Unlike other countries in the East-Central Africa Division (ECD) church region, Ethiopia has a per-capita presence of Seventh-day Adventists that is much lower than in some of the surrounding nations. According to church statistics, there are about 184,000 Seventh-day Adventists in a population of more than 100 million.
Ethiopians are generally considered very enthusiastic for their culture, local church leaders pointed out. Thus, among many other things, they are usually very resistant to religious change. As the ECD church territory focuses on sharing hope with Ethiopians, health expos are proving to be the right language to reach out to people.
The local Adventist Church health ministries department has been working in partnership with Parousia Mission, a self-supporting ministry, to prepare people to learn more about the Adventist message. Together, they have engaged in restoring people physically, mentally, and spiritually.
Anteneh Hailu, who works with the Parousia ministry, said that the health message is breaking down barriers. As an example, he shares about Sebeta and Burayu, two prisons not far from the capital, Addis Ababa, where they held health expos. “Before we left, 148 people started studying the Voice of Prophecy [series of studies],” Hailu said. “Another 300 came for lifestyle discussions in Akaki, Gerji, and Kebena. As a result, 50 signed up for Bible studies.”
Hailu also shared how, after two prisoners were released, they looked for an Adventist church. “They found it, and they are now attending a baptismal class,” he said.
Out of their experience, Adventist health practitioners have noticed that people are very reluctant to attend an “unknown” church. Moreover, they do not want to hear any theory that differs from their convictions. However, they are ready to attend health expos where they learn how to take care of their bodies. In the process, they discover people who care about human wholeness.
“It is at this point that we can share what Adventists believe,” local leaders said.
Hailu revealed that trust is growing in such a way in the city of Addis Ababa that some Evangelical TV channels have allowed the Adventist health ministries to have a space to share some presentations because they believe they will bring positive impact to the community.
One of the Total Member Involvement (TMI) coordinators at Kotebe Adventist church in Addis Ababa praised the health expos for their impact on evangelism. “People come from all across the city, and it becomes easier to invite them to church,” he said.
Adventist medical doctors who have sacrificed time and money for these activities agreed. “We are very pleased with the results,” they said.
Now, the Adventist Church is preparing to launch evangelistic meetings in 1,300 sites across the country. The activities go well beyond those sites, however. “Each church member is a TMI site," said ECD evangelism coordinator Joel Okindoh. “Everyone must plead with God to discover their personal ministry.”
The original version of this story was posted on the East-Central Africa Division news site.