My name is Fikre H. Norcha and I am an Ethiopian. I grew up in South West Ethiopia in a strict Coptic Orthodox family. My father was a part-time Coptic Orthodox Church priest and influenced the family in Orthodox beliefs. Consequently, I grew up in the Orthodox tradition and my father’s plan was to make me a priest in the Coptic Church. After I finished
elementary school, my father sent me to Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia, to live with my uncle for further study. However, my uncle could not support me. I shined shoes for half the day and went to school for the other half of the day.
After a lot of struggle to find support, I
finished my high school with a diploma in electrical technology. I then also passed the Ethiopian School Leaving Certificate Examination and joined Addis Ababa University in 1985. Though I was interested in studying electrical engineering, the then communist government did not respect a student’s personal interest and I was told to study physics instead. For this reason, I withdrew from the university and joined the Electrical and Electronics Institute.
In my second year at this Institute, one of my classmates told me about his faith in Jesus and led me to the underground church. Then, in 1988, I gave my life to the Lord. Fifteen days after my conversion I began to witness to college friends and many came to Christ. I also wrote an official letter to my father about my faith. But my father was not happy and came to see me. After a long conversation he said to me, “You are no more my son.” Since then the family disowned me for more than nine years. I never saw my father again and he passed away three years after our conversation. My older brother blames me for being the cause of our father’s death.
After my graduation, the government assigned me to work in North Ethiopia in an area called Gojam (an area which is Coptic Orthodox dominated) as an electro-mechanic. When I started government work, I had a sense of call in my heart for full-time ministry. But I was not obedient and decided to continue to work for the government. Also it was not easy to lose a job in Ethiopia at that time, because it was very difficult to get employment. However, after three years of work some Coptic people in the area planned to kill me. I received written evidence from my friends in official positions, that this was approved by communist cadres. They planned to kill me because of my witness to people in the area. I decided to leave the area and moved back to Addis Ababa. Still God’s call had been growing in my heart and the Lord was speaking to my heart in various ways but I was reluctant and struggled for five years. Since the Lord is stronger than me, he finally convinced me and I decided to be a full-time minister in 1993. I was very young, but the Lord was my wisdom and gave me strength to follow my call despite heavy persecution, discrimination, and the challenge of poverty.
After becoming a full-time minister, the Lord specifically spoke to my heart to plant a new church in a Muslim-populated area of Addis Ababa and in an area where people were unreached with the Gospel. In 1997, I planted the first church in a Southwest Suburb of Addis Ababa among a mostly Muslim community. In the meantime the Lord opened the door for me to study at the Evangelical Theological College and I graduated with a BTh in Pastoral Theology. The first local church (Emmanuel Presbyterian church) is growing and there are more than 450 adult members and 300 Sunday school children. The children come from different religious groups to get support and the opportunity of education. This church, Emmanuel Presbyterian, is operating in the midst of 23 mosques of varying sizes.
In 2005 the rich Muslims in the area organized themselves and tried to purchase the rented land on which we operated all our ministries. The plan was to discourage us, to chase out the church from the area, and build a mosque there instead of the church. But the Lord miraculously introduced us to some Australian brothers who came to visit two children sponsored by Compassion International Ethiopia. They decided to fight the fight with us and committed themselves to donate the cost of the land. With their help we purchased the land. In our ministry that incident was historical and pivotal. It was a huge turning-point and a divine intervention which brings great inspiration and motivation to do more for the glory of God. Once we became stable, we started to plant new churches in unchurched areas and expanded our ministry to different groups over almost all Ethiopia.
Over the last seventeen years, the Presbyterian Church of Ethiopia (PCE) has grown to 116 local churches with 75,000 members all over the country and it has become a recognized denomination and a member of the Evangelical Churches Fellowship of Ethiopia (ECFE). The Lord also inspired us to organize development programs, schools and holistic activities with Compassion International Ethiopia, Food For All (a charity from the Netherlands) and other organizations. The Lord also helped me to lead the denomination as a moderator, teaching in the Bible school, preaching, and giving training to ministers and church leaders.
From September 2008-August 2009, the Lord opened a door for me to study Global Issues in Contemporary Mission at Redcliffe College, affiliated with University of Gloucestershire, in the UK. Following a one year MA study, I returned to my ministry and again served God’s people in the PCE: teaching in the Bible school, preaching, expanding the work of the kingdom by planting new churches and writing a discipleship book. When the Lord called me, He spoke to me in a special way from 2 Tim 4:2 “Preach the Word, be prepared in season and out of season.” Particularly, in this postmodern and pluralistic era the Lord will continue to help me to be faithful to His Word and I will teach and preach the Word with its uniqueness.
I am married and have three beautiful children, an adopted son named Amanuel who is fourteen years old and two daughters, Yesem and Mieraf, who are nine and seven years old respectively. When I was in the UK they remained in Ethiopia. It was very difficult for all of us to live separately but the grace of the Lord is sufficient for all our needs and he has so far helped us to stay together.
Since I have a call to teach, preach, and give training in Bible schools and seminaries, and also have a pastoral leadership role, it is appropriate to be qualified and equipped for future ministry in a better way. Therefore I prayed and the Lord heard my prayer and opened the door for me to do further study at Calvin Theological Seminary starting in February 2014. This further study will help me to organize the PCE Bible School in a better and more effective way and upgrade its teaching to a Seminary level. Likewise, I can acquire more biblical knowledge and gain potential experience to equip others in the PCE, in the Evangelical churches of Ethiopia and in the churches of the global south which are the fastest growing churches in the 21st century.
Also while I am studying at CTS, I minister to the spiritual needs of the Ethiopian diaspora community and evangelize cross-culturally to contribute to the spiritual life of US citizens in general.
By Fikre Norcha