Kale Heywet Word of Life Church
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|Kale Heywet Word of Life Church|
|Website||Kale Heywet Church website|
Kale Heywet (Word of Life) Church (KHC) is the largest evangelical denomination in Ethiopia. Started in the early 1920s by pioneering Serving In Mission, formerly, Sudan Interior Mission, (SIM) missionaries, Kale Heywet Church thrived in the south-central and south-western corners of the country during the five-year Italian occupation in the 1930s.
Dr. Thomas Alexander Lambie (1885-1954) is one of the prominent of early missionaries towards the establishment of the KHC. His entry and stay for some seven years and re-entry with a group of the first batch of SIM missionaries into the country, his fast friendship with the commoner as well as the high-level officials, including the emperor himself, his brave commitment even to relinquish his birth citizenship to be an Ethiopian in order to get the right to buy and retain land titles and build mission stations with less bureaucracy, is a story in its own right. Articles such as this one and his books testify to his life and ministry. In the first decade of the missionary endeavor the mission itself was known locally as "Lambie's Mahber" - Lambie's association.
The first missionaries had initially planned a trip into the western part of Ethiopia, but after prayer felt they were being led to the South Central area. The early missionary work was concentrated among the Welayta, Kambaata, and Sidama peoples, which are the three most densely populated awrajas (regions) in Ethiopia. This area was, as fertile spiritually as it is geographically. At Dembi Dollo Lambie worked with an Ethiopian evangelist named Gidada Solon.
The few missionaries that entered the country all had to exit the country during the country's invasion by the Italians. They left a handful of believers with the translation of portions of Scriptures and the Gospel of Mark. What the missionaries found when they returned after the five-year occupation of the country was astounding. The handful of believers was multiplied by thousands, and the fledgling congregation was very strong. The price of planting this church in Ethiopia was at a very great cost, it even cost of the lives of three of the earliest missionaries. Nearly 100 missionaries toiled hard for about ten years before they left the country during the invasion. The Italians were not friendly to the Orthodox Church and treated the new Evangelical believers harshly.
Changed lives were very evident among the converts who had followed the animist way of life. The congregations that grew in the absence of the church planting missionaries wasn’t lacking anything. In fact, their unprecedented absence was a boon in a way as it gave birth to a church with an indigenous local texture. The devotion of the believers was pure and their worship biblical as well as culture-sensitive. Returning missionaries, aside from church planting in unreached areas, provided needed biblical and theological teachings to the growing church. It was this unwavering commitment to the teaching of the Word of God, that kept KHC healthy and strong.
Kale Heywet Church grew and matured in its primal years not without persecution and challenges. The long established and state supported Ethiopian Orthodox Church tried from long before not to permit missionaries into the country. What crystallized this was the church’s unfortunate experience with the Jesuit missionaries some four centuries earlier. The missionaries were limited in their effort to preach the good news. The nationals were tried and imprisoned.
It was thus that Kale Heywet Church, numerically by far the largest Evangelical denomination, was started and developed. In the seventy years of its history the church has witnessed not a few ups and downs. In the 1950s together with like denominations of the Baptist Church and the Church of Christ, the Yewongel Amagnotch Andnet Mahber (Gospel Believers' Fellowship?) was established. This body served as the voice of the Evangelical believers in Ethiopia for no less than three decades.
Currently KHC has about or more than 7,774 local congregation and estimated 6,7 million members and adherents. Its 300+ intermediate and higher level Bible Schools, 3 ministers' training centers, 1 theological college, and 1 seminary (a consortium) teach and equip tens of thousands and graduate thousands each year. The multi-faceted ministries of KHC include Evangelism, theological training, Women's ministry, Youth ministry, Children's ministry and Children's Centre, Missions, Urban and Rural Integrated ministries, and diverse training ministries.
The Head Office of Kale Heywet Church is located south of Mexico Square, near the Africa Union Head Office.
- Doctor Without a Country, New York, 1939.
- F. Peter Cotterell, Born at Midnight, Moody Press, Chicago, 1973, pp.32-33.
- "Ethopian Kale Heywet Church". Retrieved 19 March 2013.
- See Dictionary of African Christian Biography: Thomas Lambie and Dictionary of African Christian Biography: Gidada Solon