Grave Singogo preaching in Jimma, Ethiopia

The Macedonian Call

Last year in January, Conrad Mbewe and Wilson Kamanga travelled to Addis Ababa. Their visit was a fact-finding mission in response to a “Macedonian call” from that land. That Macedonian call came from Anthony Mathenia. Anthony needed help with the growing work in Ethiopia and was pointed to the Reformed Baptists in Zambia for that help. They went to see how the Reformed Baptist fraternity in Zambia could help with the Addis Kidan (which means “New Testament”) Baptist family of churches. These churches presently number about 65. They are mainly situated to the southwest of Addis Ababa. They have about sixty men undergoing modular-based training in Addis Ababa. This is with a view that they should go into church planting efforts across the country.

After this fact-finding missions, the two of us (Victor Kanyense and Grave Singogo), were selected to undertake the first Zambian Reformed Baptist mission to the land of the Ethiopian Eunuch. We travelled to Ethiopia for a Church Leadership Training programme organised by Anthony Mathenia.

We arrived in Addis Ababa, on Wednesday, 4th November, to a warm and hearty Christian welcome from Anthony in the company of Yoseph, a wonderful Ethiopian Christian brother. Yoseph drove us around all the time we were in Ethiopia. The next morning at about 07:00 hours, Anthony and Yoseph came to pick us up from the Addis Kidan Baptist guesthouse where we had spent the night, for our mission trip to Jimma in the southwest of the country.

As we finally left Addis Ababa for Jimma, we were a team of six. We were joined by Alem, a full-time worker with the Addis Kidan Baptist Association and Bisrat[1]. They both served as able translators during the training programme. The rest of the team was Anthony, Yoseph, and ourselves.

Jimma is the largest city in southwest Ethiopia. It is located in the Jimma Zone of the Oromia Region. It was the capital of Kaffa Province until the province was dissolved. Herbert S Lewis states that in the early 1960s, Jimma was “the greatest market in all of south-western Ethiopia. On a good day in the dry season it attracts up to thirty thousand people.”[2] Driving to Jimma makes the trip worthwhile in itself. The landscape is great from the outskirts of Addis Ababa, with the beautiful Menagesha forest appearing on your right to lead the onslaught of scenery. The view continues with the Omo Valley, justifiably marked as one of the country’s most picturesque drives on the tourism map. Winding down and up the valley was the highlight of the trip. After about 400 km, we arrived at the city of Jimma. The Western Oromos tribe is overwhelmingly Muslim. It is this Islamic culture that gives Jimma its atmosphere.

After we had checked into a local hotel and had our late lunch, we headed for the Addis Kidan Baptist Church in Jimma where the training programme was graciously hosted. A sizeable group, comprising church leaders and members of the local congregation with their pastor, Getinet, was gathered to welcome us. These Ethiopian Christians came across to us as rather shy people, though very warm, friendly and welcoming. There were brief tea breaks in between the sessions that we had. These breaks were mingled with beautiful Ethiopian singing and enthusiastic prayers and praise to the Lord.

 

Ministry

We gave introductory expositions to the Bible themes we were to speak on for the next two days. Grave spoke on Christology, focusing on the person and work of our great God and Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ. He sketched the biblical doctrine of Christ showing that our Saviour is both God and man. He reaffirmed the fact that the work of Christ is not simply confined to his work on the cross, but spans all the way from eternity to his second coming. In other words, though the most central and important aspect of the work of Christ on earth was his death on the cross, it is not limited to it. Indeed the work of Christ on earth is inclusive of his birth, death, burial, resurrection, and ascension. Christ’s work further includes his exaltation, intercession, second coming and his final judgement. Grave explained each of these aspects of Christ’s work in detail during the course of the training programme.

Victor spoke on soteriology, expounding some of the major Bible texts. He set the context for the studies by beginning with the foundation of what necessitated the sovereign work of God in salvation. He presented an overview of Genesis 3 showing the nature and consequences of the fall of humanity. The following day, Victor took up Genesis 3:15, expounding the protevangelium, showing the announcement of a prolonged struggle, perpetual antagonism, wounds on both sides, and eventual victory for the seed of woman. He further illustrated this in expositions of Isaiah 53 and Isaiah 55 in the two sessions on Friday, showing the sufferings of Christ and triumph of the cross for the salvation of the elect of God. On Saturday, Victor took up two passages in Ephesians. He dealt with the theme of God’s work of salvation for us in Ephesians 1, showing how the Triune God planned our great salvation. He elucidated the points as God the Father electing a people for himself, God the Son, Jesus Christ, redeeming the elect, and God the Holy Spirit sealing God’s people for eternity. In Ephesians 2, he dealt with the theme of God’s work of salvation in us, showing the absolute sovereignty of God in the work of salvation.

The response to the preached word during the sessions simply overwhelmed us. We had never experienced such attentiveness and discipline as men and women are instructed from God’s word. They sat listening to God’s word, taking copious notes of what we preached in all the sessions. On occasion, the response to the exposition of God’s word, was so wonderfully spontaneous as the congregation broke out in singing, prayer, and praise to the Lord.

On the Lord’s Day, Victor preached to an overflowing and enthusiastic congregation. He expounded on David strengthening himself in the Lord his God at Ziklag in 1 Samuel 30:1–6, encouraging the people of God to always trust in the providence of God. We headed back for Addis Ababa after the morning worship service on the Lord’s Day. We got back early Sunday evening to a much needed rest.

 

Reflections on the Mission to Ethiopia

The following day, Monday, we spent mid-morning to late afternoon prayerfully reflecting on the training programme and thinking together about the way forward for the work of biblical Reformation in Ethiopia. This we did around delicious cups of Ethiopian coffee. It is very clear from talking to Anthony that he carries a heavy and deep burden for a true work of Reformation to be planted, established and nurtured on the Ethiopian ecclesiastical scene. His passion and vision is very infectious and we may have caught it, but heartily so. It is our earnest prayer that all Reformed Baptists in Zambia may also catch this vision for a true work of Reformation as far as the land of Ethiopia, and that the Lord may graciously enable us to seize this unprecedented opportunity that he has granted us to reach out to Ethiopia and respond to the “Macedonian call”. Oh, may the Lord our Saviour be pleased to enlarge our hearts for missions to Ethiopia. Amen!

 

[1] It is important to note here, that unlike what is common in Zambia and most Western cultures, Ethiopians do not ordinarily use their surnames. In fact, their surnames are derived in a very different way all the way to a grandfather in their lineage. For example, a man’s second name is his father’s first name, and his third name is his father’s second name which is his grandfather’s first name, and so on and so forth. This is an example of the biblical influence on the Ethiopian culture. In addition, the wife does not take the husband’s name. She merely keeps her father’s name. This information was provided by Anthony Mathenia.

[2] Herbert S. Lewis, A Galla Monarchy: Jimma Abba Jifar, Ethiopia, 1830–1932 (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1965), p.56.