Demelash Lemma is Horn of Africa coordinator for Samaritan Strategy Africa. He recently traveled from his home in Ethiopia to the DNA global forum in South Africa where he shared the following testimony.
Demelash was first exposed to DNA teachings at a Nairobi Vision Conference in 1999. For the last 10 years, he has worked with Harvest International. In that time, Demelash has trained over 10,000 local church leaders in 4,000 congregations.
“It has been a great privilege for me to share this message,” he said. He went on to acknowledge that the first six years was difficult, like breaking hard ground.
“The idea was not welcome because of the traditional church things,” he admitted, “but the last three or four years the work has begun to pay off.”
In recent years, Demelash has had opportunity to work with a new denomination, the Emmanuel United Church (EUC), founded about 20 years ago. Today it has 130 local congregations, and all the pastors have completed a Vision Conference. Many have also finished a Training of Trainers.
“These leaders are young, professional and passionate,” Demelash says. “Whenever they plant a church, they start it not only with the idea of soul winning but they also go to the local government and ask how they can help their communities.”
God has used the EUC to serve the brokenness of Ethiopia’s families affected by HIV/AIDS. Each local EUC congregation has taken care of “at least two orphaned kids with clothing, food, school materials, and visiting.” Some churches have even started Saturday tutoring classes with professionals giving their time and expertise. Every member is contributing their time, money, gifts to heal the brokenness of that community.
One congregation in the capital city is supporting 85 orphans and poor families. Each child is “adopted” by one or two church members. Church members are also offering tutorial class every Saturday.
Improvement in church and government relations is one of the benefits of this ministry.
“The local government sees this church caring for elderly people, planting trees, caring for HIV victims and poor families,” Demelash says. “As a result, the government has changed its mindset about the church. Government officials, when approached by funders from the West wanting to help, says, ‘Please go to that church. They know what you should do!’”
This congregation also has 50 home Bible studies, and Demelash expects further stories of impact.
“I am hoping to see the seed projects going to a bigger level and bringing transformation to that community.”