Lutherans in the Twin Cities

Twin Citians increasing connection to Ethiopia’s Mekane Yesus

In Oromiffa, the word himmacha means “God has a calling for you.” The Brooklyn Park, Minnesota-based non-profit Holistic Mission of the Children of the Horn of Africa (HMCHA) takes its name from this word. HMCHA partners with Ethiopian citizens from the Yerer region to provide basic literacy and to sponsor children in northeast Africa.

HMCHA is operated by a unique collaboration with the Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus (EECMY), officially the second-largest Lutheran church body in the world. A majority Christian country, Ethiopia traces its biblical roots back to the time of Christ.

Leadership of HMCHA is Ethiopian-led (rather than American-led) with assistance from Christian volunteers from Minnesota, organized as an affiliate. Through this program, volunteers focus their efforts on Yerer, a city of about 20,000 people spread out over many miles, where they provide sponsorship for food, clothing, and education to poor children and their families, and also help with water-related and other projects that benefit the people living in this desert region.

In May, 16 volunteers from four Twin Cities congregations saw first hand how their financial support helps these Ethiopian people. Led by Megersa Kumbi, a resident of Brooklyn Park and a native Ethiopian, this group had the chance to learn about and assist the HMCHA mission. The delegation included representatives from Bethlehem Lutheran Church (ELCA), Minneapolis, and Prince of Peace Lutheran Church (ELCA), Burnsville, Minnesota.

Megersa Kumbi (left), a native Ethiopian and former Luther Seminary student, introduces young members of the Mekane Yesus church to the Minnesota delegation. Photo provided by Megersa Kumbi

It is hard for some of the people of Yerer to understand why Anglo-Americans care about their needs.

Paul Gilje, a member of the HMCHA advisory board and a trip participant, said, in preparing for the trip, that the participants were invited to come to learn and share their mutual faith with the people that their money supports.

“My greatest hope is not for what is in this trip, but what comes out of it — an understanding of the great mission activity of this place. We Minnesotans will see who is running the show, and hope to inspire others to provide support,” Gilje said.

One man’s calling impacts children of Ethiopia

Expelled from Ethiopia in 1977, and forced to leave behind his wife and two sons, Kumbi is familiar with political, spiritual, and personal suffering. His first wife died in 1985, and he was unable to bring his children with him to the United States until 1997. Kumbi says this suffering, along with his love for Christ, has shaped his theological views.

During Kumbi’s studies at Luther Seminary (where he earned M.A. and M.Th. degrees, graduating in 2004), he felt God’s call to serve the needy and forgotten children of East Africa. In 2005, he visited Yerer, and two years later, after much prayer, sufficient financial support came for Kumbi to start HMCHA.

On HMCHA’s website, Kumbi writes, “I have visited Ethiopia many times in the last nine years. During this time, I have been made aware of a major crisis. Ethiopian children are suffering because they lack adequate spiritual and physical nourishment. The children of Ethiopia have to do everything in order to survive. For this reason it is very hard to blame these children. Christians failed to address the spiritual and physical needs of these poor children.”

Minnesotans partner with Ethiopians to supply the needs of Ethiopia's residents.

HMCHA is taking steps to change that. The organization started out by sponsoring one child. Since its founding in 2007, 16 children are now fully sponsored. Through this sponsorship, more than their physical and educational needs are met; these children are learning the gospel message and sharing it with their families.

In a region that is dominated by witchcraft, Kumbi says it is safe for the children to learn about Christianity because HMCHA does not force the teachings on the children, but works through voluntary after-school programs, which combine a mix of everyday and theological studies. He says the children bring what they learn back to their families.

Kumbi notes that it is hard for some of the people of Yerer to understand why Anglo-Americans care about their needs. “We tell them, they do it for the love of Jesus Christ,” Kumbi says.

Participants in the mission trip to Ethiopia will share stories at the HMCHA annual fundraising banquet at Plymouth Covenant Church, 4300 Vicksburg Lane North, Plymouth, Minnesota, on June 26 at 5 p.m. Tickets are $15 in advance and $20 at the door. The banquet will feature Ethiopian food and music and a silent auction. To make banquet reservations or learn more about HMCHA, visit its website: www.hmcha.org.

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