nspire

p A mosaic

above the
altar in the
chapel of
Mekane Yesus
Seminary,
Addis Ababa,
Ethiopia.

New Work

in an Ancient Land
PHOTOS: LCMS COMMUNICATIONS/ERIK M. LUNSFORD

E

thiopia is a country with an ancient history and rich
culture dating back to the Old Testament period.
Some Bible versions translate Cush in Ezek. 29:10 as
“Ethiopia,” and the Oromo, the largest of Ethiopia’s many
tribes, is known as “Southern Cushite.”
Christianity has been in Ethiopia for nearly 2,000 years. It
became the state religion in 330 A.D. when Archbishop Athanasius
of Alexandria sent a bishop to Ethiopia, resulting in the birth of
the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church, and it remains the
predominant religion to this day.
Lutherans are relative latecomers to this African nation — and
the LCMS later still.
Lutheran contact with Ethiopia began in the 17th century with
the arrival of Dr. Peter Heyling, a young missionary from Lübeck,

lcms.org/givenow/globalmission

p The LCMS delegation, led by the Rev. Dr. Albert B. Collver III,

LCMS director of Church Relations and Regional Operations,
meets with leaders of the Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane
Yesus. Also representing the LCMS were the Rev. Dr. Tilahun
Mendedo, president of Concordia College Alabama, Selma, Ala.;
the Rev. Dr. Lawrence Rast Jr., president of Concordia Theological
Seminary, Fort Wayne, Ind., and chairman of the LCMS Commission
on Theology and Church Relations (CTCR); the Rev. Dr. Joel
Lehenbauer, executive director of the CTCR; the Rev. Dr. Jeffrey
Kloha, provost of Concordia Seminary, St. Louis; and the
Rev. Dr. William Schumacher, a professor from Concordia Seminary
who is currently teaching at Mekane Yesus Seminary. The Rev.
Shauen Trump, LCMS area director for East Africa, also attended
the meetings.

January–February 2015

lcms.org/LUTHERANSengage

7

Germany. Heyling practiced medicine while
teaching Lutheran theology to the Ethiopian
clergy. Echoing Martin Luther’s work, he
translated the Gospel of John and the liturgy
into Amharic, the language of the people.
When Islam demanded his conversion,
Heyling refused and was martyred. His
teachings, however, survived in the
Ethiopian desert for nearly 200 years.
Once discovered, they laid a foundation
for the work of Lutheran missionaries who
came to Ethiopia in the late 19th and early
20th centuries.
The missionaries — who were sent by
Lutheran mission societies in Sweden,
Germany, Norway, Finland, Denmark and
the United States — planted a patchwork of
independent churches that merged over 50
years ago to form the Ethiopian Evangelical

Church Mekane Yesus (EECMY).
Mekane Yesus means “the dwelling
place of Jesus.” It aptly describes this rapidly
growing church body that is focused on
ministering to the whole person with
Christ’s gifts in Word and Sacrament.
The LCMS began regular contact with
the EECMY in 2000, although informal
connections occurred through individual
students and professors of the EECMY in
the 1970s, 80s and 90s.
The EECMY, with its zeal for missions
and the revitalization of congregations, has
grown significantly from a church of 20,000
members in 1959. Its membership will soon
surpass 7 million.
Such rapid growth creates a tremendous
need for pastors and provides a challenge
for this young church body with a goal of
t The Rev. Alan Ludwig, LCMS

missionary and theological
educator in Siberia, teaches
seminarians at Mekane Yesus
Seminary in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
He is one of several LCMS pastors
and seminary professors currently
serving as rotating guest lecturers
for the EECMY, an effort that will
continue in the future.

training 10,000 pastors and evangelists in
five years.
Because the LCMS has an international
reputation for excellence in theological
education and pastoral formation, the
EECMY has asked the Missouri Synod to
assist in helping train future professors
who will teach at its central seminary, five
regional seminaries and 40 Bible schools.
The Rev. Dr. Berhanu Ofgaa, the EECMY
general secretary, says the EECMY needs a
strong Lutheran identity to remain faithful
in light of the many challenges the church
faces — challenges ranging from Islam
to Pentecostalism to liberalism. This is a
conviction shared by EECMY President Rev.
Dr. Wakseyoum Idosa.
In November, an LCMS delegation led
by the Rev. Dr. Albert B. Collver III, LCMS
director of Church Relations and Regional
Operations, met with EECMY leaders
to discuss and sign a revised working–
partnership agreement. The agreement
includes provision for theological education
and support for Mekane Yesus Seminary in
Addis Ababa.
“Though differences remain,” said Collver,
“the EECMY has a great respect for the

t A woman prepares for a

PHOTOS: LCMS COMMUNICATIONS/ERIK M. LUNSFORD

traditional Ethiopian coffee
ceremony.

8

lcms.org/LUTHERANSengage

January–February 2015

LCMS’ commitment to the Holy Scriptures
as the inerrant Word of God and to the
Lutheran Confessions. At the same time, the
LCMS can learn from the EECMY’s zeal for
mission and revitalization of congregations.”
“The EECMY has a strong desire for
confessional Lutheran theology taught
to the highest standards,” said the Rev.
Dr. Jeffrey Kloha, provost at Concordia
Seminary, St. Louis. “By strengthening
their graduate programs, pastors and
professors of the EECMY will be built up
in the Scriptures and Confessions. … We
are pleased to have several pastors from
the EECMY already studying for advanced
degrees here through the Global Seminary
Initiative. They will return to Ethiopia to
strengthen theological education there for
the next generation.”
The Rev. Dr. Lawrence Rast Jr., president
of Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort
Wayne, Ind., expanded on this, stating:
“Students from the EECMY have benefited
from educational opportunities at
Concordia Theological Seminary (CTS) in
Fort Wayne for more than a decade now.
At the same time, faculty from CTS have
built deep and lasting relationships with
Mekane Yesus Seminary in Addis Ababa.
Through this mutual interaction, we see
God at work building and strengthening
His Church for a robust future.”
“There are great opportunities ahead
for the LCMS and the EECMY as this
relationship develops,” Collver said.
“Thanks be to God for opening this door.
LCMS ministry leaders look forward to
continuing this work together.”
The Rev. Dr. Albert B. Collver III, LCMS
director of Church Relations and Regional
Operations, and Deaconess Pamela J.
Nielsen, associate executive director for
LCMS Communications, contributed to
this story.

From Herdsman
to Shepherd
Deng Jock Kier is a pastor in the
Ethiopian Evangelical Church
Mekane Yesus (EECMY). Kier shared
his journey from the tribal lands of western
Ethiopia to the seminary with Pamela
Nielsen, who was part of the visiting LCMS
delegation to Ethiopia in November. It is a
two-day journey from the seminary to the
Gambela region, where Kier grew up and
now serves.

Kier: My people are farmers. They grow
corn, planting twice a year, and also
herd goats. My tribe lives together in the
desert, and we make up the largest tribe in
Gambela.
Nielsen: I noticed you have scars on your
forehead, can you tell me about them?
Kier: When you reach 15 years, [you] get
the mark. They make the mark with knives.
You cannot cry because now you are a man.
It is no longer common in the tribe because
in an area with no doctor, people can bleed
too much and can die. I remember the day
of the mark the most because it hurt!
Nielsen: What is the religion of your tribe?
Kier: Until 1962, we were traditional
African worshipers of the spirits, above
and below. Today, most of the region is
Christian, mostly Lutheran. When the
missionaries came, they opened schools,
clinics, began agriculture projects. We

border Sudan, and the Sudanese worship
different gods.

Nielsen: How do you minister to them?
Kier: They pray to [their] god and ask
him for help. I tell them that the god they
worship is the creator God. He is [the]
One who died for us. I tell them about
Jesus. They sacrifice animals for protection.
I say no more sacrifice. Only Jesus
Christ sacrificed once for all. This God is
mercy God.
Nielsen: When did you become a
Christian?

Kier: I became a Christian when I was 12
years old in 1984, and was baptized and
confirmed. My father still is not Christian.
My brothers and sisters [are] Christians. My
mother waited for 20 years [to become a
Christian].
Nielsen: Why did you come to the
seminary?

Kier: The pastors are very few. We need
more pastors and lay ministers. I have come
here to learn more about God’s Word. I
learn new things here about church and
the mission of God so when I go back I
can teach it. The seminary can educate me
to serve [the] community with the Word
of God. The seminary is [a] good thing. I
appreciate [the] seminary and the partners
who support it. God bless all of us.

Learn more:
„ 

Read about the agreement: blogs.lcms.

org/2014/eecmy-lcms-sign
„
View the photo gallery: photo.lcms.org

t Women collect the offering during

a worship service at the EECMY
mother church in Addis Ababa,
Ethiopia.
lcms.org/givenow/globalmission

FAST FACTS
Full name:

Federal Democratic
Republic of Ethiopia

13
15

distinct ethnic
groups
languages,
including
English, Arabic
and Amharic

Religious makeup:

96,633,458

43%

Orthodox

33.9%
18%

Muslim

2.7%

Traditional

0.7%
0.6%

Catholic

6.2 million EECMY members

Other

2.2 million LCMS members

Protestant

January–February 2015

Ethiopian population

318,892,103
U.S. population

lcms.org/LUTHERANSengage

9