Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain. 1 Corinthians 15:58
Ethiopia is a landlocked country located in the Horn of Africa, and officially known as the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia. It is the second-most populous nation in Africa, with over 82 million people, and the tenth-largest by area, with 472,000 sq. mi.; about the size of Texas, Oklahoma, and New Mexico combined. The capital is Addis Ababa. Ethiopia is also said to be one of the oldest sites of human existence known to scientists today, having yielded some of humanity’s oldest traces.
The Church in Ethiopia
I Kings 10 and 2 Chronicles 9 each record the Queen of Sheba’s visit to Jerusalem and exchanges with Solomon. Not found in the Bible but according to legend, Menelik I, the son of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba, founded the Ethiopian Empire. In the fourth century A.D., missionaries from Egypt and Syria introduced Christianity. As Islam expanded in the seventh century, Ethiopia was gradually disconnected from European Christendom. The Portuguese came along in 1493 with the intent of converting Ethiopia to Roman Catholicism and to have a stronger presence near the Indian Ocean. There followed a century of conflict between pro- and anti-Catholic factions, resulting in the expulsion of all foreign missionaries in the 1630s. This period of bitter religious conflict contributed to hostility toward foreign Christians and Europeans, which persisted into the 20th century and was a factor in Ethiopia’s isolation until the mid-19th century. Today, Ethiopia is approximately 43.5% Orthodox Christian, 33.9% Muslim and only 18.6% Evangelical Christian. Standing in the gap between Islam Africa and Christian Africa, the evangelical Church in Ethiopia has grown rapidly in the past 35 years with an estimated 50 million evangelical Christians today. The church is growing but training of church leadership has not matched the growth. Standing in the gap between the church growth and the lack of educated church leadership is the Ethiopian Graduate School of Theology (EGST).
Humble Beginnings to an Impacting Present
Beginning in a small rented house in 1997 in Addis Ababa, EGST eventually was able to purchase a house for classes and some property for future development. In the midst of these humble beginnings, EGST avowed, “there is such a need for better educated pastors, evangelists and church leaders…to help believers…understand biblical truth [in response to rampant heretical teaching].”
The interdenominational school has adopted a program structure aimed at helping students be more effective in response to the Church’s needs and hopes their philosophy of education will impact the broader educational ministries of Ethiopian churches. The current student enrollment is 142 males and 51 females. Over the years EGST has graduated 150 scholars – 133 males and 17 females. Their programming includes: a Post-Graduate Diploma in Biblical and Theological Studies; a Master of Arts in Biblical and Theological Studies; a Master of Arts in Theology and HIV; a Master of Arts in Leadership and Management; and a Master of Theology (a research degree).
EGST strives to make an impact among the country’s challenges, such as HIV/AIDS, education and the economy. The school models cooperation across denominational and ethnic lines with many churches and institutions, including the two OC partner schools that founded EGST; Mekane Yesus Theological Seminary (MYTS) and Evangelical Theological College (ETC). All are playing an increasing role in the establishment of HIV/AIDS testing and counseling centers to help address social needs created by the disease.
After his recent visit to EGST, Mark Wheeler, the VP of Advancement for Overseas Council, stated;
“Ethiopia is a fascinating country, history and people unlike anywhere else I have visited (60 plus countries). I loved it and would gladly return. Towards the good of the country, EGST is doing tremendous work as they actively shape the future of the Christian church and leadership within Ethiopia. The transformational work they are committed too has uniquely positioned EGST to affect both the church and culture.”
Building for the Future
In August of 2009, EGST completed the first phase of a two-phase campus building project that when fully complete will allow the school to serve the church in Ethiopia with a greater capacity. Phase I comprises a six-story building in the front of the property that partially serves as temporary classrooms for the school but more importantly it provides an income stream through leases to local and international businesses for office space. The total cost of Phase I was 15,000,000 Ethiopian Birr, which was US $1,302,649 (conversion at that time).
The income generated from Phase I is being channeled into partially funding Phase II of the project. Phase II will be permanent classroom space, library space, some dormitory area, EGST offices and a chapel. When Phase II is completed, all of Phase I will be leased, providing an income stream estimated to be about $12,000 (US) with a goal of eventual self-sustainability. More than 35% of the Phase II construction work has been completed so far. The concrete work is planned to be finished in the next month or so and the whole project is targeted for completion towards the end of 2012. However, in order to complete this phase on time EGST needs help from individuals, churches and other organizations that have a heart for seeing the Christians in Ethiopia receive the well-trained church leadership that EGST provides.
The remaining need for EGST to complete Phase II is just over one million US dollars. But there is some wonderful news. A trust in the UK has made available approximately US $560,000 that can be matched by other organizations, trusts or churches. So for every dollar contributed to this kingdom project, that dollar is doubled! This is indeed a wonderful opportunity to gather the funding needed to see this project completed.
My friend and the director of EGST, Dr. Desta Heliso, notes;
“More than ever, this country needs well-trained men and women who can positively impact church and society. We need to ensure that EGST becomes an institute that is academically strong, spiritually vibrant and contextually relevant. In order to achieve that, partnership with people who share this vision is indispensable. It is my privilege to warmly invite you to join us in our task of advancing God’s kingdom through the Horn of Africa and beyond through the ministry of EGST.”
Stand in the Gap for Ethiopia
Won’t you please pray for EGST? Pray that funding will be raised to complete Phase II. Pray that the students that receive their training at EGST will become effective world-changers for the cause of Christ. Pray for the people of Ethiopia and the continued rise of Christianity and the diminishing of Islam in the country. As EGST stands in the gap between church growth and church leadership, they need partners that will stand in the gap between current construction and a completed project. Please prayerfully consider contributing to this project with a gift through Overseas Council, designated for EGST. Remember, because of the matching grant, each dollar represents two.