Petros (Peter), our driver in Ethiopia recommended that we visit a city of Debre Zeyit to visit a resort area on a crater lake (extinct volcano). We thought that would be a fun place to visit, plus we could also visit Meserete Kristos College which is sponsored by Eastern Mennonite Missions. As we approached the gate, our driver asked us for the name of the person we wished to visit. We didn’t know anyone there; the people we knew from our EMM retreat (Weldon and Joanne) had already returned to Canada. We asked “Can we just look around the campus?”
That is not how things work – you must have an invitation, or a name. So we asked him to tell the guard that we worked with Eastern Mennonite Missions. That did it! Not only did was that an “Open Sesame” for the gate, we were ushered to the office of President Kiros Teka Haddis for a brief visit. And then escorted around campus by the Director of Public Relations.
Our tour went passed the open door of a computer classroom. The classes were just ending when we heard our name being called, and we were surprised to find the computer teacher calling to us by name. He was John Buckwalter, newly arrived in Ethiopia and he recognized us from an EMM article with our picture! We chatted a bit, and then met his wife Laura who had been teaching an English class.
Students were breaking for lunch. We visited the kitchen where young ladies were preparing traditional Ethiopian food – including lots of stacks of injera – a bread like staple with a sour taste. Small pieces are torn off and used to scoop or dip other foods.
The tour was quite fascinating – main buildings, new dormitories, a dining hall/chapel, a kitchen, a large irrigated garden plot, a small cattle lot, a small dairy herd, a large chicken house – all providing jobs for students, and for income generation. They sell lots of eggs, plus have eggs for the meals. These facilities also offer students training to use when they are ministering in poorer communities. Our driver was impressed and had never heard of such a concept for a college.
The name Meserete Kristos means “church founded on Christ”, derived from 1 Cor. 3:11, one of Menno Simon’s key verses. It began as a missionary outreach and has grown to be the world’s largest Anabaptist conference with more than 600,000 participants.
The college provides formal education to equip full-time ministers, the denomination offers regular teaching programs on spiritual formation, leadership and other matters for lay and other full-time ministers. A separate “key teachers” program trains people from churches to be prepared to teach in other churches. The Meserete Kristos church struggles to train enough pastors, find adequate meeting spaces and keep vehicles maintained for its teachers, who travel to distant outposts on rough roads. The college now has four campuses to help address this need.
Pray for the Meserte Kristos Church and the college!