David E. Stokes

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Life and ministry


David Stokes was born in 1905.

He worked for the Bible Churchmen’s Missionary Society (B.C.M.S., now Crosslinks) in Ethiopia since 1934. In Ethiopia, the Society was also known as Serawita Kristos Maheber.

Stokes was active in various ministry fields, including distributing Bibles, writing study materials on New Testament scriptures and teaching at a Bible school.

Stokes passed away in 1985.


Pedersen, Early Evangelicals, p. 30 [with reference to a phone call with Colin Mansell in May 2004], reads:

“From 1933 [?] till the Italians arrived he worked in Addis Ababa, forming a Bible school, which unfortunately was closed quite effectively by the Italians when they killed the local director after Stokes had fled to Kenya. After the Italians were defeated,
Stokes returned in 1942, and established a Bible school in Fiche Sillale, close to Debre Libanos. In 1970 Stokes retired, and in 1985, 80 years old, he died.
Today Stokes is known as having played a decisive role in the translation of the Old Testament, as being central in first edition of the Amharic Bible Dictionary, and as being the author of quite a number of commentaries to the New Testament, which are still available. [… ] quite a number of Mr. Stokes’ students seem to have been engaged by the mission organizations working in relation to Mekane Yesus.”


David Stokes was a key person in the spiritual journeys of Meseret Sebhat Leab and Memre Sileshi Wolde Mikael. Launhardt writes (Evangelicals, p. 272):

“During his time in Fiche he met Mr. Stokes from the BCMS, and decided in 1953 to attend the BCMS Bible School. Sileshi joined that group which called itself ‘Serawite Kristos’.”

  • Resource person: Mesfin Lissanu (cf. Tibebe Eshete 2009, p. 350: “He was a close personal friend of David Stokes, the missionary from the BCMS who has left a major impact on the Orthodox Church in Ethiopia. Mesfin later joined the ECMY and became one of its key leaders.”

David Stokes was also an important person in the spiritual journey of one of the first Evangelicals in Bale, Haile Mariam Engeda.

Hymn book

“According to Wubshet [Desalegn], in the 1950s David Stokes tried to develop an indigenous hymnal known as Shumiye based on the lyrical tradition of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, but it did not attract wide attention.” (Tibebe Eshete, Evangelical Movement, p. 433, n. 14 [Profile of Wubshet on p. 363])

See (also?) the hymn book Mäzmurä bǝrhan [መዝሙረ ብርሃን, Songs of Light]. Addis Ababa: Sarawita Kristos Maheber, 1955/56 (1948 AM).

View book


See Horton and Wright 1947 (before p. 209) for a photograph of the B.C.M.S. Bible school in Addis Ababa.#

Further reading

(1) English publications by David Stokes

Stokes, David E. The powers that be: missions and national governments (Silver jubilee booklet, 9). London: Bible Churchmen’s Missionary Society, 1947.

—. Ethiopia – Land of the Outstretched Hand (Field survey, 3). London: Bible Churchmen’s Missionary Society, 1948.

(2) Amharic Bible study material by David Stoke

The following publications are / were available via SIMBookEthiopia [see their catologue, p. 70-72]:

  • የሮሜ ትርጓሜ (Romans)
  • የ1ኛ ቆሮንቶስ – ትርጓሜ (1Corinthians)
  • የኤፌሶን – ትርጓሜ (Ephesians)
  • የዕብራውያን ትርጓሜ (Hebrews)
  • የ1ኛ ጴጥሮስ ትርጓሜ (1Peter)
(3) Secondary Literature

Horton, W.S., and J. Stafford Wright. The First Twenty-Five Years of the Bible Churchmen’s Missionary Society (1922-47). London: The Bible Churchmen’s Missionary Society, 1947. [p. 109, 111-12, 145, 171, 177, 210 on Stokes]

» Read book online

Launhardt, Johannes. Evangelicals in Addis Ababa (1919-1991): With special reference to the Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus and the Addis Ababa Synod. Münster: Lit, 2004.

Pedersen, Henrik Sonne. “Early Evangelical Christians in the Dodola area, Bale: Life and setting according to contemporary witnesses and written sources”. [Paper written during his time as lecturer at MYS / EGST?] 2005. [Esp. p. 30-31; view online (academia.edu)]

Saeverås, Olav. On Church-mission relations in Ethiopia 1944-1969: With special reference to the Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus and the Lutheran missions. [Oslo:] Lunde, 1974.