DEBRE ZEIT, Ethiopia — Three years ago, Fanosie Legesse made a challenge to Listowel (Ont.) Mennonite Church.
Would they help him make sure that the students of Meserete Kristos College in Debre Zeit, Ethiopia, each had an English Bible of their own?
Legesse, a member of Bethel Mennonite Church in Elora, Ont., was born and raised in Ethiopia. He and his wife, Dianne, previously served in Ethiopia with Mennonite Church Canada.
Norm Dyck, the pastor of Listowel Mennonite Church, said his congregation responded in an overwhelming way and has been supplying a new NIV Study Bible to each first-year student in the theology program at Meserete Kristos College ever since.
“And this year, I had the special blessing of presenting the first-year students with their Bibles,” he said.
He and Legesse visited Meserete Kristos College on March 16 during a short-term ministry assignment with MC Canada in Ethiopia March 10-28.
“The joy the students expressed is impossible to describe in words,” Dyck said.
Come and teach
Meserete Kristos College is the Meserete Kristos Church’s only seminary and college. It does all of its theological education in English, helping students improve their English skills.
However, getting access to English Bibles has been a challenge.
“On behalf of her classmates and in halting English, a young woman told me that this was the most important book in their lives and they couldn’t thank us enough for this gift,” Dyck said.
The Meserete Kristos Church was growing at a rate of 30 percent at the last census of Anabaptists released by Mennonite World Conference in 2013.
With such a fast growth rate, the need for trained leaders also grows.
As a result of the English-language curriculum, there are opportunities at Meserete Kristos College for outside scholars to come and teach.
Legesse, who works in Canada as a machinist and seeks work as a pastor, regularly returns to Ethiopia to help train leaders for the church.
“This time I was fortunate enough to go with him . . . to teach and encourage evangelical church leaders, including leaders from the Meserete Kristos Church,” Dyck said.
Does access dull hunger?
Dyck said he has so many Bibles he has lost track. Plus, he always has one accessible through his phone’s Bible app.
It makes him wonder: “Does our familiarity with Scripture and the ready access to copies of the Bible dull our hunger for the Word of God?”
He said his congregation is blessed to be able to connect with the college this way.
“At the same time, I wonder if we are also being challenged to find renewed inspiration and hope in the most important book of the church,” he said.