by Caroline Kurtz, Frontier Fellowship friend and former associate director
The Presbyterian mission in Ethiopia opened a mission station in the town of Maji in 1947, deep in the southwest region of the country near the border of what is now South Sudan. Missionaries ran the only schools and medical clinics in a 150-mile radius until they were forced out in 1977 by a Communist regime called the Derg. Since then, Maji has had limited connection to the world beyond its borders.
After the fall of the Derg, I accompanied my father Harold Kurtz (Frontier Fellowship’s first executive director) back to Maji to see how Frontier Fellowship might help the struggling, persecuted church in Maji recover from years of isolation. We helped them apply to get the church building and mission compound back from the local government, which had nationalized them. We also found a donor to renovate the used and abused buildings.
The church began to grow when a man named Ato Markos Gebresallassie left government employment to lead the church and run a highland apple orchard. As part of the Maji apple project, a local spring was capped—the only protected spring in the district—giving nearby families a source of safe drinking water. This began a new stage of development in Maji.
Among the Dizi people group, the Maji church is beginning to thrive. It’s planting and nurturing daughter churches in farming communities outside of town. The Bible translation team, supported by Frontier Fellowship friends, will finish the New Testament within the next few years under SIL’s guidance. And a new church in Maji—funded by a memorial fund for my father, a Frontier Fellowship donor and gifts of time and money from Dizi believers—will be dedicated on May 27, 2018.
As the Gospel impacts the Dizi people, God’s Kingdom is continuing to be expressed in practical ways. Maji still lies many miles beyond the end of the national power grid, and there’s no electric power in the district. At the request of the church elders, I arranged for the installation of a 50w solar panel and battery to power four lights for the government of Ethiopia’s Health Ministry clinic in Maji. God is now opening doors to expand solar power access to individual homes—development that will help Dizi lives flourish in radically new ways.
Our partner ministry, the Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus, believes it’s called to offer “the whole Gospel for the whole person.” Leaders dream of increasing opportunities for holistic ministry as the Church grows and they find resources for needs such as clean water projects, solar power, children’s and women’s literacy, job creation for educated yet unemployed youth and efforts to slow the progress of rapid deforestation. Their dreams bring to mind the exhortation of the prophet Micah: “to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8). May we do the same!