Hope Springs Forth from the Land of the Ethiopian Eunuch

For as the soil makes the young plant come up and a garden causes seeds to grow, so the Sovereign LORD will make righteousness and praise spring up before all nations.” Isaiah 61:11

When the Christian world dropped the established Julian calendar in 1582, in favour of the revised Gregorian calendar, Ethiopia refused to follow the “crowd,” and stuck to the old Julian calendar. As a consequence, Ethiopia is seven years and eight months “behind” the rest of the Christian world! The remnant of that stubbornness to join the rest of the world is something that you can see in the various aspects of Ethiopia’s rich and ancient culture. It is a country in which the old world charm and new world edginess mix to give it a fascinating air that is hard to describe, as it is impossible not to notice.

For many people, the image they have of Ethiopia is a famine ravaged country, with television pictures of starving people engraved upon their minds. But that was 25 years ago. The country has moved on. Although ranked among the poorest nations of the world, the country has refused to be dogged by its past and is determined to shake itself loose from the haunting ghosts of the poverty of yesteryear. But there is another kind of poverty that besets this beautiful country in north-east Africa – and it is that of sound biblical Christianity.

Although Ethiopia has a rich religious legacy that goes back to the 4th century AD, much of what is there to show for this legacy is the Ethiopian Orthodox Church with its multifarious Jewish and pre-Christian Judaic influences, and the religion of Islam. These two are the predominant religious groups and account for more than 80% of the country’s 80 million people. The Protestant groups are in the minority and evangelical Christianity is a far cry from what the Scriptures teach. This is what prompted an American missionary, Anthony Mathenia to start a training program in this country, and consequently to enlist the help of the Reformed Baptists in Zambia. (you can read about the genesis of this training programme on Pastor Conrad Mbewe's blog). This training has now become a regular yearly programme undertaken three times in a year. We thank God for the persistence and unrelenting passion of Anthony against all odds to bring this training programme to the level where it is today. He planted the first seed, and the fruit is now beginning to show.   

It was a privilege to be part of the three-man team that undertook the fourth of these mission trips to Ethiopia. I travelled with Pastor Victor Kanyense of Mount Makulu Reformed Baptist Church, and Anthony Mathenia from Christ Church, New Albany Mississippi. 

From left to right, Victor, Anthony and Isaac
Anthony had prior to our trip to Ethiopia flown to Zambia as a guest of the Kabwata Baptist Church.  The major reason for his visit to Zambia was to chart the way forward in this specific work of mission to Ethiopia. And of the several things discussed while  he was here was the prospect of sending a missionary pastor from Zambia to serve either as a pastor of an already established church within the Ethiopian Addis Kidan Baptist Church (EAKBC) or planting a new work under the auspices of the EAKBC, with  the possibility of such a missionary pastor also teaching in an undergraduate theological college. The three of us left Lusaka on Tuesday, September 28th, and we were met at the Addis International Airport by a dear brother, Yoseph Teressa.
Yoseph, our host and chauffeur
We stayed with his family throughout the period of our stay in Ethiopia. The following day, Wednesday, we had two meetings. The first was with Zemen Endale, a former teacher who together with four other friends have established a Media Ministry, which among other things, is involved in translation work. The meeting culminated into the signing of a contract with him and his ministry to translate some Christian literature into Amharic. Translation work on the first book, Absolutely Basic by Horatius Bonar and J.C. Ryle from the Christian classic series by Grace Publication, has since commenced. 

Anthony with Zemen, the literature translator
The first book which is being translated
Zemen also asked us to consider translating the same book, and other sound Christian books into Afaan Oromo, the language of the Oromo people, Ethiopia’s largest ethnic group.
Later that day, we had lunch with Steve Burchett and Selamab Assefa. Steve is a speaker, writer, and editorial assistant for  Christian Communicators Worldwide and serves as an elder in Christ Fellowship of Kansas City. Semalab  is a native of Ethiopia and recently graduated from Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, Missouri. He is also working with CCW. The  brothers also had come to Ethiopia to teach and preach among the Kale Heywot churches in Addis Ababa. They are also keen on translating some of Jim Elliff’s books into the most common languages of Ethiopia. Talk about the meeting of like-minded brethren! 

From left to right, Victor, Steven, Anthony, Selamab and Isaac
The actual church leaders' training programme started on September 30th and ended on October 5th. The first training lasted three days at Gullelle Addis Kidan Baptist Church. And the second one was  from October 4th to October 5th, in Debre Zeyit,  a town about 45 km away from Addis Ababa. Debre Zeyit is the tenth largest town in Ethiopia with a population of about 200,000. The training in Addis Ababa brought together more than 40 people (which included 8 ladies), and their enthusiasm throughout all the sessions was very conspicuous. 

Part of the group at the at the first conference
In Debre Zeyit, we had 15-20 people in attendance. The theme for both the Addis and Debre Zeyit ministry was Redemption: Accomplished and Applied. I handled the aspect of Christ’s finished work of redemption, while Pastor Kanyense addressed the application of this redemption. Anthony gave the keynote address in both places with great gusto and passion, setting the tone for the rest of the days. We preached in English and God has from the beginning of these mission trips to Ethiopia, provided an excellent and gifted interpreter in the person of Solomon Abebe. 

Solomon with his wife
He has just begun his Masters Degree programme in theology at the Ethiopia Graduate School of Theology (EGST). Except on one day when he had to attend class during the Debre Zeyit leg of our ministry, he interpreted for us in all the sessions. On this particular day, he recommended a friend, Abinet, a final year student at the Evangelical Theological College of Ethiopia who, like Solomon, proved more than equal to the task. 

Victor, our relief interpreter Abinet and myself
One of the most exciting highlights of our ministry in Ethiopia was the dinner which was hosted by the denominational leadership of the Ethiopian Addis Kidan Baptist Church (EAKBC) in our honour at one of the hotels. Our brothers shared with us their vision to draw up a Church Leadership Development Programme for the whole denomination, and asked if we could get fully involved in this training and oversee the doctrinal aspect. In Pastor Mbewe’s earlier blog, one of the areas of prayer he mentioned for the work in Ethiopia was that “our hearts will be so united with the brethren of Ethiopia that the fruit of this fellowship will enrich our lives in both countries.” I want to believe that judging by the warmth with which we were received by our brothers and sisters there, the Lord has answered our prayers. The Lord is truly opening the door for us to play a very crucial role in bringing the light of Biblical Christianity and church life to our brethren in Ethiopia. We assured them of our prayerful interest and support from the Zambian Reformed Baptist churches. A formal bond of fellowship is truly being forged.

On the only Sunday we had in Ethiopia, we joined God’s people for the worship service at the International Evangelical Church (IEC). It’s a multiracial and multinational church, with a significant number of people from the middle to upper classes of the Ethiopian society.  Addis Ababa hosts the headquarters of the African Union (AU) and the Economic Commission for Africa, and this gives the city a very conspicuous diversity. The IEC is a church strategically positioned and with great potential to influence the Christian direction of the nation through a powerful expository ministry. The pastor of the church is Gary Threatt, an American who previously served as a missionary with the Southern Baptist Convention in Ethiopia some 15 years ago. He was called back to pastor the IEC. 

International Evangelical Church
Before the service started, we noticed a Book Table near the entrance, and curiously turned in that direction to look at the various titles on sale. There were more than 80 titles on display, and two in particular caught my attention. Pastor Kanyense and I did not hesitate to snatch these two excellent books, and who would resist the temptation at the price they were being sold. The service was fine, with the obvious evidence that the congregation has not been spared from the pseudo-Charismatic influence that has dreadfully infected much of African evangelicalism. The pastor has been preaching through Colossians, and that Sunday, he was on Colossians 1:24-29. He is a good preacher, although the message lacked application.  

On Wednesday morning, October 6th, we were escorted to the airport by Anthony and Yoseph, to catch our flight back to Zambia. Anthony’s flight back to the USA was later  in the evening that same day. As the Boeing 767 soared into the sky headed for Lusaka, our spirits also rose in gratitude to the Lord for the honour which was ours to serve the beautiful people of Ethiopia who have demonstrated a humble and keen heart to learn. It is becoming increasingly clear that the Lord has opened for us the door for the work of missions to the land of the Ethiopian eunuch.


  1. Good to hear of God’s dealings with Ethiopia; may the Lord honor his work even in crowning these labors with success. Time well spent indeed, and welcome back home!!!!

  2. Thank you for the update Isaac. We thank God for the doors he is opening for the glory of His own Name!

  3. Brother- Good to be in the 'Reformed Living Room' again! The good labours there by you & Pastor Kanyense & Pastor Mbewe & Pr (Dr) G Singogo (among sundry others) are a wonderful service to our Missionary God. For us here in the land of that gallant son of Israel - Dr David Livingstone- A country where his heart is burried - Well it would seem to me some of these influences the Reformed Church here is fulfilling is partly in answer to his (Dr Livingstone's) hearty desires/prayers. O fly abroad thou mighty/pure gospel especially in that land of the noble eunuch.


  4. Good to hear that something good can happen again in Ethiopia. Lord Bless you

    Barry Steele

  5. I praise God for hearing such news from a fellow African, I found your blog though Pastor Mbewe's website and I commend you for the insightful posts, it is a testimony on the web that the Lord's hand is on those countires others have thought abandoned, the love of God will still conquer Africa.
    Yours in Christ
    Simon Thomas
    South Africa

  6. Praise God for all that he is doing in Ethiopia.