The 2nd West Coast Oromo Evangelical Churches Convention
THE REV. Dr. GEMECHIS D. BUBA
THE UNITED OROMO EVANGELICAL CHURCHES INC.
San Francisco, California
Grace and peace to you,
As you read this presidential brief, take your time and let you soul feast on what God is doing amongst our people.
As leaders please make it your habit to share these briefs with your congregation members. What God is doing in one place becomes an encouragement and a lesson for the other.
May 26-28, 2006 the eagerly anticipated 2nd west coast Oromo evangelical churches convention was held in Fremont California, with the Bay area Oromo Evangelical church as a host.
First of all I would like to say few things about the dramatic and rapid growth of the Oromo church in the Bay area. In my previous Presidential briefs I have mentioned the great things God is doing amongst our people through the ministry of this faith community. The progress is fascinating! One can simply say that they are on their way to doing great things in the service of our Lord Jesus Christ and for the betterment of the life conditions of our people.
On this conference the following congregations and fellowships were fully involved:
- The Bay Area Oromo Evangelical Church
- The United Oromo Church of God of Prophecy in Seattle
- The Oromo Evangelical Church in Portland Oregon
- The Oromo Evangelical Church in Los Angeles
- The Oromo Fellowship in San Diego
- The Oromo Evangelical Church in Las Vegas
- The Oromo Evangelical Church in Phoenix Arizona
All of these congregations participated on this conference by sending their Pastors, Choirs, elected elders, lay ministers and congregation members. It was such a beautiful scene to see all of these emerging new and young ministries work so diligently to uphold the cause of the Gospel in the lives of our people in this day and age.
In addition to the west coast Oromo churches, other Oromo churches in different parts of the United States participated in the event which made the entire convention extremely successful and majestic.
Among these the Oromo Evangelical Church in Washington DC released their Pastor the Rev. Waqtola Dinegde for this work. Rev. Waqtola did a magnificent job of preaching the word of God on Saturday morning and addressing the convention in a message that was presented both as a challenge and as a charge to the young Oromo Christians.
Another congregation that has done an exceptional job in supporting this congregation was the Oromo Evangelical Lutheran Church in Minneapolis MN. This congregation released the following people to this convention:
- The anointed and talented group called the ‘B’ Choir of the church
- Ms. Burtukan Ayana, a worship leader par excellence
- Mr. Beniyam Biratu, a magnificent young musician and composer
- Brother Fikru, MNPL Church elder and a superb worship leader
The participation of such a group from Minneapolis on this convention made the entire event glorious, majestic and spiritually enriching. The electrifying presence of the Holy Spirit in the sanctuary was beyond _expression.
Further more from the West Coast Oromo churches the missional and ministerial participation of the Oromo church in Portland under the leadership of it’s elders and Pastor Haro Guyo was worth distinct consideration and appreciation.
Pastor Haro and the Portland congregation came with two big passenger vans. They came charged, empowered, emboldened and filled with the spirit of God. Every time they stood to serve there was a physical manifestation of the presence of God over their life, which was being transfused to all the participants of the convention. Based on their testimonies and stories most of them are first generation Christian converts from the Muslim faith, Oromo traditional religion, the Orthodox faith practice and others. They were singing out an authentic and personal sense of conversion and realization of the existential presence of God in their life.
Their music minister was the famous Borana music composer, former secular singer Bikila Guyota (Abba Wario). What a blessing he has been to the convention! He was playing music, leading worship, singing solo and serving as a lead singer to the Portland mass choir. He was truly a man of the weekend; he was used by God in a mighty way. Some people who knew him from the past and who knew the personal struggle he went through as a refugee in Kenya were listening to him in tears. Today he is leaping and dancing for joy, for Christ has redeemed him from doom and destruction to the marvelous light of salvation and comfort.
Dr. Gemechu Olana the Pastor of the Oromo church in Los Angeles was another addition to the list of superb speakers of the convention. His presentation was geared towards purposeful spirituality, where he called the convention participants to pay attention to what God is doing in our midst this weekend. He challenged the participants and the audience of the convention to have purpose and objectives as they worship and pray during this weekend and even beyond. In addition to Dr. Gemechu this convention was blessed by the preaching of Pastor Getachew Jiga the Pastor of the Oromo church in Seattle. At this moment he was introduced as the host Pastor of the 2006 International Oromo Churches Conference.
Last but not least Evangelist Kefaylew Amente a minister of the Gospel, recently resettled in Australia from the Oromo church in Nairobi, came to minister on this convention with the group from Minneapolis. His visit was humanly unplanned but divinely appointed for we have seen what God has done through him. His ministry gift brought an additional spiritual blessing to the convention.
One other unique thing to the structural and programmatic content of the convention was the Saturday night wedding of Brother Kefyalew Iticha a recent graduate from Mennonite Brethern Bible College and Sister Martha Temesgen. In the middle of the convention inserting a wedding ceremony gave me a chance as a preacher of the hour to celebrate a new Oromo marriage and to focus on the role of a family and the spiritual make up of a Christian household. It was a blessing to get a chance for such reflections and to bring family matters amid a spiritual convention. No matter how tuff it was to maintain the flow of the program with the help of God every thing came out to be successful. During the wedding service, Professor Mark Baker was one the clergy who helped me in the process of the matrimonial blessings released on the newly married couple.
On Sunday morning the convention was blessed with an international morning were the service was dominated by the Oromo language however the following language groups were also used:
- Afan Oromo
The second two SE Asian languages were used for the reading of the text and for the songs presented by the SE Asian ministry Choir members. On this service the Oromo Choirs from the Bay area, Minneapolis and Portland were lead singers, while a text was read in Afan Oromo by the Rev. Guta Dibaba the Pastor of the Oromo the Church in the Bay area.
The service was led by the Rev. Dr. Moses Peter, the Pastor and developer of the Good Shepherded Lutheran church in Fremont and the mission developer of the South East Asian ministries. He was assisted by The Rev. Bob the senior Pastor of good shepherd, The Rev. Sebastian a Methodist Pastor originally from the Fiji islands and the Rev. Guta Debaba pastor of the Oromo church in the Bay area.
I was the preacher of the day, while The Rt. Rev. Bishop David G. Mullen the Bishop of the Sierra Pacific Synod was presiding over communion. The Rev. Harvey Bloomberg was the ELCA mission director of the Sierra Pacific Synod was also a participant in the service.
Bishop Mullen was deeply impressed by the depth of spirituality displayed by our community and the choir groups during the service and he expressed to me how that type of spirituality and deep commitment to faith in Jesus Christ is needed amongst Christians in the west. He also commented about the experiential and realistic nature of the Oromo songs.
He was comparing Oromo songs to the theologically designed songs in a fashion that was lacking the spiritual fervency and vibrancy displayed in the songs sung by the Oromo community. In addition to the comments by Bishop Mullen, Pastor Harvey was also sharing about the practicality and actuality of faith in our community. That was said to explain the fact that our community’s faith experience was not something limited to the mind and to the rational functions of our brain however it was something that touches our hearts, moves our soul, captivates our body and drives us to action.
With these comments we were led into a communion service as a sign of our unity with Christians coming from different parts of the world and with Christians coming from different walks of faith journey. We all came together to commune from the same body and blood and seal our unity in Christ. At the end Bishop Mullen gave the benediction where we processed out in a glorious procession.
During the service on Sunday morning the president of the host Oromo congregation in California Dr. Amanuel Gobena gave a short but eloquent remark on the short history of the Oromo church start in the Bay area. In his presentation he mentioned the instrumental role of people like sister Roman, Obbo Dinka Guder, Dr. Brhanu Temsgen, Attorney Brhanu Challa, Adde Tsehay Temesgen, Adde Martha Temsegen and many others whose commitment and determinatiaon in mission and ministry was the force behind the birth and growth of this faith community. His presentation was lively and engaging which was also entertaining and yet informing.
During the closing of the service on Sunday afternoon the convention came together for one more visit from heaven, for one more touch of the Holy Spirit and for one more anointing from the gracious hand of God. Pastor Haro Guyo and Evangelist Kefyalew Amente preached dynamic messages, Singers from Portland, Minneapolis, Bay area and Phoenix were organized and prepared to sing in unison and I was lined up to lead the last breakthrough and healing moment of prayer.
That night the room was filled with the power of the spirit of God. Prophecies were coming forth, healings were taking place, many people were filled with the Spirit of God, people were receiving diverse gifts of ministry we were all drunk in the spirit of the living God. The mighty presence of God was felt in that sanctuary where so many people were in tears, young people were on their face before God, elders were in the mode of intercession for the crisis in the lives of the Oromo people, while others were weeping for the lost. In general it was a closing service as the heavens were open on us. That afternoon God was doing the miraculous in God’s own way.
As the service was being concluded, the mass choir combined of all the choirs of the west coast Oromo churches and Minneapolis presented their last songs of thanksgiving and exultation. It was thunderous, jubilant and dramatic. People were dancing for joy and singing at the top of their voices. The music was artful, the leaders were animated, it was beyond description. Our heads were anointed in the presence of our enemies and our cup was overflowing. While this was going on due to time the host Pastor, Rev. Guta called the convention to a calm closure with a common Oromo proverb, “Dama ituma miya’u maragu.”
At the end Dr. Amanuel the president of the host congregations officially extended his gratitude on behalf of his congregation and the elders working with him. His official gratitude was extended to:
- The Rev. Dr. Gemechis D. Buba, President of UOEC Inc.
- The Rev. Melkamu Negeri and the Minneapolis Oromo Church Choir
- Pastor Haro Guyo for his generous coordination and mass participation
- Rev. Waqtola Dinegde and the Oromo church in Washington DC
- The Rev. Belina Sarka, founder and president of the Elshadai Gospel Ministry in abstentia
- Pastor Getachew Jiga - Seattle
- Pastor Aden Aleke - Phoenix
- Dr. Gemechu Olana – Los Angeles
- Evangelist Kefeyalew Amente – Visiting from Sydney Australia
- Ms. Burtukan Ayana – Worship leader
- Mr. Benyam Beratu – Musician and composer
- Br. Fikru from Minneapolis – Worship leader
- Singer Dinka Guder- Traditional Musician and composer
- Singer Bikila Guyota – Musician and composer
- Muscian Abdela – Musician in Bay area
- The Rev. Dr. Moses Peter, Pastor of Good Shepherd Lutheran church mission developer of the South Asian mission.
- Bishop David G. Mullen, Bishop the Sierra Pacific Synod
- The Rev. Harvey Bloomberg, ELCA, EOCM mission Director of the Sierra Pacific Synod.
- The Rev. Bob, Senior Pastor of the Good Shepherd Lutheran Church
- The Rev. Sebastian, Guest Methodist Pastor originally from the Fiji Islands
After thanking all of this Dr. Amanuel congratulated his congregation for the opportunity and for the successful completion of the conference which was the first of its kind in the Bay area. Their hard work and long term planning and preparation came to fruition as they worked together. At this juncture I would love to extend my gratitude and congratulate them for their superb work in the name of God and our worldwide union.
At the end of the conference west coast church leaders and pastors came together to debrief, exchange words of appreciation, consolidate their unity and decide the 2007 west coast convention site.
At this meeting the leaders spoke in unison about the success of this convention and expressed their appreciation for the hard labor of the Bay area leaders, members and pastor.
In addition to the spiritual renewal we have seen a great awakening in the hearts of the leaders to start working on causes of humanitarian aid and human rights issues. This is especially in relation to Churches in Kenya, Sudan and Oromiya where we have to focus and work towards a systematic way of helping our brothers and sisters in dire need. The leaders were adamant and determined to start this humanitarian act in the form of aid packages and advocacy work. On this meeting it has been decided that all churches should be encouraged to start their local drives yet our peace and justice commission should help in systematizing the effort to produce a coherent outcome.
As we await the future direction of our structural connections and worldwide organizational restructure this closing meeting has nominated the following individuals as the west coast contact persons:
Pastor Haro Guyo
Pastor Guta Dibaba
Pastor Aden Aleke
Brother Iskindir Belina
Brother Tamiru Tesso
These five individuals are nominated as key individuals and coordinating point persons for the communion of the west coast Oromo evangelical churches.
Lastly it has been decided that the 2007 West coast international Oromo Evangelical churches convention to be held in the great city of Portland Oregon, hosted by the Oromo Evangelical Church in Portland where Pastor Haro Guyo is the Pastor.
The Rev. Dr. Gemechis D. Buba
President, UOEC Inc.