Bekele Deboch Anshiso is an experienced evangelist among some of the most deprived members of Ethiopian society. His thesis on Jesus’ identification with marginalised people has recently been published by the Langham Monographs imprint.
He shares his life story, and his hopes for this important research:
“It was more than 30 yeas ago that I heard about the life and ministry of British missionary Hudson Tayler, who worked in China. Pastor Tesfaye Gabbiso, one of a few first Ethiopian gospel singers, shared about Taylor’s single-minded life and ministry among the poor and destitute in China. He also said that Taylor’s work bore fruit ‘that would last forever’. I was greatly impressed by this testimony, and began praying that I would follow in his footsteps.
“Even though, as a high school student, I had no money to go anywhere, I decided to go to the northern part of Ethiopia, the most unreached area in the country. I talked to a friend, Tefera, who is originally from there, who told me that people in the north do not know about Jesus.
Befriending the poor
“I then sold my jacket, which was a gift from another friend, and Tefera was so impressed that he sold his beautiful watch to pay for transportation; and we travelled to different places in the north.
“I was there for 25 years, evangelising and planting churches. One of the ways I used to reach young and poor people was to talk to shoe cleaners in different groups in small towns. I first made friendships with them, and they have remained my friends.
“Having talked to my church’s leaders in Ethiopia, Dr John Stott invited me to join All Nations Christian College in England to study mission. I did this from 2004 – 2006. I then moved to Spurgeon’s College and did “Discipleship in the Gospel of Mark”.
Discipleship in the UK and Ethiopia
“It was so great to study such a great lesson. I submitted my dissertation on 25 April 2008 in the morning, and returned to Ethiopia on the same day in the evening! For me, discipleship is following Jesus everywhere – from Spurgeon’s College in the UK, to the Ethiopian rural areas to make disciples in those young and small churches.
“After three and half years’ ministry in Ethiopia, I joined Stellenbosch University in South Africa. I did my dissertation on “Jesus and the Marginalized and the Liminal1: The Messianic Identity in Mark.” On the first day of our meeting before I began writing my dissertation, my supervisor, Professor Jeremy Punt, said “Bekele, for some people, studying for a PhD is the highest level of knowledge but for others it is just a beginning of learning something important”. This was very challenging to me.
“I also continued to learn about the identity of Jesus our Lord who avoided all great titles for himself but chose to be a humble servant of many (Mark 10:45). He did not only identify himself with the marginalised and the liminal people in the lower level, but also he was extremely marginalised himself for us on the Romans’ cross. Unlike many religious leaders including his first followers and “Messiahs”of the first century as well as many so-called prophets and apostles of our day, Jesus rejected all the benefits and great titles for himself in order to serve all.
Many joys in the Lord
“While I was at Stellenbosch University in Cape Town, I was busy serving millions of marginalised and liminal Ethiopian diaspora2 in many towns and rural areas of South Africa. The people are marginalised and liminal in many ways. I used to go to several towns and provinces during those five years to teach them in my mother toungue and to preach in the common language they understand. Finally, following the same Jesus, I have returned to my former ministry in Ethiopia although it is hard for me and my young family for many reasons.
“Now I have found that it is a great privilege to experience what I learned about Jesus as one of His (Jesus’s) students. So, I do all things with many joys in the Lord!
“Finally, reading and understanding my little book, my hope and greatest desire for myself, as well as for Christian leaders and preachers, is to deeply think of and understand Mark’s Jesus. He was ignored, and rejected all great titles for himself, identifying with all human beings by coming down from heaven to earth to be born in the small country of Israel.
Jesus among the despised, outcast and marginalised
“He was not known as Jesus of Bethelehem in Judea – a region of the elite – but as Jesus of Nazareth, a small and unwanted town in Galilee, the region of the most despised and outcast people; eventually He died on the cross in order to lift us all up from the grave and to share his victory with those who declare or confess ‘Jesus is truly the Son of God’.”
Bekele has a wife and three children, and he is a part time lecturer at of New Testament Studies at Ethiopian Graduate School of Theology, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. He has published several articles in Amharic (Ethiopian national language) in Ethiopia, as well as in South Africa.
To buy ‘Jesus’ Identification with the Marginalized and the Liminal’ for yourself or to send a copy to someone else who would benefit from it, click here.
1 Liminal describes a person living in between or in midpoint of transition.
2 Diaspora is the dispersion or spread of any people from their original homeland.