Coincidence, Providence & Mission

Do you believe in coincidences?

On of my main responsibilities as the Director of Missions at Solana Beach Presbyterian Church is to nurture an incredible relationship between our church and the Afar people of Ethiopia, where we have been working in close partnership with the Ethiopian Lutheran church Mekane Yesus for 20 years.

In the 1850s, Johan Ulrich Rickli, one of my ancestors, was a Swiss Lutheran missionary sent to Ethiopia through an institution called the St. Chrischona Pilgermission. Having been trained as an educator, he traveled from Switzerland through Jerusalem and Cairo, eventually reaching Ethiopia. Once there, Johan and his fellow missionaries pioneered the Apostolic Highway, a road network that provided missionary access into the African interior.

The Apostolic Highway was made up of 12 hospitality homes extending from Egypt to Ethiopia. These were used as ministry centers in which missionaries could share the Gospel and serve locals through education, healthcare and economic development.

But in spite of their service, Johan and his fellow missionaries suffered incredible hardships. They were persecuted, imprisoned and later expelled from Ethiopia. Seemingly defeated, Johan retreated to Cairo, where he’d later set sail for South America in 1865, giving start to my family history in southern Brazil.

But their labor was not in vain. Johan Rickli and his fellow S.C.P. missionaries were the first Lutheran workers in Ethiopia, the tradition and heritage that would birth the Mekane Yesus Church exactly 100 years after Pilgermission worked in the region. Although the Apostolic Highway was paved by selfless service and suffering, today Mekane Yesus has blossomed with more than 8 million members in over 8,500 parishes across Ethiopia and the world.

Over the last century, Ethiopia has gone from a mission field to a mission force. Little did Johan know of the fruit that would come of his efforts and sacrifice. Little did he also know that in 2019, one of this descendants who is also a missionary, would work alongside a thriving national Ethiopian Lutheran Church for the spread of the Gospel into the least reached parts of the region.

Do you believe in coincidences? Because here I can clearly see the work of God’s amazing providence…

Further Reading:

http://friendsoftheafar.org/
https://www.academia.edu/31191355/St._Chrischona_Pilgermission_history_of_the_missions_activities_in_Ethiopia_in_Encyclopaedia_Aethiopica_vol._4
http://ralf.r.tropis.org/artigos/historickli.html#tit

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