Ethiopian church and college continue growing

Dec 11, 2017 by and

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The Meserete Kristos Church in Ethiopia continues to grow, increasing by 4.5 percent over the last year to 310,877 baptized members. It is the largest national Anabaptist body in the world.

MKC Link Canada team members Darrell Jantzi and John Peters of the Waterloo, Ont., area connect Mennonite Church Canada and Meserete Kristos College. They were invited by the MKC general secretary to attend the church’s annual general meeting in August.

MKC Link Canada team members John Peters and Darrell Jantzi, center, meet with leaders of Meserete Kristos College, including Yigezu Testaye, left, and Kiros Teka. — Darrell Jantzi

MKC Link Canada team members John Peters and Darrell Jantzi, center, meet with leaders of Meserete Kristos College, including Yigezu Testaye, left, and Kiros Teka. — Darrell Jantzi

An important part of the visit was reviewing the relationship between MC Canada and MK College, as well as learning about the church, which has 1,011 local congregations.

About 60 percent of congregations worship in rented space or temporary shelters made of poles and tarps. They are being pressured by the government to erect permanent buildings or risk losing their land.

MK College hopes to continue growing and has a strong desire to partner with a Mennonite seminary in North America to offer a master of arts degree in theology.

The college is highly respected and has graduated more than 1,000 students. The theology program has been expanding with a main campus at Debre Zeit, where boarding students are taught in English, and an extension campus in the city of Nazareth, where degree and diploma students learn in Amharic. A second extension campus opened recently in Addis Ababa for part-time students.

Facilities at the original campus are stretched. A women’s dorm is nearing completion, and the kitchen and dining room are no longer adequate.

Tuition, room and board costs each student $2,000 a year. The Link team hopes to raise $250,000 in Canada for the nearly depleted scholarship fund.

Jantzi and Peters visited an underground church where believers meet in secret prayer cells. In some areas, the ultra-conservative Ethiopian Orthodox Church makes it dangerous to openly profess faith, prompting people to seek Jesus at night for fear of family rejection and alienation. Over time, new believers gain confidence and prepare for baptism, then celebrate their faith in Jesus Christ more openly.

In an inner-city setting, Jantzi and Peters observed MK Church members on their knees on a Monday morning, praying and fasting for homeless children and youth. A leader in the church said he had a horrible home life and had run away at age 13 to find a better life on the streets. Attracted by the singing and words of invitation by Christian young people, he was welcomed, led to Jesus and became part of a caring community.

“In an age that casts doubt on just about everything spiritual, it is heartening to see and experience the concrete indisputable power of God manifest in a solid rapidly growing community of believers,” Jantzi said.

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