Krista Allen is currently serving a three-year term with MCC in Ethiopia. Allen attended Anderson University, and her home church is The Mercy House in Anderson, Indiana.
The Church was full. The front benches were reserved for the honored guests, a mix of men and women most of whom could take the title of respected grandparent.
The pastor’s voice boomed a message through the loud speaker. The top choirs, one in purple and one robbed in golden yellow sang with jubilee. The pastor recognized the prayer and hard work of the church founders. These leaders faced trials soon after the church’s founding when the communist government came to power. Persecutions and imprisonment were common in the years to come. The church building was silent until the names of these men and women were called. As each founder was recognized, he or she came to the front of the church to receive a medal, a rose and a certificate. The crowd was warm with applause, acknowledging this important transition. The Meserete Kristos Church (MKC) began 59 years ago.
This time of recognition was part of the Meserete Kristos General Assembly. Church leaders from around the country came together in Nazret, Ethiopia, to celebrate the church’s history and receive trainings for the times ahead. Over 700 of us participated - pastors, church leaders and church workers from throughout Ethiopia.
The assembly became a time of passing on the torch, or in this case, the rose. The church fathers stood at the front of the church with bundles of roses. They called to those still filling the benches, the current church leaders, to come forward. Those who came forward received a rose and a blessing from the church founders.
The rose is a symbol of the responsibility for the church and the sharing of the Gospel through the generations. The times have changed. With the fall of the Derg (communist government), hidden services ceased and the church resumed its public role. Men and women did not have to fear imprisonment for their beliefs and were free to speak about their faith. When the church resurfaced and members came forward, the church had expanded into one of the largest Mennonite churches in the world.
Many struggles have passed, the early persecutions have ceased. But the church is continuing to grow. Conflicts persist between the Protestant Church and the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. In many rural communities those who have left the Orthodox religion and joined MKC or other Protestant Churches are ostracized from their family and community. They may even be tortured in hopes that they will recant and rejoin the Orthodox Church.
The church faces changing theology and worship styles, issues the new leaders will face. For now the elders are there to guide them but those times too will soon reach an end. The new leaders have been entrusted with the care of the church.
The new generation of MCC and EMM workers also received roses. None of the first MCC Ethiopia service workers or EMM workers were present, but MCC and EMM’s presence in Ethiopia throughout the history of MKC was acknowledged and honored.
I am in my second year of service with MCC. Last year I came as part of the SALT program designed for young adults. I served in Nazret, Ethiopia (the birth place of MKC) as a communications officer for a local NGO working with street children and orphans.
I renewed my term with MCC for an additional three years serving with MKC. I am writing a peace curriculum to be used in children’s Sunday School classes throughout Ethiopia.
MCC Ethiopia works with peace development, food stability, education and HIV/AIDS care and support. MCC has a close relationship with MKC and provides support to many of the church programs, including those that provide relief and development. Currently MCC Ethiopia and MKC are working together to help provide food in exchange for work in one of the areas greatly affected by the drought.
I receive my rose and return to my seat. We break into song raising our roses in the air. The building, the Meserete Kristos Church in Ethiopia, is filled with joy. The work of MKC and MCC continues.
- Krista Allen