the audience, the Solas or Alones of the Lutheran Church’s theology – Christ Alone, Scripture Alone, Grace Alone and Faith Alone.

The Lutheran Church in Ethiopia, from what I have seen, is clear in its confession about God’s call to mission and ministry as well as about God’s goal for the Lutheran Church’s mission in Africa and around the world.

Praise God for such a vision!

Rev.  Dr. Leonardo Neitzel is Lutheran Church–Canada’s mission executive

God’s Spirit evident at Ethiopian conference

February 14, 2011

by Rev. Marv Ziprick

I was honoured by the Oromo community in Edmonton to accompany their leaders to attend a two- day conference (February 12 and 13) of the Mekane Yesus (Place of Jesus) Church in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The theme of the conference was “ILAAMEE” (Give me your attention)—emphasizing the call of God upon our lives to bear witness to Jesus and share the Gospel.

On Sunday, Rev. Dr. Leonardo Neitzel (representing Lutheran Church–Canada) and I were privileged to worship in Millenium Hall with more than 10,000 of our Oromo brothers and sisters in Christ. The three-and-a-half hour service was vibrant and inspiring. It reflected the Oromo culture in dress, music and dancing.

A highlight of the service was the children's choir.

More than forty young adults led the service in song. Speakers included a personal testimony from a man who was a Muslim and came to faith in Jesus. His message was simple: “Whatever you do for Jesus …it will not be in vain.” The preacher was Rev. Dr. Gemechis Buba who spoke on the power of God’s Word… just as God spoke in the beginning and “it was so”…so, today His Word still has the power to create new life and bring and light.

Nine young adults were commissioned as evangelists

The Mekane Yesus Church in Ethiopia numbers 5.4 million members. It has a long and strong evangelistic thrust. It has sent missionaries to Asia as well as other African countries. During today’s worship nine young adults were commissioned as evangelists with the laying on of hands and prayer. They are being sent to parts of Ethiopia where the Gospel has not been heard.

In this conference the presence and power of God’s Spirit certainly has been evident. I admire their joy-filled spirits and their zeal in sharing the Gospel.

This week Rev. Neitzel and I will attend a theological conference attended by 2000 Oromo pastors as well as representatives from Lutheran Church bodies in Africa, Europe and North America. Please remember the participants in your prayers.

Following the conference I have the honour of attending a wedding at Nekemte (in western Ethiopia). One of our Oromo brothers from Edmonton will be married on Sunday, February 20.

Rev Marv Ziprick is senior pastor of Bethel Lutheran Church, Sherwood Park, Alberta and works with an Oromo congregation in downtown Edmonton.

Ethiopian conference marked by singing and clear Gospel message

February 14, 2011

by Rev. Leonardo Neitzel


Thousands gathered for a two-day outreach conference in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (February 13, 2011) – The second day of the Ilaamee Mission Conference of the International Oromo Mission and Cultural Convention in Addis Ababa started on Sunday at 9 a.m. with a crowd of close to 10,000. (On Saturday there were about 7.000.) There were several children’s and young adults’ choirs having between 50 to 100 singers and dancers. The Lutheran Church has been known as the church which sings and—praise God— the Ethiopian Lutherans honour this reputation as I witnessed them singing for more than two hours and involving the large crowd.

They show a strong understanding of, and affection for the Word of God and to sharing it through music, singing and repeating key Bible verses through praise songs. One song was adapted from Isaiah 40:28-31: “I love you, my Lord, because you are my strength and my protection.” The children sang “We are children of Light through the plans of God”, based on Jesus—the Light of the world—and his encouragement for us to let our light shine.

After a Gospel call message by Dr. Gemechis Desta Buba, about 20 people came forward to receive a prayer as they were brought to Christ through the Gospel and joined the Christian faith. There were several moments of sharing in the Word of God and prayer. It was a true celebration as an expression of gratitude for the blessings the Lord has providing for the Lutheran church in Ethiopia and in the world and for the opportunities to share the Gospel freely in this country.

The foreign Lutheran delegations greeted the convention on behalf of their synods. The audience cheered in appreciation upon hearing about LCC and Canadian Oromos establishing a partnership in the Gospel of Jesus Christ in Canada and Ethiopia.

The celebration continued for the whole afternoon and the only empty seats in the auditorium those once occupied by the foreign delegates who were bused to the palace of the Prime Minister of Ethiopia, Mr. Meles Zenawi. The meeting was arranged by the Ethiopian Evangelical Mekane Yesus Church. This was a very special moment as the prime minister showed some video clips and spoke highly about his country and administration. He noted that Ethiopia is in a new era of growth and development economically, educationally, socially, medically, and especially in the area of construction and farming. He also mentioned about the freedom of religion in his country and about the strong presence of Christians and the Lutheran contribution. He emphasized the Biblical foundation of the country as some of the Biblical accounts relate to the people and the country Ethiopia. The president of the EEMY, Rev. Dr. Wakseyoum Idossa and Dr. Buba expressed our gratitude to the Prime Minister for making himself available on a Sunday afternoon to meet the Lutherans.

Dr. Neitzel and an Ethiopian shepherd and his wife.

Ethiopia, a land of 1.14 million square kilometers, with a population of 80 Million, is 83.9% rural and 16.1% urban, with many languages, Amharic and Oromo the two largest. Other language groups are: Cushitic, Semitic, Nilo-Saharan, Tigeryna, Guragyna, Aquwat. Including English, there are about 83 languages spoken in Ethiopia.

The 5.4 million Lutherans set an example as they are faithfully committed to the Word of God, to the Lutheran faith and confession, and to sharing the love of Jesus with their countrymen – and they do it joyfully through words spoken, sung or danced.

As we welcome the Oromo communities into the fellowship of Lutheran Church–Canada, we thank and praise the Lord for the tremendous service Ethiopian Lutherans have undertaken for the sake of the Gospel. Through their focus, readiness and service they do not want to lose sight of the growth and steadfastness of their brothers and sisters in the Lutheran church as they move to other countries. Their Christian faith and testimony is vibrant and they are willing to take charge of any opportunity to share the love of Jesus Christ.

Rev. Dr. Leonardo Neitzel is responsible for Lutheran Church–Canada’s overseas mission program and supervises LCC’s Pastors with Alternate Training program which prepares students for cultural-specific ministry.

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