diaspora /dahy-as-per-uh/ noun:
any group that has been dispersed outside its traditional homeland
Have you noticed African immigrants in your community? Do you know where they came from? And most importantly, do you know whether they know Jesus Christ?
One large group of immigrants in America have traveled here from Ethiopia, a country of about 112 million people in northeast Africa.
About a million Ethiopians – a population roughly the size of Austin, Texas – now call places like Washington D.C., Minnesota, California, Ohio and Nevada home. And while some might expect the Ethiopian immigrants to have a Muslim background, in fact most are Christian – and even Lutheran!
“In Mekane Yesus (the largest Lutheran church body in Ethiopia) alone, there are more than 10 million members,” said Rev. Dr. Dinku Bato, LHF’s coordinator of African translation projects. Yet when Ethiopian immigrants arrive in the United States, the cultural differences often make it difficult for them to find a Lutheran church home.
“To cope with a new life in this country, Africans stick together, and therefore they may join Pentecostal churches because those are the only ones they can find in their communities,” Rev. Bato explained. “Most do this against their conscience, as there is no other option. They need to be part of the community simply to build support systems in a foreign land.”
When Rev. Dr. Dinku Bato (a native Ethiopian himself) accepted the call to LHF three years ago, one of his goals was to unite the scattered Ethiopian Lutheran church – the “diaspora,” Rev. Dinku calls them – using LHF’s translations of foundational Lutheran books like the Small Catechism and A Summary of Christian Doctrine.
It’s been an effective and welcome approach.
The first step is sharing LHF translations in the Amharic, Oromo, Hadiyya and Tigre languages with the 35+ Ethiopian Lutheran ethnic congregations that are already part of the LCMS system. “These congregations typically conduct their services in their native languages, as most of their adult members depend on their mother tongues for worship,” said Rev. Bato.
“This very fact makes LHF books indispensable for their ministry, ranging from children’s Sunday school to adult confirmation classes. These congregations have been receiving literally hundreds of books such as A Child’s Garden of Bible Stories, Luther’s Small Catechism and ‘Jesus Never Fails’ from LHF,” Rev. Bato reflected.
The books are then also shared with other immigrant churches interested in Biblical teachings.
“Even for many pastors, this is the first time they have ever seen a Small Catechism in their own language,” Rev. Bato said. “In America, it’s sometimes very surprising for them to see something in their language. They’re not expecting it, but we find them and send them His Word!”
Sharing the Faith with your Muslim Friend
What if you meet your African neighbor, and you find out he or she is Muslim? LHF has a resource that can help: Guidelines for Sharing the Faith with Your Muslim Friend: The Do’s and Don’ts.
This 80-page booklet (written in English) provides a summary of the Islamic faith, outlines Christian beliefs that are difficult for Muslims, and offers winsome ways to introduce your Muslim friend to the Savior, Jesus Christ.
To order your copy, send an email to info@LHFmissions.org, or call the LHF office at (800)554-0723.