Increasingly, Ethiopia is sending missionaries to other countries and cultures to share the Gospel. One such man at the forefront of this recent mission-sending movement is Wondimu Game. He and his wife, Tsigewengel Uddo, are Master of Arts students at Concordia Seminary.
Wondimu was ordained in 1994 as an evangelist, one of the ministry offices of the Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus (EECMY), and served in this role until being asked to direct the church body’s International Mission Society in 2008. Under his leadership, the society sent more than 20 missionaries and church planters beyond Ethiopia’s borders to places such as Eritrea, Somalia, Chad and Pakistan. He stepped down in 2018, temporarily, to pursue advanced theological training at Concordia Seminary.
With 9.3 million members, the EECMY is the largest Lutheran denomination in the world. “The church in Ethiopia is growing because of God’s favor and grace and the work of the Holy Spirit,” Wondimu says. “When the church prays, God works.” The EECMY International Mission Society aims to send 500 missionaries in the next decade and Wondimu looks forward to being a part of that effort after he completes his studies in St. Louis.
“Concordia Seminary is serving a significant role in the global Lutheranism movement,” says Concordia Seminary’s Dean of Advanced Studies Dr. Gerhard Bode. “This role has grown under the banner of President Dr. Dale A. Meyer’s leadership.”
Meyer, who will retire June 30 after serving as president for 15 years, has strengthened Concordia Seminary’s ties to the international church and emphasized the important role the Seminary has in training leaders for worldwide faith-sharing for the sake of the Gospel. This includes leaders like Wondimu.
When Rev. Michael Lange (M.Div., ’88), president of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) California-Nevada-Hawaii District, visited Ethiopia, he encouraged Wondimu to come to Concordia Seminary.
Dr. Eshetu Koyra Abate (Ph.D., ’88), a former professor of Mekane Yesus Seminary, also was instrumental in Wondimu’s theological training and desire to study at Concordia Seminary.
“These testimonies about the Seminary were important to me,” Wondimu says, “but the most important thing was that I was in prayer, and God in His mercy provided my wife and I this opportunity to study at such an esteemed seminary.”
“It’s God who opens up doors to equip us for His ministry,” Tsigewengel adds. “It’s not for us; it’s for His ministry.”
“The whole purpose of Concordia Seminary is to bring the Gospel to the world.”
–Dr. Gerhard Bode
With the support of their church, the couple and their three young children boarded a plane in 2018, traveling nearly 8,000 miles to St. Louis. Today, they are acclimating to Seminary life and are hard at work in their studies.
Wondimu’s training for ministry began decades ago as the grandson of pioneer Christians. “I grew up in the faith and in the ministry because of their influence. My grandfather on my mother’s side, Lajebo Getcha, was a well-known, respected evangelistic leader,” he says. “My other grandfather also was a pioneer. The church where I grew up, Game Church, was named after him.”
As a boy, Wondimu traveled to the regional capital city, Hawassa, to live with his uncle and to study. There he grew in faith in the Hawassa congregation, serving as a Sunday school coordinator, youth leader and assistant to the pastor. Later, that same church sent him to the local Bible school, and after he graduated, it ordained and delegated him as a church-planting evangelist for the EECMY Tabor Congregation in Hawassa. “That was, for me, a great opportunity to learn about ministry,” he recalls. “The Tabor congregation that I planted is one of the largest congregations in the EECMY. Today that church has planted 31 other congregations.”
Wondimu sees all Christians having a role in the Great Commission. “Everyone is an evangelist, not just the pastor,” he says. “We all have the responsibility to share the Gospel.
“For example, in Ethiopia, I was involved in a local mission called ‘Summer Movement.’ During the first phase, 1 million EECMY members were mobilized to reach 1 million people with the Gospel within two weeks. We taught them how to communicate the Gospel not only in their local area, but across Ethiopia,” Wondimu says. “Then, they trained local people in other villages.” They were sent out, knocking on doors, in the villages. God intervened. Many Muslims heard the Gospel and believed.
Yet sharing the Gospel in Ethiopia can be life-threatening. Wondimu recalls when the lives of three people were in jeopardy for sharing the Gospel in a predominately Islamic village. The villagers heard about Jesus in a new way.
They had known about Jesus from the Quran, the main religious text of Islam. But they had never thought about Him as Savior. When the village Islamic leaders learned of these three evangelists, they threatened the men with large knives. Thankfully, the men were unharmed in this instance. That is not always the case. “Sometimes there are injuries, people die and churches burn,” Wondimu says. “This is life for the church in Ethiopia.”
Even so, Wondimu is passionate about telling others about Jesus. “Romans 10 reminds us that, unless we tell the Good News to others, how can they hear?” Wondimu says. “Unless the church sends someone out, how can people hear and how can they come to faith?”
The zeal Wondimu and Tsigewengel have for sharing the Gospel, the sacrifice they have made to be at the Seminary and the determination they have to earn master’s degrees are witnesses to the Seminary community.
“In many ways, Wondimu personifies Dr. Meyer’s vision for Concordia Seminary,” Bode says. “The theology and doctrine of the LCMS are being shared and taught so that leaders like Wondimu can bring back solid, biblical teaching to their countries. The whole purpose of Concordia Seminary is to bring the Gospel to the world. We’re equipping people to do just that — proclaim Christ to the world.”