Dr. Mulatu Bafa, a chiropractic specialist, has served God in the Ethiopian Kale Keywet Church (EKHC) for over thirty years as their most prominent and visionary leader. He expanded and developed this denomination to its present state.
Mulatu was born in 1930 in Yao village, Kacha Kabala county, Durame Zone, in the southern part of Ethiopia, Gomu Gofa province, to Mr. Bafa Salamu and Mrs. Ejame Aniyo. He was the first born in his family of three brothers and four sisters, all of whom are alive and in active service to the Lord in their respective local churches (2010). His father died in 1991 and his mother is still alive. His first name was Gateso (meaning “Savior” in the Kambata language), because an epidemic in that area subsided when he was born. His parents were the second family converted to Christianity in the late 1920s in the Kacha area. Prior to that they were idol worshippers and followed witch doctors and evil spirits. After conversion, his father was involved in the spread of the gospel in the community and a church was established in his compound. This community is still very strong and has revived the Kale Heywet Church in Kambata.
Mulatu grew up in this Christian family who led him to Christ. At that time, the people were all illiterate and the first convert from the area, the pioneer church planter, arranged for an Orthodox priest to provide basic education to teach the converts to read the Bible. This happened after the Italian invasion, near Mulatu’s home. He soon learned the alphabet and became the first brilliant student in the area with a few other friends. Soon he began to teach others and, from 1939 to 1945, the Kale Heywet Church sent him to Jimma for further education in an elementary school. Toward the end of 1945, he joined the Teferi Mekonnen High School in Addis Ababa and completed his learning in 1949.
After high school, he worked at the Road Construction Authority of Ethiopia from 1949 to 1951. Then he was invited by the Sudan Interior Mission (SIM)-Ethiopia to work at Shashemene Leprosy Hospital as an assistant nurse and an assistant officer. He joined that institution and collaborated with other colleagues to establish about seventy-five leprosy control stations throughout the country and about 75,000 leprosy patients were registered. All these stations are still working under the supervision of Alert Leprosy Control.
He married Alema Gateso in 1957 and they have been blessed with two sons and five daughters with the following names: Mizan, Aklilu, Hanna, Meaza, Azeb, Fetsum, and Misgana. Six of them are married and have children, and the last one is studying in USA. All are devoted Christians, serving the Lord where they live. Alema and Mulatu have eight grandchildren to date.
Mulatu finally completed his higher education between 1957 and 1962 at Palmer University of Chiropractic in the U.S.A. and was awarded his doctoral degree in chiropractic or nerve treatment. Upon his return from the States, he joined the Princess Tsehay Hospital (the present Army Hospital) and worked as head of the physiotherapy department from 1962 to 1984. During this time he was able to understand church problems as they related to missions and this later helped him to handle them properly.
Mulatu had the desire to promote church work in his country even during his stay in the U.S.A. At that time he became a leader of the Ethiopian Kale Heywet Church independent of the mission. Prior to that, he served as the president of the United Gospel Believers’ Association from 1966 to 1974. When the Ethiopian Kale Heywet Church (EKHC) was established at a national level, he took the position of president for over ten years (1974 to 1985). His main contribution during his term of office was to train people and strengthen churches in the cities and rural areas. As a result, there is now a church in every town from Addis Ababa to Moyale Town and from Addis Ababa to Gambella and so on, all over the country.
His other focus was the structural organization and constitution of the church. Here again, he achieved his goals and the church became independent of the mission. In 1985, he was appointed general secretary of the Ethiopian Kale Heywet Church and chose to resign from his medical work in order to serve the Lord full time. He had to start from scratch because he did not even have a proper office. He had to face challenges and persecution on behalf of the church with the change of government when the mission’s property was nationalized by the Dergue government. It was a time of despair and facilities were lacking for all who started working with him. However, he had observed how missions in the U.S.A. worked in the area of fund raising and that gave him the background to carry out his new responsibility.
But Christians faced persecution and, as a result, many left the country. At this critical time, he and his co-workers had to face these issues and other challenges in leadership. They were considered as anti-Marxist and despised because of the name of Christ. Mulatu was interrogated by Dergue officials who told him to leave his faith and become a member of the revolution. Later on, persecution abated and the church continued in the ministry quite smoothly. With prayer and proper planning, the work began: land was purchased, construction started, and offices were built for the ministry. Mulatu had to have many foreign contacts to get assistance for the work but God strengthened him with his word in Exodus 33:14-22 and proved to be with him in all his endeavors according to God’s promise.
By the time he had to transfer responsibility to his successors, he had established 200 higher Bible schools, three Bible colleges, one mission college, one theological college, and one graduate school. He struggled with only two other staff in the beginning but during the transfer, there were 130 full time workers at the central office alone with the grounds plus three buildings where twelve departments are functioning with many more sections under them. The church is internationally known and its area of practice has expanded from evangelism to development work in far off places, even reaching remote areas. Church work has been well organized in establishing children’s ministries, women’s ministries, youth ministries, medical centers, community training centers, Christian education departments, and theological education departments, to mention a few.
Mulatu also made his contribution to the government during the famine with the participation of all church members by collecting funds and materials to support relief work. With the continued communication of funding agencies, development and relief work continue to date. For this, Mulatu had to travel frequently in Europe and America to make contacts with donor agencies. In addition, he has worked as chairman of the board for an institution named Christian Relief and Development Association (CRDA).
Mulatu has been a visionary, an exemplary leader, an encourager, and a perfect model to those who worked with him in the EKHC for about thirty years with great commitment to the Lord and his church. This has been the reason behind his successful leadership for a long time.
Demissie Tilahun, Brief Biographical Profile, Dr. Mulatu Bafa (Addis Ababa: EGST, June 2003).
This biography, researched and written in 2005, was reviewed again in March 2010 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 Ethiopian Graduate School of Theology.