Library project in Ethiopia half-finished

Books in hand, now it’s time to build the library — and you can help

by Tammy Warren | Presbyterian News Service

Ed Pollock, at right, with his sister, Leah Preston, at the 114th New Wilmington Mission Conference in New Wilmington, Pa. Ed Pollock is focused on ensuring that a seminary library is built next spring in Gambella, Ethiopia, to meet the growing need for trained pastors. (Photo by Tammy Warren)

NEW WILMINGTON, Pa. — Ed Pollock, the son of longtime Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) mission co-worker Ted Pollock, is a man on a mission.

Since 2017, Pollock and members of St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church in Mt. Airy, Maryland, have worked tirelessly to collect enough books and Bibles to build a theological reference library for seminary students in Gambella, Ethiopia.

This urgent project, launched at the request of leaders of Jordan Bible School, the only theological training school of the Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus (EECMY) in the Western Gambella Bethel Synod of Ethiopia, will assist the school to meet requirements to become a certified, degreed program.

“In a time of crisis, when Ethiopia is overflowing with refugees from neighboring war-torn Sudan, the churches in Ethiopia are desperate for pastors to serve their people,” said Michael Weller, who serves with his wife, Rachel, as PC(USA) mission co-worker in Ethiopia, alongside EECMY, a church built through more than a century of Presbyterian mission in Ethiopia.

The seminary recently voted to add a track for refugees to take classes, with staff and administrators readily agreeing to work more unpaid hours to facilitate these classes to meet the great need for trained pastors.

The seminary library project is now halfway to completion, Pollock said. More than 6,000 books have been collected. Volunteers from St. Andrew’s Presbyterian have devoted more than 400 hours to sort and prepare the books to be sent to the Theological Book Network (TBN) for shipment to Ethiopia. Churches in the Presbytery of Baltimore, New York and presbyteries in North Carolina have also supported the project.

Pollock said TBN is holding the books until a suitable seminary library can be built in Gambella. This part of the project has become more urgent for him, he said, since he was diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer in April.

“Before I die, I want to know there is a plan to get these books where they belong,” Pollock said. “Short of a miracle, there is no cure, only treatment that will extend my life by 6 to 22 months.” In the time remaining, he said he has felt led by the Holy Spirit to see that a proper library is built for the seminary in Gambella.

The Western Gambella Bethel Synod currently has 138 churches, 94 preaching points (new churches that are gathering but have not yet organized as congregations), more than 100,000 church members — and only 64 pastors. The synod’s five-year plan includes organizing 79 new congregations and creating 174 additional preaching points, increasing the need for well-trained pastors.

Jordan Bible School presently has a maximum capacity of 30 students and is limited to offering a two-year certificate program. With construction of the library, the synod plans to double the capacity of the school and upgrade it to be a three-year diploma program to help alleviate the pastor shortage.

Pollock believes building the library has the potential to heighten awareness and deepen compassion for Christians and mission co-workers in Africa who carry on, despite distressing circumstances.

Plans for the library are being finalized and construction is expected to begin next spring with the involvement and support of Leah Preston, Pollock’s sister; his nephew, Adam Pollock; and brother, Ron Pollock. “We need prayer that all the pieces come together and that construction goes smoothly,” Preston said.

The library will be made of simple cement blocks. It will be 23-by-70 feet, surrounded with a veranda to provide extra study area for the students. The roof system, windows and doors will be fabricated by Ethiopian Steel, based in Addis Ababa, which also made the roof for another building the Pollock family built near Gambella in 2014.

Bookshelves will be placed along the walls so they are easier to illuminate at night and to provide space for tables in the center of the room. A row of sunlight tubes will be installed in the center of the building to supplement window light during the day. Backup solar lighting also will be included to address unpredictable electricity in the community.

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