Each year, thousands of Ethiopians – many who are Christian – immigrate to the United States. Over the past decade, the LCMS has begun to connect to many of these immigrants, and now LHF is adding its support with Amharic and Oromo translations of Lutheran books like the Book of Concord, catechisms and A Child’s Garden of Bible Stories.
“Most immigrants are escaping repression, and few are economic immigrants and students,” said Rev. Gemechu Olana, pastor of Oromo Lutheran Church in Los Angeles since 2009. “As soon as most new immigrants arrive, they often look for Ethiopian communities and churches, where they can get some sort of familiar social, emotional and spiritual environment. This is not just so they can surmount some of their homesickness, but also so they may practice their Christian faith the way they better understand.”
As Ethiopian immigrants search for a new church home, some are starting to come into contact with LCMS congregations.
LHF Executive Director Rev. Matthew Heise recently attended a gathering of Oromo-speaking Ethiopian Christian mission leaders.
“They want to create this fellowship,” Rev. Heise reflected. “There’s an Oromo Evangelical Lutheran Mission Society that’s formed, and they’re up to 20 congregations now. Most of them were affiliated originally with more liberal denominations, but the Ethiopian Oromo leaders I met with said that one of the reasons the Lutheran faith is growing among Ethiopians is because we adhere to a more conservative Biblical message.”
“Lutheran churches have become a safe oasis for all our diaspora (scattered) communities by welcoming them and reaching out to them with the compassion of Christ,” said Rev. Gemechu Olana, pastor of Oromo Lutheran Church in Los Angeles since 2009. “Reaching out to the Oromo-speaking people with the sound Gospel of Christ, in a language that’s meaningful to them, is critical.”
LHF has already translated several books into the Amharic language for Ethiopians, and the Oromo Small Catechism and A Child’s Garden of Bible Stories are underway. The books will be used not only among immigrants here in the United States, but also in Ethiopia.
“This region of the globe has been the major focus of the Arabs and other Muslim countries,” shared Rev. Olana. “The Arabs always felt and perceived Ethiopia as a Christian state that blocked the spread of Islam to the rest of East African states.
“Today, fundamental Muslims are getting advantage of religious freedom in Ethiopia to launch and propagate their doctrine in the rural area,” he continued. “Several Oromo youth have been transported to Libya, Sudan and Saudi Arabia for Islamic training. This is a looming danger, which will soon confront the evangelism effort at its infancy. Islam is becoming a threat to Ethiopia, and especially to the Oromos.
“So LHF translating some of the basic Lutheran confessional teachings into the Oromo language as much as possible is a critical strategic missional endeavor, one that not only support the EECMY ministry in Ethiopia, but the diaspora Oromo churches as well,” Rev. Olana concluded.
“[It’s important to] notice that Ethiopia is the only Christian-ruled country in the horn of Africa, which has been the major focus of the Arabs and other Muslim countries,” reflected Rev. Olana. “So translating some of the basic Lutheran confessions into the Oromo language is a critical strategic mission endeavor that not only supports the diaspora in the United States, but the Christians in Ethiopia as well.”
Only with your help can this important work continue. Prayerfully consider how you can help support LHF projects.