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Ethiopia (Hawassa) May 2016

Hawassa, Ethiopia May 20-29, 2016

We are partnering with a national church denomination to start a training center for pastors in southern Ethiopia. Hawassa is 5+ hours (depending on the road conditions) south of the capital, Addis Ababa. Ethiopia has had Christianity for almost two millennia (maybe since Acts 8) and it developed into the Coptic Church which is similar to the Eastern Orthodox Church. Coptics and Muslims have a strong presence in Ethiopia. Most of the evangelical pastors in this region have no training in the Bible and “strange doctrines” abound. There are 50+ pastors and church leaders being trained at this site. They are eager to learn the Scriptures and to teach it in their local churches. Please pray for this pivotal opportunity to strengthen the Churches in Ethiopia. Curriculum to be taught: Genesis

Follow along as teachers in the field offer their experiences as they share theological training with local church leaders.

Jun  1st,  2016Unseen Results

The ongoing temptation of the missionary is to exaggerate impact. “We planted 2,000 churches this year!” some might cry out. “Millions are converting every week!” others claim. “Hundreds of orphans are taken off the street every day!” We need support, we want validity, so we make bold claims.

The truth is, with a few notable exceptions, we often will never know the ultimate eternal impact of our work.

For the first three days we were in Hawassa, about sixty southern Ethiopian church leaders broke up into four groups, and walked through the book of Genesis, learning about God’s glory, sovereignty, grace, and authority as our TLI teachers led the discussion and taught the Bible. For the next two days, these same groups worked with individual passages within Genesis, learning how to preach expository messages from the text and hearing a few examples. One pastor said, “We all have been called to preach, but [this training] is making us able to preach.”

In the end, we’re one portion of a nine course meal being offered to these pastors over three years. We’ll never set foot in many of their churches and even if we could, our Amharic is limited to a few phrases, which we most often grossly mispronounce.

We work hard on these trips. We pray hard after these trips. We want Christ to be magnified in these churches as these pastors point people to His glory and grace found throughout the pages of Scripture.

On Thursday afternoon, we took a break to visit the site of a new Bible College that’s being built in Hawassa to train church planters and missionaries. As you enter the property, a memorial stone stands near the entryway. Written in Amharic is a tribute to the many men and women who were persecuted during the Communist regime of the later half of the 20th century. Even though the church went underground and many suffered, the gospel could not be stopped. The church strengthened and grew and rose out of communism stronger than ever. 

Saturday was our long journey back to the US. While half of the team had only a few hours after landing in Washington, DC before flights to Chicago, Columbus, and Houston, three of us had a long, seven-hour layover and were able to journey to the National Mall to have lunch in the shadow of memorials to the men and women who gave their lives for causes for which they never saw the final results. We won’t see the full results of this trip either, but we trust that the Lord uses our humble efforts to glorify His Name in southern Ethiopia.

Soli Deo Gloria,

— Josh Montague


The May Hawassa Team consists of TLI staff members, Josh Montague (Trip Leader) and Jesse Albrecht, Wisconsin pastor Scott Larson, New Mexico pastor Frank Malizzo, and Bethlehem Seminary students Scott Hubbard and Ross Tenneson.


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May  28th,  2016Grain and Corn in the Kitchen Does Not Make a Good Cook

As the TLI team wraps up another week of teaching, I can't help but notice several ways that Christianity here in Awassa, Ethiopia is different than the version in the States that so many of us are used to.

First of all, they don't limit their Nativity scenes to church lawns in December. They put them in their streets and on their highways year round. Everywhere we go, we narrowly avoid donkeys, cows, horses, infants, young mothers, and travelers from the east. Awassa is a sprawling, East African, urban entity where noise and activity spill endlessly.
This is true with churches, as well. They are everywhere we look. They are packed on Sundays, rustling on Wednesdays, and our classes are filled with pastors of every age. When they tell us of their ministries, we hear of church plants, youth services, missionaries to unreached tribes, Bible colleges, and much much more. The Christian church in Ethiopia is significant, growing even.
With such a surging movement, why would an organization like TLI be needed?
As our ministry host explains, the church here is wide but it is not deep. When the cinderblock and tin roof cathedrals fill each Sunday, the free flowing worship is often more planned out than the preaching. Few pastors throughout this city have received any training, and sermons might be entirely extemporaneous or plagiarized. We have discovered that the resulting false doctrines and harmful theologies are as common as the ornately lettered church signs posted throughout this city of 500,000.
These pastors already know the Bible stories and love their people well. As they are being taught how to identify and apply the main ideas from scripture in their teaching, they are exploding with confidence and enthusiasm. One student responded to the group example (of expository preaching) by declaring it "a miracle that should be taken to all the towns." Another told me "This truly is a special moment for us. We have just been using the sermons of others, this has been our way. But now each of us may take the messages of Scripture and deliver them!" A gentle old man in my class smiled often, and scribbled many notes, leading me to believe he must be a recent convert (eager for basic teaching). It turns out he is a near martyr, having been beaten and jailed for seven years by (by the former communist government). What a honor it has been to train one who has endured so much and waited so patiently!
Our ministry host encouraged the assembled Ethiopian pastors with a proverb that said something like "grain and corn in the kitchen does not make a cook." The implication of course was that it takes more than a Bible in your hand to preach. Through the grace of God, the generosity of donors, and the labor of the TLI team these eager pastors have now learned how to feed their churches and country with the word of God and the bread of life.
Thank you for your prayerful and financial support of TLI!
- Scott Larson

The May Hawassa Team consists of TLI staff members, Josh Montague (Trip Leader) and Jesse Albrecht, Wisconsin pastor Scott Larson, New Mexico pastor Frank Malizzo, and Bethlehem Seminary students Scott Hubbard and Ross Tenneson.

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May  26th,  2016Genesis, Gender, and Ethiopia

I have deeply enjoyed my time so far in Ethiopia. It is very exciting to experience a place that is so different from my home.

Our classroom time with the pastors has been very rich. I was able to walk them through Genesis 2 and 3 and discuss the foundational stories of the creation of man and woman and the fall—timeless stories that are always relevant for God’s people.

One moment that sticks out to me is when we discussed the creation of woman. The Bible says that God created a “helper” that was fit for Adam. God had given Adam the incredible mission to produce offspring in order to fill creation with God’s image bearers. Yet, without a wife, he was unable to fulfill the purpose for which God created him.

This lesson drew the careful distinction about how women fit into creation. Although women are under the leadership of their husbands, they are not property, servants, or slaves. Rather, women are priceless treasures because they alone fit together with men to fulfill God’s purposes. Therefore, Christians should treat women better than anyone else does. We should sacrificially serve women in a way that images the love and wisdom of our creator.

This message hit a cord with the pastors. They were very eager to discuss how Christians could treat women better than does the rest of their culture. One pastor answered that some wives walk behind their husbands and carry the children when they are in public. He said that instead, wives could walk next to their husbands. Another pastor said that some men leave their wives at home from church so that they can work while their husbands go to church. He said that husbands should bring their wives to church with them instead.

This was one of the ways I saw God work through the teaching of his word. I am thankful that God is doing this and many other things through our time here in Ethiopia.

All glory be to God,

Ross Tenneson

The May Hawassa Team consists of TLI staff members, Josh Montague (Trip Leader) and Jesse Albrecht, Wisconsin pastor Scott Larson, New Mexico pastor Frank Malizzo, and Bethlehem Seminary students Scott Hubbard and Ross Tenneson.


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May  23rd,  2016Partnership in the Gospel

“You are partners with us in Ethiopia, and we thank God for that.”

     It was the afternoon coffee break of our first day of teaching, and I was getting to know my translator, Minqote. He’s a young, joyful pastor who has translated for each of the four TLI teams that have taught in Awassa. He also planted a church two months ago and is discipling a handful of new believers.

     I loved Minqote’s word “partners.” The students we met on the first day have much to teach us: they are zealous pastors, evangelists, and teachers with a vision to see Jesus’s name extolled in Ethiopia. We are coming to provide additional theological training so they can minister more effectively. It’s a beautiful partnership in the gospel (Phil 1:5), and we thank God for it too.

     Now, about our teaching. Since this week’s class is the fourth in a nine-class series, we spent the first part of the morning reviewing the major lessons from the three courses the students have already taken. During the second part of the morning, we introduced the book of Genesis by discussing its primary genre and central themes. Then in the afternoon we launched into the text and studied the creation account in Gen 1:1–2:3.

     My favorite part of the day was hearing the students apply the creation account to their own lives and ministries. They took comfort in the God who is the Creator and Lord of all, they were confident that he brings order out of chaos, and they affirmed that new life only comes through God’s powerful Word.

     On the way home from the teaching site, four of the Ethiopian students sat in the back of our van, singing praise songs in Amharic with a distinctly African cadence. I realized how far away from home I am (geographically and culturally) and again thanked God for a partnership that reflects the multi-cultural, interdependent church of Christ.

     May God deepen that partnership throughout the rest of our trip. 

- Scott Hubbard

The May Hawassa Team consists of TLI staff members, Josh Montague (Trip Leader) and Jesse Albrecht, Wisconsin pastor Scott Larson, New Mexico pastor Frank Malizzo, and Bethlehem Seminary students Scott Hubbard and Ross Tenneson.


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May  22nd,  2016Visiting with the Ethiopian Church

Tesfaye is our primary contact in Ethiopia, and the one used of God to invite TLI here.  Today he encouraged us with words about how the Lord has been using this partnership. "Students are growing in their ability to study and hear the message of the text", he told us.  This is vital, so that believers grow in their trust in the Lord, and not just the personality of one individual. "Many of them have taken material from their previous classes, and taught it to others in their churches."  They are taking the lead to grow others in feeding on the Word for themselves.

This is why we are here, and we are thrilled to hear of God at work!

Today (Sunday), we went to church, caught up on rest, and did some preparation as a team for the week ahead.

Josh, our team leader modeled expository preaching and encouraged the body in the surpassing value of knowing Christ.  While with them, we got to share in the joy of their praise to God!

After worshipping with our Ethiopian brothers and sisters, we visited the site where their church is about to move.  This site has been wonderfully made available to them, and presents strategic possibilities to reach students, government workers, and future housing developments. They are visibly excited and humbled by what the Lord has done.   

These churches are growing, and helping people come to Christ.  But as Tesfaye reminded us, they need depth in the Word and training in discipleship.  Others have not been able to sustain their growth, because the foundation was not solid.  The end result has been strife and disillusionment.  This church prays to be a model in building healthy believers, who will be able to disciple others, and multiply themselves.  We all get to be a small part of that.  What an eternal privilege that is!"

- Frank Malizzo

The May Hawassa Team consists of TLI staff members, Josh Montague (Trip Leader) and Jesse Albrecht, Wisconsin pastor Scott Larson, New Mexico pastor Frank Malizzo, and Bethlehem Seminary students Scott Hubbard and Ross Tenneson.


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