My journey to Ethiopia created life-long memories. If this trip was for personal inspiration, it would likely be but a fading memory by now. That, however, was never the reason I gave time and treasure to travel over 7,000 miles to a distant land.
This journey for me came from a sense of calling by God to give some form of leadership to an ever-so-important future partnership with one of this world’s fastest growing churches. The Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus (EECMY), from its beginning in 1959 with 20,000 members until today with over 5.8 million members, has had a passion for reaching the lost for Jesus Christ. Their witness has always reached out to the poor and needy by addressing the needs of body and soul. They without apology have led with an evangelical witness calling people to faith in Jesus Christ.
For many years the EECMY was in partnership with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, but the actions of the ELCA in its 2009 decision to support the ordination of gay and lesbian pastors in committed relationships was a tipping point. In fact, for years this Ethiopian Church was not finding a partner in the ELCA that shared their deep commitment to bear witness to the redemptive death and resurrection of Jesus Christ for all people. When the EECMY formally cut ties with the ELCA, they stepped out in faith that brothers and sisters in Christ in the Lutheran world wide family would stand with them in new partnerships.
To develop a new partnership was the reason why some twenty-five of us from Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ and the North American Lutheran Church journeyed to this distant land. It became clear from our eleven days with them that this would be a two-way partnership. Their clear witness empowered by the Holy Spirit humbled and inspired us, while their needs for our help were also shared and are many.
My personal role is one of seeking to provide informal leadership in developing multiple networks of partnerships. One of them will be a partnership between the Augustana District of LCMC, of which Faith Lutheran Church is a leading congregation, and the Central Synod of EECMY.
You can expect to hear more about this in the months ahead. Please feel free to contact me. I will be more than happy to share the story, pictures and how our Lord may be calling us to yet another time of bold witness.
Written by Pastor Paul Knudson. Pastor Paul is a part-time pastor at Faith Lutheran Church and a board member on the Augustana District Board of World Missions.