Deng Jock Kier is a pastor in the Ethiopian Evangelical Lutheran Church Mekane Yesus (EECMY). Kier shared his journey from the tribal lands of western Ethiopia to the seminary and back to shepherd his people as a pastor in the largest Lutheran church in Africa with Pamela Nielsen, who was part of the visiting LCMS delegation to Ethiopia in November. It is a two-day journey to the Gambela region, where Kier grew up and now serves, from the seminary, which is located in the capital of Addis Ababa.
Kier: My people are farmers. They grow corn, planting twice a year, and also herd goats. My tribe lives together in the desert, and we make up the largest tribe in Gambela.
Nielsen: I noticed you have scars on your forehead, can you tell me about them?
Kier: When you reach 15 years, [you] get the mark. They make the mark with knives. You cannot cry because now you are a man. It is no longer common in the tribe because in an area with no doctor, people can bleed too much and can die. I remember the day of the mark the most because it hurt!
Nielsen: What is the religion of your tribe?
Kier: Until 1962, we were traditional African worshipers of the spirits, above and below. Today, most of the region is Christian, mostly Lutheran. When the missionaries came, they opened schools, clinics, began agriculture projects. We border Sudan, and the Sudanese worship different gods.
Nielsen: How do you minister to them?
Kier: They pray to [their] god and ask him for help. I tell them that the god they worship is the creator God. He is [the] one who died for us. I tell them about Jesus. They sacrifice animals for protection. I say no more sacrifice. Only Jesus Christ sacrificed once for all. This God is mercy God.
Nielsen: When did you become a Christian?
Kier: I became a Christian when I was 12 years old in 1984, and was baptized and confirmed. My father still is not Christian. My brothers and sisters [are] Christians. My mother waited for 20 years [to become a Christian].
Nielsen: Why did you come to the seminary?
Kier: The pastors are very few. We need more pastors and lay ministers. I have come here to learn more about God’s Word. I learn new things here about church and the mission of God so when I go back I can teach it. The seminary can educate me to serve [the] community with the Word of God. The seminary is [a] good thing. I appreciate [the] seminary and the partners who support it. God bless all of us.
Deaconess Pamela J. Nielsen is the associate director of LCMS Communications.