A letter from Rich and Marilyn Hansen in Ethiopia
“… you are … built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord.” (Ephesians 2:19-21)
Foundations of new buildings are springing up all over Addis. Rich and I monitor construction closely, because Rich’s school, the Ethiopian Graduate School of Theology (EGST), is building a new six-story structure immediately behind the one the school currently occupies. Each time we are at EGST, we look out the windows to inspect the progress. The foundation has been laid, the “bones” of the ground level are finished and work is progressing on the second story.
New multistory buildings in the city of Addis look much the same as buildings elsewhere in the world when they are completed. The structures are usually concrete, with steel rebar supports. However, construction here is much more labor intensive. At EGST the concrete is mixed in a very small cement mixer. The basic ingredients of sand and gravel are shoveled by women onto small stretcher-like pallets, who then carry it by hand (one in front, one in back) to the mixer. The mixed concrete is poured into buckets, then passed bucket-brigade fashion by several people (again, mostly women), often up ladders, to the location where it is needed. The frames awaiting this newly poured concrete are supported by rough-hewn wooden poles, probably eucalyptus. It seems incredible that such weight can be supported by slim wooden poles. However, to my knowledge, no one has ever reported a building falling down here in Addis. The foundations must be strong.
God is also about construction, about building His church on the foundation of the apostles and prophets. Jesus Christ is the cornerstone. In a way, we are God’s construction workers, passing along buckets of concrete for God’s holy temple here in Ethiopia.
Three weeks ago, Rich had the opportunity to talk about God’s building process when he gave a series of three daily Bible studies to an international conference of the Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus (EECMY), our PC(USA) partner here in the country. The theme chosen for the studies was “… live worthy of our calling …” from the book of Ephesians. Rich was able to speak to leaders of EECMY and representatives of partner churches from Europe and the United States. He was privileged to encourage the audience to work for unity in the Church and for the equipping of the saints within it in order to build a stronger foundation upon which the Church here can stand.
EGST is also about construction — not just the new building, but about students building their lives on the cornerstone of Christ so that they, in turn, can build the church in Ethiopia on that same foundation. Rich is teaching two classes this semester to students in the Biblical and Theological Studies master of arts program. Many in his classes are pastors or seminary instructors. Each of them is committed to wrestling with his or her own faith, coming to a deeper understanding of who God is, and applying what they have learned in their pastoral or teaching ministries. As they build a stronger foundation for their own faith, they will in turn impact many others for the Kingdom of God here.
Recently Rich was appointed Acting Dean of Studies (academic dean) for EGST in addition to his role as Professor of Systematic Theology. As acting dean, he is now responsible for the academic standards, course offerings and faculty of EGST. The school already has a strong foundation upon which to build. Rich will continue to encourage high standards, integrity and best practices as the school moves to expand its degree offerings, including a Ph.D. program in 2017-18.
Two friends of mine, one Swedish and one Norwegian, are teaching an English course during spring semester at Mekane Yesus Seminary near us. I am sitting in on the class as a native English speaker. Every student in the class is serving a church right now as an evangelist, reaching out to those to do not know Christ as their cornerstone. Students at the seminary are expected to understand, speak and write English proficiently in order to take classes, all of which are given in English. Even though intelligent and gifted, many students struggle with this requirement. Enabling them to succeed in their education is another way that the foundation of the Church here in Ethiopia can become stronger.
God, of course, is the ultimate architect as well as concrete mixer and carpenter. As He says in Isaiah 28:16 — “See, I lay a stone in Zion, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone for a sure foundation; the one who trusts will never be dismayed.” May we each trust in our ultimate Builder.
- Praise that the Bible studies Rich gave at the EECMY conference were well received and spoke to issues relevant to church leaders here in Ethiopia
- Praise that the time with our family at Christmastime was full of joy
- Continued prayer for the funding of the EGST building under construction
- Prayer for wisdom and humility for Rich as he navigates his new responsibilities as acting dean, being sensitive as he provides leadership in a non-western context
Rich and Marilyn
The Rev. Dr. Rich Hansen
Acting Dean of Studies and Professor of Systematic Theology
Ethiopian Graduate School of Theology (EGST)
P.O. Box 24934 Code 1000
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
The 2011 Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, p. 57