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Spreading special ministries to Ethiopia

With many prayers, support from WELS members, and a partnership with WELS Special Ministries, the Lutheran Church of Ethiopia (LCE), WELS’ sister synod, is now the owner of a Braille embosser to help the many visually impaired people in Ethiopia learn about Jesus.

It started when Rev. Dr. Kebede Yigezu from the Lutheran Church of Ethiopia attended the 2017 WELS Synod Convention, where the two church bodies declared fellowship with one another. After founding a confessional Lutheran church in Ethiopia in 2012 and opening a seminary there to teach others confessional Lutheran doctrine, Kebede learned about the opportunities to reach more of the population with the saving gospel message through WELS Special Ministries. God used Kebede’s meeting with Jim Behringer, director of the WELS Commission on Special Ministries, to open more ministry doors in Ethiopia.

Kebede was particularly interested in the Ministry to the Visually Impaired (MVI) and Prison Ministry.

“Right there in the convention during a break, I got the opportunity to talk with the leader of the WELS Special Ministries about how we can get resources for these two special ministries,” recalls Kebede. “He promised to consider ways in which we in Ethiopia could receive the hard copies of books for prison ministry and a Braille machine for ministry to the visually impaired in Ethiopia. Some months later in 2017, he sent a package of Prison Ministry booklets with the answer sheet, which we are in the process of translating into two languages (Amharic and Afan Oromo), which is spoken by about 70 percent of the population of Ethiopia. Then we started communicating about the Braille machine with Brother Larry Povinelli and Brother John Roebke of the One Africa Team. With prayers throughout the next year and a half, the Braille machine for the ministry in the LCE became a reality.”

Povinelli, a member of the WELS Ministry to the Visually Impaired as well as the National Federation for the Blind, is well positioned to know what questions to ask about needs, language, and specifications to help pick out the right Braille embosser. Roebke serves on the One Africa Team, and coincidentally, was Povinelli’s pastor previously in his ministry. God was working to bring all the right people together.

These people include a member of Kebede’s growing church. Truye has a master’s degree in foreign literature, has taught English, has translated English-language news into three different languages spoken in Ethiopia, and has even taught advanced English and academic writing at the LCE’s Maor Lutheran Theological Seminary. She is also blind, knows Braille, and can use a Braille embosser.

“She can teach writing and reading Braille and has a good network with the visually impaired population [850,000 to 900,000 individuals in Ethiopia]. She uses English, Amharic, and Afan Oromo very well,” explains Kebede.

The LCE’s first project for the new Braille embosser will be Luther’s Small Catechism. The church wants to produce Braille versions in English, Amharic, and Afan Oromo. It also is planning audio versions, so the visually impaired can listen on their mobile devices. Next the LCE is looking at reproducing Prison Ministry booklets in Braille and the three languages to help the visually impaired and others learn the basics of Christianity.

“For the Lutheran Church of Ethiopia, this means reaching people who are undermined and left because they are physically impaired and because the only prison ministry is run under the church in Ethiopia,” says Kebede. “These resources will help not only those who are in prison physically and blind physically; these resources also help free people who are in prison spiritually and blind spiritually. Furthermore, we hope that God can use these ministries to reach the families, relatives, and friends of the prisoners and visually impaired with the gospel of our Lord.”

He continues, “These resources are giving us opportunities to work more on translation, communication, and publication projects, which are strengthened by the collaborative efforts of WELS Multi-Language Publications, the LCE, and our Maor Lutheran Theological Seminary. We would like to say ‘thanks’ to our WELS brothers and sisters for your prayers, encouragement, and gifts, which have meant a lot to us.”

Learn more about the work of Special Ministries at

Volume 106, Number 5
Issue: May 2019

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