A letter from Rich Hansen in Ethiopia
Last month 34 women and men graduated from the Ethiopian Graduate School of Theology (EGST). (See photo). Like other graduations all over the world, this event was one of celebration and joy. Testimonies to God’s faithfulness by students and challenges issued to the students were heard. The United States Ambassador to the African Union preached a message about changing the culture to address needs in Ethiopian society.
Rich’s joy, as Acting Dean of Studies, was to read the name of each graduate as they walked across the stage to receive their diplomas and to announce those students who received academic prizes for exceptional scholarship. (See photo). On the flip side, Rich was also in charge of making sure that each student had fulfilled all graduation requirements and chairing the committee in charge of a graduation banquet and the graduation ceremony.
Students graduated from each of the degree programs offered by EGST. To appreciate the caliber of these students, here is a snapshot of one student from each program:
Post-Graduate Diploma (PGD)—for students who have a non-theological career path, who would like to study theology in order to serve the church more effectively and in order to grow in their own faith
Helen, a PGD graduate, earned the highest GPA of all 34 graduates and as our graduation student speaker offered an impressive assessment of where Ethiopian evangelical culture needs to grow theologically. In addition to working full time as an IT professional for Ethio Telecom, the national communications company, she began part-time study in the M.A. in Biblical and Theological Studies program this fall.
M.A. in HIV/AIDS in Relation to Theological Studies (MAHA)—to equip students, both professionally and biblically, for leadership in HIV and AIDS programs to address this pressing problem
(See photo of Rich and Aelaf, a female MAHA graduate). Ayano, a MAHA graduate, has a moving personal testimony of his own multiple-year fight with AIDS and the death of both his wife and his son from AIDS. In addition to losing his family, Ayano lost his ordination as a pastor since many evangelical churches here believe anyone with AIDS is sinful or cursed by God. With the help of a former PC(USA) missionary, he has established a nationwide organization supporting and counseling pastoral leaders with HIV or AIDS to live in the midst of the persecution they often experience.
M.A. in Leadership and Management (MALM)—to prepare students, using leadership principles and a biblical perspective, to become effective leaders and managers within the church and other organizations
Adina, a MALM graduate, wrote her M.A. thesis on women in ministry in her home denomination and our PC(USA) partner church, the Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus. Before coming to EGST she was a synod coordinator for women’s ministry for the EECMY. She is the kind of path-breaking model leader who will make a significant impact as Ethiopian church culture gradually accepts women in leadership.
M.A. in Biblical and Theological Studies (MABTS)—to prepare students who already have a theological degree for ministry as pastors, teachers/professors and church leaders
Wondimu, an MABTS graduate, has been serving as a part-time seminary professor in systematic theology at the Mekane Yesus Seminary in Addis and, thanks to his MA from EGST, will now be promoted to a full-time teacher. (See photo). Rich was his M.A. thesis advisor and feels privileged to have a role in preparing the next generation of seminary teachers for this nation. Wondimu is well known to many in our partner churches in the Presbytery of Shenandoah.
Master of Theology—to allow students to undertake original research relating to their chosen theological discipline as preparation for teaching, writing and Ph.D. studies
Tamrat, an M.Th. graduate, wrote his thesis about how local churches can address the plight of the thousands of street children and orphans living homeless on the streets of Addis. He teaches philosophy and theology at the Assembly of God Bible College here and is another example of EGST preparing professors who will address the issues facing Christian leaders in Ethiopia.
Graduation is experienced by students who have achieved an important goal, by family who can celebrate with them, and by faculty who have influenced and come alongside students for a brief period of time. Rich has now been able to savor the joy of graduation from all three perspectives, as a student himself, as the father of graduates, and now as a professor and mentor of students. Meeting their families, rejoicing with students, and feeling gratefulness for the privilege of widening their horizons and knowledge has been a gift of God to Rich.
• Praise for the spiritual maturity and servant hearts of the EGST graduates and prayer that they will now use their gifts and education to make a difference for Christ in Ethiopia
• Prayer for wisdom and energy for Rich as he fulfills his numerous responsibilities as Acting Dean of Studies
• Praise that Rich received his work permit and we both now have residency cards for another year