Ermias Mamo – A Life Less Ordinary
Ermias Guisha Mamo was born and raised in southern Ethiopia in a rural setting, the son of a farmer’s son. Ermias Mamo’s father, Mamo Guisha, spent his early adulthood as a village gang member who robbed people and persecuted and threatened early converts to Christianity in the community. He realised that he was older than was custom to get married, and decided upon stealing a wife from a polygamous man as his only chance of finding a wife. So he did so, proposing at knife point and they were married the same day. Ermias’ mother fell pregnant and his father began a new life trying to make an honest living. But this first child fell sick at 2 months old. Ermias writes:
“According to the traditional approach, my father went to the witch doctor to inquire the cause of the sickness. The reply from the witch doctor was that his ancestors were not happy with him and he had to offer sacrifices and gifts to appease them. He even went on to say he would never have children if he failed to bring the sacrifices. My father, puzzled by the request, and knowing that they could not afford the request, thought the ancestor would understand him. Soon my older brother died.”
A year later Ermias was born, but he too became sick at the same age. One night, after the witch doctor had nothing new to offer them, when Ermias’ mother thought her second son would not last the night a lady from the village rushed in. She had converted to Christianity three days ago when a man had visited the village and preached the Gospel and she thought that this new religion might, possibly, be able to help.
“Would you try it? It is about Jesus Christ. You never know, you might get help.”
The appeal of an option of salvation that was free appealed to Ermias’ mother and his father. The lady said she would return in the morning and lead them to Christ. That night, at midnight, Ermias was healed. God sent his healing power even before they made an official commitment of their lives to Christ. However, following Jesus didn’t put an end to all the difficulties their family faced.
When Marxism came to power in Ethiopia in 1987, it was the advent for strife once more in the family home. Many church elders and pastors joined the Communist Party, including Ermias’ father. Mamo Guisha had been a caring husband and loving father following his dramatic conversion when Ermias was 2 months old, and a leader in the church. But after getting involved in political leadership he took two more wives, started drinking, coming home late and abusing Ermias’ mother. This threw up huge doubts for Ermias and his younger brother about the authenticity of Christianity, but they struggled through, under the beautiful discipleship of their mother. Ermias as one of the few literate people in his community was often asked to read the Bible to his church.
“No expositions, no comments. I read the Bible, a chapter at a time!”
After high school Ermias Mamo moved far away from his village to attend a teacher’s training school and his conflict was resolved. A good friend there changed his life forever when he asked if Ermias had been baptized by the Holy Spirit. This man began to mentor and disciple him, praying with him, talking through issues, correcting and encouraging him.
During the ten years he spent with Ethiopian Kale Heywet Church, leading at district level and training leaders and missionaries, he also began formal theological education. Following his theology degree at Evangelical Theology College in Addis Ababa and a Masters in Intercultural Studies, Ermias became a Langham Scholar and was supported to study for his doctorate at Fuller Seminary. Following the completion of his studies Ermias returned to Ethiopia where he is now the Chaplain and Lecturer in Mission at Ethiopian Graduate School of Theology in the capital, Addis Ababa.
Mamo’s journey into greater maturity as a Christian was marked by contextualized discipleship, first by his mother and then his mentor whilst training to be a teacher. This foundation was the starting point for his book, The Maturing Church, which explores how discipling Christians to face the issues they face in their daily lives whilst participating in God’s self-revelatory mission to all mankind can bring spiritual growth to the church of Christ. The book also begins with Ermias Mamo’s own telling of his personal discipleship journey and is available from all major Christian bookshops and online retailers such as Amazon and Book Depository.