This article was originally published by Mennonite World Review

From persecution to education in Ethiopia

Tigist Alamirew says she has “escaped many deaths” in her journey with Christ. Born to an Orthodox family, she now directs distance education at Meserete Kristos College, the Anabaptist school in Debre Zeit, Ethiopia.

“While I was a teenager, one of my friends witnessed to me about the love of Jesus,” she said. “My heart was opened, and I received Christ as my personal Savior.”

Distance education director Tigist Alamirew leads a class at Meserete Kristos College in Ethiopia. — Mennonite World Conference
Distance education director Tigist Alamirew leads a class at Meserete Kristos College in Ethiopia. — Mennonite World Conference

Displeased with her “new religion,” her parents chased Ala­mirew from their home. Her aunt led a community effort to scare the “demon” from her. They beat her with rubber and burned her face, arms and legs in a fire.

“During that time, I saw a vision of Jesus Christ’s suffering, and I did not feel the beating,” she said. “When I saw Jesus rise up from his burial, I jumped up rejoicing, and said, ‘Hallelujah, Jesus Christ is risen!’ ”

The Meserete Kristos Church brought Alamirew to Addis Ababa, where they helped pay for her medical treatment. She got a job at the church office. Donors helped her go to the United States for plastic surgery to remove the scars on her face.

“I never thought of revenge for my perpetrators,” she said. “I have fasted and prayed for them, hoping that they would come to know the love of Jesus Christ.”

As a new Christian, Alamirew dedicated herself to God’s service. Daily, she prayed and read Scripture.

She heard God speaking to her: “My child, I need you. It’s time to get ready for ministry.”

She replied, “Lord, don’t you know that I am serving you?”

When Alamirew began working for MK College as secretary, cashier and librarian, she said, “The voice of the Lord came to me again: ‘Time to get ready,’ and something burned in me.”

She began with evening classes in theology. With financial aid from Jacob and Grace Leichty from Ohio, she was able to take a year of absence to finish her degree.

Theology was only the beginning.

“Ministry should be holistic,” she said. “Since we serve the whole being, we have to address the wholeness of humankind.”

Alamirew earned a second degree in community development.

Education has been a gift “not only in my church ministry but also my spiritual life and work,” Alamirew said. She is vice chair and secretary of the elders board at her church.

Gospel for the family

Although a member of the Meserete Kristos family, Ala­mirew does not forget to pray for and witness to her family of origin.

“My goal is to reach unreached relatives and build a church,” she said. “Sixteen years ago, I started a fellowship with just three family members who received Christ as their Savior. Now this fellowship has more than 20 members. I express my gratitude to God and those who invested in me.”

Alamirew is pleased with the growth of MK College and especially its training of women for ministry.

At the graduation ceremony in May, MK College dedicated a new dormitory building for up to 258 female students. The modern facility includes lounges, kitchenettes and a large meeting room.

“The completion of the women’s dorm gives me great joy, because more women leaders and ministers will get a chance to study,” Alamirew said.

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