Feasting on God's Word
"Preachers in Ethiopia are like people who have all kinds of food in their pantry but don't know how to cook," Pastor Orano explained. Sitting at lunch during a class break in Bishoftu, he skillfully tore a piece of injera, the traditional Ethiopian flat bread, and used it to mop up some spicy stew on his plate. Then he shared further about the state of church leaders in his country. "They have all they need in the Bible, but they don't know how to use it in their ministries. Instead of preparing tasty meals for their people, they have others—false preachers on television—cook unhealthy food for them."
The picture Pastor Orano painted was disheartening. Christianity has been Ethiopia's dominant religion for thousands of years, yet pastors continue to rely, sometimes exclusively, on others for their theology and church practice. His report included stories of dictatorial pastors, rampant false teaching, legalism, church division, and destitute poverty inflicted by a false gospel that promises extravagant wealth. There are many problems facing the church in Ethiopia.
Yet, despite all appearances, God is still working. In Shashemene, recently, sixty-one trainees started their three-year program with TLI, while another fifty completed theirs in Bishoftu.
At graduation in Bishoftu, after each trainee, giddy with excitement, received their diploma and held it high to roaring applause, the whole assembly sang together. There in the school's courtyard they praised God for his faithfulness through the years. In view of that proven faithfulness, there is unshakeable hope and promise for the church in Ethiopia.
Some of that hope also rests with God's work through people like Pastor Orano. Before lunch ended he added one last challenging word: "Preachers must learn how to cook," he insisted. "It's not enough to only watch someone do it. You can only learn by practicing yourself." Then, shortly after cleaning his plate, Pastor Orano returned to his class and, with passion and good humor, led others to see God more clearly through Scripture.
The message was clear. Ethiopia's future lies in people like these godly servants of Christ who are equipped to make disciples who make disciples. With the help of TLI, these dear brothers and sisters are practicing the skills they need to preach and teach the Bible faithfully in their churches. In the metaphor of Pastor Orano, they're learning how to cook. And we're most certainly looking forward to the feast.