Gebre-Ewostateos Ze-Mikael (Qeshi)

Life and ministry

Marianne Nilsson writes:

Qeshi Gebre-Ewostateos Ze-Mikael was another influent evangelist working among the Oromo people. This former Orthodox priest, with Tigrinya as mother tongue, was fluent in Amharic and had studied Ge’ez since he was a child. He met Onesimos in Asmara and decided to start learning Oromiffa and to become an evangelist in the Oromo area.

He arrived in Nekemte in 1898 with the intention of getting a job. There, he was introduced to Fitawrari Dibaba who came from Boji, a village located about 150 km west of Nekemte. Dibaba had founded the Mariam Church in Boji and he was looking for more priests to work in this church. During the meeting with Dibaba, Gebre-Ewostateos showed his books in Oromiffa, read some portions from the New Testament and sang some hymns in Oromo language. Dibaba marveled. He had never imagined that it would be possible to use his own native language for sacred scriptures and Christian poetry. Gebre-Ewostateos was offered instant employment and became the secretary of Dibaba in Boji.

As a former Orthodox priest, Gebre-Ewostateos took part in the Orthodox service at Boji Mariam Church. After church he invited everybody to his house for a cup of coffee. There, he preached a second sermon and sang evangelical hymns, both in Oromiffa.

After the death of Gebre-Ewostateos, Fitawrari Dibaba continued in the same way. Gebre-Ewostateos did not preach only in Boji but traveled on his mule to surrounding villages to proclaim the gospel. When reaching a market place or a local center where people gathered, he called them together by blowing a fagga, i.e. a trump producing deep and hooting sounds.
Singing evangelical songs as a way of reaching new people was used later on in Welega:

Near the Blue Nile Valley is a village called Boke. Preachers from Mendi have come here and now people gather regularly for worship. But who will go to the next village? The preachers from Mendi have no time. “We have to go ourselves”, say people in Boke. But how? No one in the village can read. Then someone gets the idea: “We can sing our evangelical songs, we know them by heart”. And so they go to the next village and sing their songs”

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“had a beautiful voice” (Arén, p. 395)

His colleague: Daniel N.

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For further reading

Arén, Gustav (1978), Pioneers, 374-576, 395-412)