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Island of Christianity in a sea of Islam

Vera and Carl Hansen visit the MC Canada offices in Winnipeg to talk about the Meserete Kristos College

November 21, 2002
by Daniel Rempel

Winnipeg, Man.—Ethiopia, known as "an island of Christianity in a sea of Islam," is also home to one of the world's fastest-growing Anabaptist churches, the Meserete Kristos Church, says Carl Hansen.

Carl and Vera Hansen work for Meserete Kristos College, which is currently training 125 students, trying to fill the rapidly growing church's huge demand for church leaders. Vera serves as accountant and librarian for the college and Carl serves as principal. The 10-member faculty is predominantly Ethiopian.

When the Hansens first went to Ethipoa in 1967, this Anabaptist denomination had 600 members in five congregations. Now it has nearly 100,000 baptized members in 275 congregations, as well as 753 church plants.

The Christian church in Ethiopia remains a persecuted church. Carl Hansen cited an example of a mob that beat and killed a Christian while police stood by and watched. In spite of persecution, the membership of Evangelical churches has grown from zero to 10 million over the last 75 years. The evangelical church is growing four times as fast as the broader population. Half of Ethiopia's 63 million people are Ethiopian Orthodox Christians.

As a whole, Ethiopia is currently experiencing a revival of all religions, fuelled in part by desperate poverty and the failed promises of both Marxism and now Capitalism.

The Meserete Kristos Church has a great need for trained leaders. "Presently the shepherding task is being done largely by lay evangelists with no formal biblical training," said Hansen.

To meet this need the church founded a college in 1994 is planning for expansion. A new campus for up to 2,000 students is planned. The Ethiopian government has already donated a 13 acre site,

Mennonite pastors first baptized Ethiopians in 1951. The Hansens worked in Ethiopia from 1967 to 1975, pastored the Salem Mennonite Church in Tofield, Alberta from 1975 to 1984, and worked in Kenya from 1985 to 1995. They returned to Ethiopia in 1996.