Sharing the Gospel in Ethiopia

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By: Dr. Cherie Igielski

Cherie has been serving in Ethiopia and working with SIM (Serving in Mission) since February of 2014 where she works among the Gumuz people.  In a recent prayer letter, she reflected on the Gumuz culture and how the people tend to focus on issues of fear and power, just like Dr. Karen Stoufer predicted they would in last week’s post A Gospel for all Cultures.

How would Cherie go about sharing the Gospel in this culture?

She writes,

One of the priests whom they had carried away from Samaria came and lived in Bethel and taught them how they should fear the LORD. But every nation still made gods of its own…They also feared the LORD…So they feared the LORD but also served their own gods…To this day they do according to the former manner. They do not fear the LORD, and they do not follow the statues or the rules or the law or the commandment that the LORD commanded the children of Jacob, whom he named Israel.” 2 Kings 17:28-34

When I came across this passage during my daily bible reading, I could not help but think of the struggling Gumuz church. We have members who have professed faith in Christ and yet, they all are trapped in the bondage of their culture and generations of traditional practices. They fear the Lord but they fear their community and families also. Even our employees who work as guards, evangelists, and teachers are deeply caught in this struggle. They know with their brains that the practices of the witch doctors do not heal people, but they still go to the witch doctor because they can receive herbs for healing that DO work. If a child or family member is chronically ill, a person has to have a record before the village elders of all that they’ve done to help that person. “We’ve gone to Dibate (town) three times; we’ve traveled to a far clinic two times; we’ve tried this medication and that medication…” If this list does not include a visit to the witch doctor, the community passes judgment and pours on the pressure to do so. In the event of a death following the illness, if there was no visit to the witch doctor listed, then the family is blamed for neglecting to take care of the family member properly.

There is also the stronghold of cursing still rampant among the Gumuz community. A relative may arrive on the same day that a child in the village becomes sick. However, this is not considered incidental. Because so-and-so arrived this day and then the child was discovered to be sick, he or she must have cursed this child. Some of our own church members have been caught in the shame and hatred of this cursing cycle, being accused or blamed for the health of certain people in the community.

Based on what you’ve read, what do you think Ethiopia’s culture type would be for sharing the Gospel?

Honor and Shame? Fear and Power? Guilt and Innocence? I may have given it away in the first paragraph!

Curious as to what your culture type might be?

Take the Culture Test. Read more about A Gospel for All Cultures.

Want to hear more from Cherie? Visit her webpage or sign up for future prayer letters!

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