28 November 2018

Four Christmas cards
have arrived from
Denmark and Ethiopia

‘The Visit of the Magi’ … my photograph of an Ethiopian icon on Danish Christmas cards (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Patrick Comerford

My first Christmas cards for 2018 arrived this week at the Rectory in Askeaton. The four cards from Promissio, an evangelical Lutheran mission agency in Denmark, are illustrated with my photograph of an Ethiopian icon depicting the Visit of the Three Magi to the Christ Child in Bethlehem.

I took this photograph many years ago of a present brought from Ethiopia in the Christmas 2011-2012 by a neighbour who had bought the small icon on a street in Addis Ababa. I first used this image to illustrate a posting on TS Eliot’s poem, ‘The Journey of the Magi.’

Since then, this image has been used in New Zealand on the Christmas card of the magazine Tui Motu InterIslands Magazine in 2015, on the cover of a Presbyterian church magazine in Virginia, Peaks Postings, in January 2016, on an Epiphany card sent out by Bishop Jeffrey Lee in 2016 to the Diocese of Chicago in the Episcopal Church, and as a projected image during the Epiphany Eucharist and celebrations in the chapel at Columbia Theological Seminary in Georgia in January 2017.

When Marius Weber got in touch with me, I was very happy to agree to Promissio using my photograph on its Christmas card this year.

Promissio declares that ‘With heart, mouth and hands, we will be God’s tools for people to have a life-changing encounter with Jesus Christ!’

The agency co-operates with Lutheran Churches and Christian organisations in Ethiopia and Liberia. It says the goal of Promissio is to take part in the mission to which Jesus Christ has called his Church with the promise that he is with us until the end of the world.

Promissio began with a small group of Danes who wanted to work in Ethiopia. They founded a new mission agency in 1948 and named it the Danish Abessinier Mission, because Ethiopia was then called Abyssinia. Later that year, they sent Johan Lindblom and his wife Ingrid to Ethiopia as missionaries.

The mission has changed names several times since. In 1950, it became the Danish Ethiopier Mission, in 1969 it became the Danish Ethiopian Mission, and in 2014 the name was changed to Promissio.

For many years, Promissio’s work in Ethiopia in 1948 was concentrated in the Bale region of south Ethiopia, based at Lincho in Dodola. The Mekane Yesus Church was formed in 1959 by the association of Evangelical Lutheran congregations in Ethiopia, and its autonomy was recognised by the Ethiopian state in 1969.

This church has been Promissio’s primary partner in Ethiopia since 1959. Promissio also collaborates with the Ethiopian organisation Win Souls for God.

The church is known in English as the Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus – Mekane Yesus means ‘the place where Jesus lives.’ It is one of the fastest-growing churches in the world and probably the world’s largest Lutheran church.

The Mekane Yesus Church has 8,564 congregations, 3,892 church locations, 3,976 priests, 7,620 evangelists, over 500,000 volunteers, and 8,310,129 members, of whom 4,593,645 are communicant members and about 65 per cent of the members are children and adolescents.

Promissio has worked in particular with the Wabe Batu Synod, with headquarters in Dodola, the Addis Ababa Synod, and with the church at the national level from Addis Ababa.

Many new churches are being built, and the Church is committed to education, health care, relief and development work. The church has its own mission agency, Mekane Yesus International Mission Society, which sends Ethiopian missionaries to other countries.

Promissio began working with the Lutheran Church in Liberia began in 1980, when it sent missionaries to Liberia. Promissio signed a new partnership agreement with the Liberian Church in 2013.

Promissio signed a co-operation agreement with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Botswana in 1984, and is looking at new possibilities for continued co-operation.

Although Promissio has no formal co-operation agreement with the Lutheran Church in Guinea, since 2008 it has supported some of its projects through the Lutheran Church in neighbouring Liberia.

The Adoration by the Magi ... an Ethiopian artist’s impression (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2012)

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