He looks more like a construction worker than a business owner; more like a hard-working rancher than probably anything else.
But make no mistake; when he smiles, it is warm, and rich, and genuine. And he has a gentleness and a humility about him that make him undeniably likable, even across the barriers of language.
Pastor Epheson Erballo was born into a family of Christ-followers, in the Ethiopian village of Wolyta. I had the special privilege to meet with this dear brother on Wednesday, while I was here in Awassa. He travelled here to take care of some business, and especially to make himself available to me.
Epheson is the fourth of six children. He has three brothers and two sisters. Although he has believed in Christ for about as long as he can remember, he was given a special desire from the Lord around age 15. At that time, he sensed a burden to minister to others.
He began to share the gospel readily with friends, and anyone else. As people came to Christ, he began to disciple them. Within a short time, he was leading Bible studies, and the number of those in his care grew. Soon, he found himself leading a church. He would shepherd and pastor this group of believers for 22 years. In 2009, his congregation was officially organized as a church, and he was ordained.
He continued to pastor there until 2013. It was then that the Lord moved him and his family to Turmi, in the hopes of church planting and reaching a poor, desperate people there.
The work in Turmi is growing, but it is not without colossal challenges. The region is a desert, and food sources are scarce. Epheson and his family (with four children) have to work hard just to survive. And it is the same with everyone there. You cannot simply go and grab something from the market. Food has to travel just to get to them.
And if the physical challenges are great, the spiritual challenges are even greater.
The tribal people there are very connected. The community sticks together, and is led by chiefs. And their beliefs are animistic - not so much a formal religion, but a system of worship and fear of spirits and gods. If a member of the community professes faith and begins to follow Jesus Christ, then they are threatened by their family and friends. If this does not dissuade them, then they are often beaten. Still, the gospel is setting captives free, and there is now a growing church among the Turmi, where Epheson and his family love and shepherd them.
This is not an easy life, but it is the life of great reward.
When you ask Epheson about his personality, and the kinds of things that he likes to do, he says, “I’m naturally curious; learning and teaching are who I am.”
Meeting Epheson, I do not doubt this. Nor do I doubt that he has learned many things in his life, and is probably capable of doing nearly anything asked of him.
Please continue to pray for our dear brother, and for all of his family and ministry. We will be sharing more information and prayer requests in the future.
And praise our strong Savior together with us, that I got to connect with Epheson during this trip, and that we have the distinct privilege to be able to partner with this faithful, humble man.
Visit our Path Three Missions page for information on how MCC supports Pastor Erballo in Ethiopia.