ethiopialandscape

I'm writing these words from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, having been invited to be part of a team to teach marriage and family to three different geographical groups of Ethiopian pastors and church leaders.

It was humbling to hear pastors talk about the size of their congregations, and the size of their synods (districts). In contrast to our churches, the vast majority of their Sunday attendees are thirty years old and younger. New church starts are so numerous that in a few years they will go from some 29 synods to 34 or 35. But not all is well. Statistics reveal a surprising number of divorces, and, if what we heard is to be believed, divorce rate in the church is higher than the national average! The church leaders are crying out for resources to teach about marriage and the family, as well as an increased number of counselors to offer alternatives to divorce or separation. It was stunning to hear of church workers who had lived separated for many years find reconciliation. But resources are scarce. So our team, which included Dr. Ben Freudenburg from the Concordia Center for the Family in Ann Arbor, responded to the cry, “Come over here and help us.” While we don't know where this will lead specifically, we do know that an impact has been made that will lead to further partnerships.

We learned that family problems are not the only challenges they face. Islam presents a strong challenge in several of their northern synods. Tribal pagan religions are regaining popularity among those who do not wish to see their culture disappear. Problems arise where new families are living in extended family settings and feel pressure from in-laws. And yet the Mekane Yesus church continues to march forward, all the while making incredible sacrifices. The Gospel rain, which Luther talked about, is falling fresh on Ethiopia and other African areas, producing abundant fruit. Until the rains return to the Western world, doesn't it make sense to invest more heavily where the Spirit is working?