Arba Minch, which literally means 40 springs, was founded in the early 1960s on the edge of Abaya lake, south of the capital Addis Ababa and toward the borders of Uganda and Kenya.
Local churches called on the AE team to organise a mission in the city, which has been heavily impacted by social problems including homelessness, prostitution, young people on the streets and drugs. AE’s focus on church unity, evangelism, social action and training were seen as essential to bring the churches back on track, and focus on building the church through offering true hope in Jesus to their communities.
One of the church leaders Rev Milkias, president of South West Mekane Yesus Church Synod that oversees 726 local congregations spoke of the reasons why AE was approached.
“With my current position as president of the synod, I have travelled to many places and congregations and the testimony I hear about AEE is very affirmative. AEE is church friendly, purpose-driven, focused and effective in its undertakings. It is a trustworthy ministry and we, in this area, partner with it wholeheartedly”, he said.
In preparation for this mission, AE conducted an initial series of exploratory meetings with city Church leaders to determine what the level of engagement would be. It was determined that Church leaders were absolutely committed to building their strength and ability to effectively reach out to a young and transient population, heavily influenced by ancestral spirit worship and post-modern relativistic views and prosperity doctrine eroding teachings of the church.
From early in the year, AE team leader Mel Mesfin conducted a series of training workshops to address key issues of church unity, bringing the leaders together to discuss their joint goals of winning their city for Christ. This successfully mobilised the churches together to be able to engage 150 evangelists from 32 church to drive the mission forward in December.
One of the missioners involved in the training and mission itself was Meheret, a year 12 student from Kale Hiwot Church in Arba Minch.
A graduate of the AE student discipleship program in 2018, she chose to take the next step to take a leadership role within the mission itself, and became trained as a mission facilitator. During the course of her training she said that that the process was a real ‘eye opener’.
“We were sent out to the market place for our induction, and completed a stage of one-to-one evangelism. That has been very insightful and I will share this to other students and youth in my church.”
All church leaders and mission volunteers organized to reach out to the old city of Secha and business area of the new city Sikella during the mission period between December 24 and 29th, 2019. Mr. Berhanu Deresse, ex-AEE Ethiopia team leader led the proclamation commencement ceremony in the biggest church hall in the city.
Mission volunteers then went out into one-to-one street witnessing through handing-out tracts, visiting schools, daily university mission, repeated proclamation activities for prison inmates and mission week gatherings in the local churches.
During the mission, the following highlights occurred:
Impoverished children equipped to attend school
Participating churches raised funds to equip 114 children with school materials required for attendance. Parents were so touched by the generosity of AE supporters and the AE Ethiopia team who made this possible during mission. They were open to hearing the gospel of Jesus Christ, and were overwhelmed with joy, with many saying “there is hope to our children”. Our aim is to see children continuing with their education and attending church.
Street kids invited to have fellowship at the church
Street children were invited to a participating church for a meal and to receive school materials. Of the multitude invited, seven came and received what our supporters made possible, including a warm and welcoming environment and the opportunity to join a community that will care for them for the future. The good news of Christ’s love was preached to them, and mission facilitators will continue their outreach and follow up.
More than 30 government, business, and church leaders attended the leadership dinner. The theme of the meeting was good governance as explained by the Bible. The government representative appreciated AEE’s effort in convening leaders from different sectors in the city for this very relevant topic, and asked the church to pray for the continuation of peace and tranquility in the area as there were tensions in the community some time back.
Family counselling session
20 couples in leadership roles were invited to participate in a daylong family seminar to strengthen their marriages and families. It was a common cry that Christian youth of today are fast conforming to the pattern of the world and becoming unethical in many ways. Most church halls are filled with children and youth on Sundays, but there is a fast decline in moral standards. That is a huge challenge to the future of the church and African Enterprise’s involvement in discipling the next generation was much appreciated.
Preservation – Mission Follow-up
Following the celebratory closing rally, which also involved discussions with government officials and church leaders on future partnerships, the mission-overseeing committee deliberated on preserving the fruit of the mission. It was jointly agreed to continue the strategic partnership of AEE with the local churches for the coming six months.
The AE Mission chair, Rev Tsayas, was incredibly encouraging to all the church leaders involved. A leader of one of the largest churches, Rev Tsavas thanked the AE team leader and all those involved. “We commend AE for its vision and endeavour to raise new generations of God-fearing people through its outreach and discipleship programs”, he said.
The preservation strategy will now include integrating the new believers into the various partnering churches; building the capacity of churches for discipleship and nurture through training; and ensuring that new believers are integrated into small Bible study groups.
Through the support of AE donors, we intend to maintain our follow up of new believers and strengthening the discipleship program with literature and visits.
I abandoned Jesus and went into the pit, but he pulled me back
Tamirat came back from an “expedition” he chose to go for “exploration”. He left the house of God and went into the world at full speed some 14 years back. He sought what he calls “a happy and stress-free life” by immersing himself into drugs, drinking and all kinds of evil. He was blinded by his own decision and was not at all willing to listen to his believing mother’s advise to return right away.
As time went by he came to realize that the happiness he sought from the world was not actually there. He became miserably poor, despised by the community and lonely. He also got seriously sick and was abandoned by his friends. He saw himself being misled into the dark.
Tamirat came to the church and was met by mission facilitators and recommitted his life to Jesus. He says: “I am so sorry that I wasted half of my life. I terribly deceived myself. Hereafter, I want to make the best use of my life because I have now clung back to Jesus. He is so good that he accepted me back into the fold. I want to get stronger in the faith and then go out to preach the gospel to the many people who still live in the dark.”
I have chosen what is eternally correct
Berhane is a mother of two who made a recommitment to follow Jesus during the Arba Minch Mission. She says “I was a follower of Jesus until my husband forced me to backslide. I retreated from The Way for five years just to please my husband and live together with him. However, the five years were years in hell. These were the darkest years of my life- no joy, no hope. Finally, I chose life and came to church. It is now as if my soul has returned back to me. Life without Christ is walking in the dark. My husband is not happy about my move, but I have chosen what is eternally correct. I hope and pray that someday he will come back to Jesus.