“Why students are our favourite part of serving at MKC”

Two graduating students share their story

Joanne De Jong     |     May 5th, 2022

Ermako Awano, Werner De Jong, Joanne De Jong, Tesfaye Haile, another GC student from Arba Minch. (Photo source: De Jongs.)
Photo Source: De Jongs

The best part of our MC Canada Witness assignment at Meserete Kristos Seminary (MKS) in Bishoftu, Ethiopia, is the students. We eat together. We walk together. We pray together. And we teach each other about God.

Werner’s classes are mostly third- and fourth-year students. Fourth-year students in the English program are required to do a research paper, which they must defend at the end of the term. I would like to introduce you to two graduating students.


Graduating student, Ermako Awano, enjoys bringing shalom to MKS by tending the seminary's garden. (Photo source: De Jongs.)

On any given day over the last four years, it would not be uncommon to see Ermako Awano with his hand on a hose making sure the plants on the MKS compound are watered. A student in the Peace Studies program, Ermako believes that in caring for the MKS garden he is “bringing shalom to the life of the students by creating beauty and being a good steward of what God has made.” With a small budget he has managed to cultivate a wide range of plants including mango, banana and coffee trees. As his time at the seminary comes to an end, he states: “I now feel ownership, like this is ‘my’ compound, and it has motivated me to work.” Some students have nicknamed him Adam.

Part of their resolution process is to kneel down before the parties while holding grass and begging them to work on resolving the issue.

His research paper will also be related to shalom. As a peace student he chose to “analyze traditional conflict resolution by studying the Gamo tribe.” Living in Arba Minch, he is interested in learning from a local Orthodox tribe whose Elders are brought in, even by the government, to resolve conflicts through mediation rather than taking cases to court. Part of their resolution process is to kneel down before the parties while holding grass and begging them to work on resolving the issue. Youth respect them and will put their guns and stones to the side when asked.

Ermako is 30 years old and was married at the age of 22. Before his marriage, his then fiancée, Yimegnushal, called and asked that they adopt an orphan. She had found a baby boy who had been abandoned with the umbilical cord still attached. He gladly agreed. The child’s legs were in the shape of a half moon and that, combined with malnutrition, led the physician to suggest there was no hope. But his wife massaged the boy’s legs with fish oil day after day and now he can walk. They named him Daniel since they believed God rescued him.

When Ermako felt called to go to MKS, Yimegnushal agreed. He had a vision from God he was to go but “although my heart was full, my pocket was empty.” His wife started selling coffee and tea to cover his expenses and he received a partial scholarship for his work in the school garden.

'Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows.'

Looking to the future, the couple hopes to serve widows and orphans. They love the Scripture from James 1:27, “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows.”


Tinsae Negusu, graduating student at MKS 2022. (Photo source: De Jongs)

One may expect that if someone was the daughter of a pastor, life would be rich and full. But this was not the case for Tinsae Negusu. After being beaten and kicked on a regular basis by her mother, her mother deserted the family. And although they prayed daily for her return, it was a relief for her and her brother to be safe with only her father.

After two years her mother returned to the family. She shares how those previous years were formative. Her prayer life became strong. She felt like “God is the only one who loves me,” so she spent many hours reading the Bible, praying and leading a choir at church.

When she graduated from high school, she had no idea what to do so she tried flight attendant school, but that gave her no peace. Then she worked in a shoe factory. But still no peace. Then in IT service management, in a photography shop and finally teaching Kindergarten at a Compassion compound—but still no peace. She had considered Bible school but was told she would never be eligible.

Then one day her pastor at Adame Mesererte Kristos church asked her what she wanted to do with her life. She replied, “I want to serve the Lord.” She shared that she would like to go to Bible school but had been told she would never be accepted. On the spot he called the registrar at Meserete Kristos Seminary and was told she had everything she needed to be accepted.

“This was a turning point in my life,” shared Tinsae. “I felt peace.”

'This was a turning point in my life,' shared Tinsae. 'I felt peace.'

When she started at the school, she signed up for all sorts of courses like church history and hermeneutics. She finally knew that, “Yes! this is where I should be. I settled. I was excited. It felt like home.”

For her research paper, Tinsae is looking at the impact and necessity of a theological education. “Many people think that theology can kill the spiritual life. That seminary is a cemetery where the soul goes to die.” Her survey asked those with a theological education whether they thought that it was necessary—why or why not? She asked whether their spiritual practices had improved or increased and was excited by the responses. She now wants to share theses results with churches, believing all Christians can benefit from theological education. “It is not just for ministry, but personally,” she said.

As Tinsae considers her future she wonders, “In my heart I want to be a theology teacher. I want to obey what the Bible really teaches. I’ve had so many ups and downs in life so I think I can be an encouragement to others like the teachers in the college.”


Werner and I have been blessed to walk with students and hear their stories. It is inspiring to be reminded of a personal God who cares about us and has our lives in His hands. They look to the future with hope and excitement and even ask us what God’s plan is for our lives. What passions do you have in your lives? What is God calling you to do, no matter your age, as you live out the remainder of your days? If you met one of the students at MKS they would give you this message—“God has a plan for your life. Amen! Amen!”

To learn more about ministry in Ethiopia and to donate, visit https://www.mennonitechurch.ca/ethiopia