Master Technician Alem Tekle was both an Ethiopian Air Force staff member and a visionary elder of the Full Gospel Church at Debre Zeit, playing an important role in the growth of this church. The last five years of his life he was a full-time minister in his church and an intercessor for people in trouble.
Alem was born into a humble family in September 1943 in a village called Logossa, in Akule Guzai town in Eritrea. His father’s name was Tekle Wolde Michael and his mother’s Desta Tiku. They had seven children and Alem was the fourth son.
He went to Asmara from the first to the sixth grade in a public school. He then served as a soldier in the Second Army Infantry Division located in Asmara. He was identified as a promising, energetic, and physically fit candidate for the first airborne training unit in 1961 and was transferred to Debre Zeit where the airborne unit was based. After primary training, the whole group went to Israel for para-drop and fundamental airborne assault training. While serving in this unit he continued his primary education in the evening program at Libne Dengel School and then completed his high school education at Debre Zeit Comprehensive High School.
In March 1967, during a time of spiritual revival in Debre Zeit, Alem and two friends were walking by a house when they heard a strange sound which aroused their curiosity. They went into the house and saw two men, one praying for the other in the name of Jesus. The man who prayed was pleading with God to heal the other man from his deafness. After some time, the deaf man claimed that he was healed. This really fascinated Alem and his friends. As they were standing there watching, the praying man came and introduced himself to them as Argaw. Argaw eventually became Alem’s spiritual father. That very week, Alem became a Christian and his life was totally transformed. From that time on, he never missed any prayer program held in the church or in the town. He was baptized at the Full Gospel Church and began witnessing to his friends–especially in the airborne unit–and began taking them to church.
Many in the airborne unit became Christians and Alem became their leader. When it was difficult for them to pray in their camp, Alem devised a means for them to pray and worship outside the camp. They took walks on the road in the evenings with torches, read Bible verses, and prayed. They did this as a cover so that they would not get caught in the act of reading the Bible or praying. Later they had a secret prayer house. Many new believers came to the Lord in this humble beginning.
Then one day, some Orthodox Christians discovered their activities and beat them severely, burning everything they had, including their Bibles. Alem and all the Christians were thrown into prison and the persecution continued for months. Alem and the group were forbidden to worship or have any religious gatherings. It was a time of sorrow for all the believers. They decided to continue holding prayer meetings on mountain tops or in the river valleys. Alem and the Christians from his airborne unit began to worship out of sight in the dense bush outside their base. One day they were discovered and brought under military escort to the base where they were put into prison. Alem received particularly harsh treatment as the leader and all of them were brought before the military court. Most of them were transferred out of the airborne unit to other military units. Alem, as a sergeant by rank and one of the few instructors in the base, was not transferred but was sentenced to an extended imprisonment and given a final warning. However this did not stop him from witnessing and living a religious life of his own.
After some time, he was selected by his airborne unit to go to General Mulugeta Bulli Technical Training Institute at Holeta for a three-year study program (1967-70). After graduation, he was sent to the Third Infantry Division in Harar where he served as head of the Munitions Store for ten years (1970-80). In 1980, he was sent to the Soviet Union to study electronics. He spent six months in Radar Operations and Maintenance training and, upon his return, he was assigned to the Air Defense Unit in Debre Zeit from 1980 to 1984. He did not like his new duties.
At that same time, in June 1982, he was elected elder of the Full Gospel Church in Debre Zeit and served the congregation until January 1985. During his first term as elder, there were only thirty church members. His ministry during the Dergue Regime (communist) was to teach members meeting in house churches and to bring new converts into the church. He baptized and assisted in church administration for many years. He also counseled many couples in Christian marriages.
In his secular job, however, he felt inadequate because his training in the Soviet Union was below that which was required to fulfill his responsibilities. He appealed to his superiors but when they did not respond he applied for a release from the Air Force on the grounds of ill health. The medical board recommended that he be discharged. When this information went to the Air Force Commander for approval, the Commander interviewed the medical board chairman and discussed the issue with Alem and dealt with many of Alem’s complaints. He recommended that Alem work as a trainer to use his knowledge and experience from the training in Holeta. Alem was promoted to Master Technician (M/Tech). He became the head of the carpentry workshop and a woodworking instructor from 1984 to 1991. In May 1991, the Dergue Regime fell and the Air Force staff was discharged along with the other soldiers. As a result, Alem was jobless from 1991 to 1994 while awaiting a decision by the new government concerning the members of the military. Alem was then employed by the SOS Project where he worked for five years until 1999.
He became a full-time worker in the church for the next five years, from 1999 to January 2004. After 2000, he was mostly engaged in intercessory prayer for the destitute and the sick. He would pray all night sacrificing his time of rest. During that time he received special prophetic messages for individuals and for the church as a whole. Many were healed because of his prayer. For example, one man had cancer that was confirmed by the doctors. During Alem’s prayer for this man at the hospital, he felt better and came out of the hospital a few days later. He was later tested several times but not a trace of cancerous cells was detected in his body.
In addition to his full time service, Alem was re-elected elder in 2001 and continued his service until his sudden death in January 2004. During his second term, there were 1500 church members and this number grew to over 3000. During those last years, Alem prayed and worked day and night. His sudden death came as a well-deserved rest for him although it was a great loss for his family and the church. He is survived by his wife, Yeshareg Gebre Yohannes, and eleven children.
Alemu Worku, “Biography of Alem Tekle,” student paper written at the Ethiopian Graduate School of Theology (EGST), Addis Ababa (August 2004).
This biography was researched and written in 2004 by Dr. Dirshaye Menberu, retired assistant professor from Addis Ababa University and graduate of the Ethiopian Graduate School of Theology. The liaison coordinator is Dr. John Wheeler-Waddell serving at the Ethiopian Graduate School of Theology.