July 13, 2021
Interview with Pastor Habtemicael Beraki (Philadaelpia Multicultural Church)
Thanks for taking the time to chat with us, Pastor Habtemicael. What are some of the ways you have seen God at work? What are some of the challenges you’ve faced as a church?
The name of our Church has been Philadelphia Eritrean church in Winnipeg under the MB Conference. We’ve carried this name for the last 15 years. The name Philadelphia comes from the seven churches of Revelation. We have liked this name until now! But! We are growing!
About three years ago, we started an English program – a new multi-cultural ministry. So when this ministry began, our English ministers of this multicultural ministry presented their vision and a new name to the church leadership. It was very exciting! Very exciting! We blessed them and trusted them to lead as they have for the last 12 years.
But after we announced the vision and ministry to the congregation and the multicultural ministry printed its new logo – Life Giving Multicultural Ministries – some from the church asked, “Why do we need to have two names? Why don’t we just say Philadelphia Eritrean Church Youth Ministry?”
The discussion was not easy.
The Philadelphia Eritrean Church’s main service was mostly Eritrean and Ethiopian…99% Tigrinya speaking. But, the main focus of Life Giving Multicultural Ministries has been the big picture – multinational – Filipino, Canadians, other African Canadians, etc. So the name ‘Eritrean’ doesn’t include other nations, and we need to carry this. The church was almost divided into two.
What happened – after the issue had grown – was the multi-cultural leaders took their stand. They had already presented and shown the church leaders their vision, so why were they being asked to change now? But that caused the church leadership to stand firmer as well, saying that the multi-cultural leaders weren’t submitting to the church!
The conflict grew into a big clash.
After a LOT of discussions, we agreed that it is not about the name; it is about the vision. In the end, we changed our name to Philadelphia Multicultural Church.
It was not easy. Many MB Canadian churches have experienced this kind of challenge, and now we repeated it! (referring to early immigration German-speaking churches). But now everything is good. We have 7 – 8 Sunday school classes. Every Friday and a weekly young adults service in Tigrinya, we have a multinational English service because some young adults want to serve in their mother language – Tigrinya. And the main church service is still running. We have an evangelism group that goes out outside and evangelizes. Last year we baptized eight people. This year, we baptized 5. But more than anything, we have seen growth in our Sunday school programs. We have 11 Sunday school teachers, and as I’ve told you, we have very spiritually mature youth in our English programs. Many have been transformed. We have found harmony.
Thanks for sharing! That’s an incredible journey. What are some of the best ways we can be praying for you as a church?
As an Eritrean church, our parents and families are often back home. We are here in Canada but our hearts are in Africa with our brothers and sisters and family. Eritrea is an unsettled country, so our families are always running away from Eritrea to Kenya and Sudan. We, here in Canada, are constantly sending money back home to help our families.
My prayer request is for peace in the whole of Africa so that our people can rest in their county and not run away. More than anything, pray for peace in Eritrea and Ethiopia.
If there is peace, there will be no need to run. And if they rest, then we can rest too.
Thanks again for your time. Any final words?
On behalf of my church, I would like to say thank you to the Mennonite Brethren Conference. For many years they have stood with our church and we are here now because of the MB Conference, I will never forget them. We are now a self-supported church, but for a few years, we relied quite a bit on the support of the MB Family. We are the fruit of the Conference and now we are also planning on planting other English churches, so thank you!