From very nervous to very excited …

26 June 2017 |

Evangelicals prepare to contribute to the long history of written literature in Ethiopia


Langham Literature recently held a writers’ workshop at Debre Zeit outside Addis Ababa in Ethiopia. It was organized by Frew Tamrat (Langham Preaching Country Coordinator) and led by Isobel Stevenson (Senior Editor of Langham Literature).The eleven participants represented seven theological institutions. As each participant knew only a few of the others at the start of the workshop, it also became a valuable networking opportunity.

Isobel explains.

As always, I adopted an interactive approach, in which I was the facilitator rather than the instructor…

I began by asking the participants to introduce themselves – through writing short author biographies for the covers of the books they proposed to write…

Straightaway they were discussing the importance of their qualifications – both academic and personal – for writing on particular topics, and the importance of communicating this information to prospective readers.

In the following sessions, I continued to stress the importance of writing for particular groups rather than for a vague ‘general readership’…

They were encouraged to focus on an individual they know well who would fit in their target group, and to write and modify their writing by reading it to that person, or by imagining how that person would respond to it.

I also encouraged them to write as Ethiopians, rather than solely as members of a community of scholars…

The next day, Isobel asked the participants for Ethiopian proverbs and stories that could be used

to illustrate issues of learning and leadership, two clear themes that had emerged in their writing.

It seems that this is something that needs to be done repeatedly for it to take root…

Ethiopia has a long history of Christian written literature – the beautifully illustrated manuscripts in the Ethiopian Orthodox monasteries bear witness to this. But there are not many evangelical books and little by local writers.

A reform movement that is slowly developing in the Orthodox Church means readers today may be more prepared to consider perspectives that differ from their own. Local evangelical Christians, surrounded by the Orthodox, hunger for books to help them understand their own faith. And believers in animist regions of Ethiopia need literature that relates to their circumstances.

Participants requested particular training on how to write biographies. There are many stories in Ethiopia that are being lost as those who survived the persecution during the Communist era are now aging and dying. They also expressed a deep desire for a workbook they could use as they attempted to pass on what they had learnt at the seminar to their colleagues and students…

By the end of the workshop, Isobel felt confident that several good books would come out of it. A very promising philosophical work should appear as a Langham Monograph; three others are dealing with different aspects of the educational experience of students at Ethiopian seminaries; one participant is writing on ethics and leadership, rooted in complex examples drawn from Ethiopian life.

Most of the participants were very nervous when they came to the workshop, and very excited when they left…

All were eager to attend another workshop and to share what they had learnt with others.

Is God’s time ripe for the evangelical church to start contributing to the long history of written literature in Ethiopia?

(The Amharic translation of the Africa Bible Commentary is due in 2018.)

Front row (left to right) Mr. Girma Teklu, Dr. Yacob Godebo, Dr. Yohannes Tesfaye, Mr. Solomon Kebede, Mr. Abeaneazer Gezahagne, Mrs. Isobel Stevenson, Dr. Seblewongel Asrat, Ms. Tsedey Alemayehu, Mr. Workineh Ayele, Mr. Daniel Yilma, Dr. Theodros Assefa

Back row (left to right)

Dr. Frew Tamrat, Dr. William Stevenson

by Elria Kwant

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