In 1918 the Lord God sent influenza epidemic that invaded soldiers of Emperor Menelik II (of Ethiopia) that he had by the time encamped in present-day Qellem Wollega under his Dejazmach Birru Wolde-Gebriel. The influenza was so dangerous that they had to seek help from a British consular office in Gambella which in turn contacted an American mission that had a station in Sudan. Consequently, the (then) United Presbyterian Church of America arranged a medical team led by Thomas Lambie that would come and help. When the team finished its medical assistance in 1921, Wolde-Gebriel requested that they stay. The team agreed with the condition that they be granted land where they could provide medical service to the community and operate a school. They also requested that they be allowed to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ. Thanks to God and his eternal providence, Wolde-Gebriel gave them land (the present WWBS compound!). Consequently, in 1920 a mission compound established in Dembi Dollo began medical work, education and evangelism and eventually established a chapel, which now is Bethel Dhanka congregation. Moreover, they offered a two-year biblical education to 150 beggars out of whom they selected Gidada Solan (as he comprehended his lessons better) and gave him further training for evangelism.
In 1924 Gidada Solan formally began to proclaim the gospel—beginning of an organized evangelism, of course, with other local ministers! We see that preaching of the gospel went forward simultaneously equipping believers for ministry. This helped to spread the good news fast. By 1941, the gospel had already spread from Dembi Dollo to about 60 kilo meter radius. On the basis of lessons from the previous two decades, training of a number of ministers at a time began in 1942. Hence, trained pastors and evangelists were sent out to areas even farther: Gambella, Gimira, Gore and Maji. Number of congregations grew to 18 in 1954 and to 132 in 1976 despite multifaceted persecution and challenges finally resulting in the present Western Wollega Bethel Synod (WWBS).
WWBS is the first Bethel Evangelical Church in Ethiopia. The inception of WWBS was characterized by evangelical and medical work started in 1919 by Presbyterian missionaries OF UNITED STATE OF AMERICA. WWBS joined the EECMY in 1974.
The operational area of WWBS includes 11 districts (woredas) of the Qellem Wollega Zone and parts of 4 districts of the Western Wollega Zone. Qellem Wollega and Western Wollega Zones are found in Oromia Region Ethiopia. Offices of both the Qellem Wollega Zone and WWBS are located in Dembi Dollo, located at about 652 km south of Addis ababa, the capital of Ethiopia.
Western Wollega Bethel Synod (WWBS) is one of the 25 church units of the Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane-Yesus (EECMY).
WWBS kept on growing progressively. Today, available data suggest that WWBS has over 315,015 members. WWBS is organized into 20 sub-units called presbyteries or area works, which further decompose to 371 congregations and 80 preaching places. WWBS target are covers approximately 120—150 kilo meter radius comprising roughly over 1 million people.
While various WWBS Office and its branches employ their own ministers and other staff, the 20 presbyteries and area works altogether employ 423 ministers of varying theological education levels. Moreover, 10 large congregations in main towns have their own trained ministers.
WWBS is Located in Dembi Dollo, Oromia Region of Ethiopia at about 652 kilo meter west of Addis Ababa, WWBS Office is organized into two departments—the Department for Missions and Theology and the Department for Administration and Finance. In addition, WWBS has a commission for undertaking development and social services. These make up what is commonly referred to us holistic ministry.
The WWBS Department for Missions and Theology (DMT) coordinates, among others, an outreach program extending out to almost all target areas of the Synod; Gidada Theological college located within the Synod compound in Dembi Dollo; a training centre called Shuremo Yadessa situated at a rural town called Kake; one advanced bible school is located at the place called Haro Sabu; Women Section; Youth and Children Ministry. The Department furthermore coordinates all ‘evangelism’ activities over the whole synod operation area.
In 1974 a coalition took place between WWBS and the Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus (EECMY). Hence, WWBS is one of the 25 church units of the EECMY.
Because of history, Presbyterian Church (PC) USA is the oldest WWSB traditional partner. However, WWBS also collaborates with a number of other church-based mission organizations in Europe.
In 2012, the WWBS council meeting (the second highest decision-making body) decided that Gidada Bible School be upgraded to theological collage so that it can issue Diploma.
5. Celebration of the pre-centennial anniversary of the preaching of the Gospel in Sayo
5.1. How it came about
For the continuation of His work God always provides revelations for his own people. As the word of God declares people without revelations will be people without direction. When the charismatic movement has started in our Synod over a decade ago the movement was embraced more by the younger generation. To some extent this created misunderstanding between the fathers and the younger generation. Since this was a new experience, no one was in a position to give it the necessary spiritual guidance as to create spiritual harmony between all believers. This led to the false conception that the contributions of the fore fathers discredited. As a result the fathers of faith were discomfort; and the spiritual work of the church has between exposed to some mistaken practices and flaws.
Taking all this in to consideration, the sixth council of the western Wollega Bethel Synod decided that; first the year 2013 be designated the year of the Fathers of faith; second the pre-centennial anniversary of the preaching of the Gospel in Dembi Dollo should be celebrated in February of 2014. According to the structure of the Synod, the executive Board authorized the synods’ management committee to work on the council’s decision and help to realize the objectives of the synod’s council. Based on the resolution of the executive Board of the synod, the management committee decided that a co-coordinating committee that should be led by the vice-president of the synod, Rev. Warati Gelalcha, be formed.
5.2. Some accomplishments.
Right after the decision of the sixth council of the synod, based on the plans, of the celebration the following have been accomplished: efforts have been made to publicize the great contributions of the fathers of faith in all the presbyteries copies of a book called Dukana Duba (translation of the others side of Darkness) have been distributed through the presbyteries in great and sacrifices made by the for fathers of faith in the work of preaching the gospel in Dembi Dollo and beyond. In September 2013 a symposium was conducted in which the plans of the celebration were discussed. The participants were mainly the fathers of faith. The plans of the celebration were made known to all believers in their congregations. The believers have contributed money through their congregations to help realize the celebration of the pre-centennial anniversary of the preaching of the Gospel in Dembi Dollo.
The objectives of this celebration were also made known to all concerned bodies including governmental and non-governmental organizations. All information that would enable us to write the history of the great contributions of the fore fathers has been gathered from all the congregations of all the presbyteries. Christian brothers and sisters from within and abroad have been invited for this great historical celebration. Here we have brothers and sisters with us from Addis Abeba, America, Germany and Finland.
5.3. The expected accomplishment, within the next five years.
5.3.1. Beginning from the work of the Presbyterian church of the USA here in Sayo up to the present time, the history of this great work of preaching the gospel will be documented and be written. This great historical record will be kept for the coming generations. This will help us to give recognition to the work of God accomplished through the fathers of faith. The book will be dedicated on the centenary anniversary.
5.3.2. Taking the good examples of the fore fathers missionary work, the present generation of our church will pool together their knowledge, skills and resources to preach the gospel in the new areas of south eastern Oromia.
5.3.3. In recognition of the great achievements of our great fore fathers a memorial building will be constructed in a central place of Dembi Dollo town. On this memorial building the names of the fore fathers will be inscribed in emblazoned letters the words ‘the message of salvation’ will be written on its façade. The memorial building will be inaugurated on the centenary anniversary of the preaching of the Gospel in Sayo in five years time. In addition the purpose of this building is to claim that Dembi Dollo and the surrounding belong to God (Church).
5.3.4. Similar pre-centennial celebrations will take place in all our presbyteries up to the end of the coming four years. On these celebrations the fathers will be recognized and honorary prizes will be offered to them. The believers will also raise money that would help the realization of the centennial celebration which will come after four years.
5.4. What are expected of the centurial celebrations?
5.4.1. The relationship of our church with all sister churches and concerned bodies will be strengthened.
5.4.2. The achievements of our church through all these years will get more recognition in the face of the society and government.
5.4.2. The in-coming generation will be encouraged to continue with the work of preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ.
5.4.3. The great mercy and blessings of the Lord are expected to pour down on our people and all the curses on this land will be broken.
5.5. God has given us great opportunity to look the past in order to take great strides forward in the great work of preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ. According to the strategic plan of our church such great strides will be realized in the next five years and beyond.
6. Responsible persons in WWBS
3.1. Chali Yoseph (Rev.) WWBS-President
3.2. Woreti Gelacha (Rev.) WWBS-Vice President
3.3. Amanuel Tesfaye (Mr.) WWBS treasurer
3.4. Deressa Wakjira (Rev.) WWBS-Executive Secretary
3.5 Mihiretu Duguma (Rev.) WWBS DMT director
3.6Hanna Alemayo (Mrs.) WWBS DAF Director
3.7 Misfin Yigezu (Rev.) Gidada Theological College Principal
3.8 Chala Hundessa (Rev.) WWBS Youth and Children Ministry coordinator
3.9. Tsige Gidyelew (Mrs.) WWBS Women Ministry coordinator