Ministering to Body and Soul

When Pastor Melaku Solomon Tamirat arrived in this country with his two sons in April 2019 to join his wife, Meron, he had already been serving for 20 years as a pastor in the Reformed Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Ethiopia. He had known ROPC pastor, Zecharias Weldeyesus, since they had met at a church conference in Pretoria, South Africa, in 2005, and the latter soon engaged Melaku in helping with ROPC’s ministry to refugees in Clarkston (recently named Redeemer Mercy Ministry).

When Pastor Chris Cashen left the position as leader of ROPC’s work in Clarkston in August 2020, Melaku stepped into this role in a provisional capacity. ROPC members recently voted to call him to this position, which will be become official, says Zaki, once Melaku passes upcoming OPC committee and presbytery exams. With a bachelor’s degree in theology, Melaku has completed an English course here and is currently taking additional theology courses at Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary in Taylors, SC, to satisfy the Presbytery requirement for transfer of his credentials.

Melaku did not begin his career as an adherent to Reformed theology. He grew up in the Eastern Orthodox Church, which taught that there are many ways to salvation, numerous mediators in addition to Jesus, and sacred texts outside the Bible. “I read the Bible—specifically, Acts 4:12, John 14:6, and John 17:3—and saw that it said salvation is through Jesus,” he says. When he began teaching this truth in his church’s youth group, the church wanted him out, despite the fact that many were converted.

After reading and understanding a book of systematic theology translated into Amharic by a pastor in Virginia, Melaku says he accepted the Reformed faith, attended seminary through distance learning, passed the exam, and was ordained by OPC missionaries.

Since then, he worked in church planting, helping grow 13 churches throughout Ethiopia, with many people being converted to Christ.

When Melaku arrived in the U.S. with sons Nathan (14) and Japheth (10), he had seen his wife only once since 2013, when she fled Ethiopia to escape being arrested as a result of conflict among three competing ethnic groups, the Oromo, Amhara, and Tigray. Here in the U.S., he says, this conflict among the three groups is moot—”the three tribes worship together, no problem.” But back there at that time, the TPLF government (Tigray group in power at that time) tried to attack Meron’s father and arrest Meron when she wouldn’t relinquish her father’s family home. They ended up taking it by force, and her father had to move in with other family members.

Meron has since acquired her green card in this country, and Melaku and their children are on track to do so as well, with the ultimate goal of becoming U.S. citizens.

In his role at Redeemer Mercy Ministry, Melaku leads Bible studies on Saturday evenings from 6:00 to 8:00 in Zaki’s home and on Zoom in Amharic on Friday nights from 7:30 to 8:30, in addition to a YouTube ministry. He has a good relationship with the local Ethiopian church community and has preached numerous times in local churches in Lilburn and Stone Mountain as well as to more distant churches by Zoom, in Virginia and even Norway. He works with local churches to identify refugees in need of food from ROPC’s resources. And he recently started a counseling service for refugees via cell phone.

Looking ahead to the time post-pandemic when in-person Bible studies can again be held in ROPC’s rental unit at Brentwood Apartments in Decatur, Melaku has written a plan for Redeemer Mercy Ministry, which includes ESL classes. “Most refugees’ biggest problem is English,” he says. He wants to offer English tutoring using the Bible as a teaching tool, thereby pursuing two goals at once. And he has plans for a literature ministry, including producing a tract in Amharic with his contact information.

What are the ministry’s needs, going forward? “We need volunteers to teach English to adult refugees and prayer that Covid 19 would go away and in-person activities would resume.”

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.