Baloté Aymalo was born in 1917 in Wolaitta, Koysha, in southern Ethiopia and was converted in 1944 through the songs her father sang while performing chores around his farmstead. Balote was one of many believers who attended Toro Dubosho’s local church at Gärära, Koysha. She also attended the literacy classes that Toro was teaching several afternoons a week at the Gärära church.
In 1946 Selma Bergsten, fluent in the Wolaitta language because of her 1930-1937 pre-Italian experience in southern Ethiopia, began discussions with the Wolaitta Kale Heywet Church Council about a special teaching program for young Wolaitta women. Baloté, along with twenty other young Christian women, was selected for this initial two-month learning program convened at the Wanché local church in 1947. After this first course hosted at Wanché, the twenty-one ladies returned to their local districts to begin teaching what they had learned. Baloté returned to her local church at Gärära in the Koysha district. By 1950, Baloté and other trainees assisted in organizing the Wolaitta Christian women’s association. Their function was to provide teaching and fellowship, training in crafts, and to collect funds for the evangelists. Through the missionary challenge to bring the gospel to the unreached at the annual Bible conferences held at the SIM centre at Soddo and throughout the Wolaitta districts, many women volunteered to evangelize outside of Wolaitta.
In 1954 Baloté, her husband Amoché and their son, Dästa, traveled by donkey to Yala, Gofa, a two-day trek from Soddo, to begin evangelistic work. They opened a literacy school and Baloté also taught handcrafts to the young ladies. Within a year the new converts built a small prayer house. In January 1955 Amoché returned to Wolaitta, Soddo for the annual Bible conference to report on the evangelistic advances in Gofa. Before returning to his missionary ministry in Gofa, he made a business trip by foot to Yirga Aläm in Sidamo Province. While crossing the Bilaté River, Amoché was murdered by Arsi bandits.
When a messenger from Baloté’s home church in Koysha brought her the news of Amoché’s death, Baloté had to decide whether to remain true to her missionary calling in Gofa or to return to Wolaitta. She reacted by saying, “I have been called of God not by man. I am going to stay.” Baloté and her son remained in Gofa for seven additional years teaching children and women. She itinerated throughout Zalla district, teaching courses in literacy, handcrafts, and Bible texts for up to two months at a time. She had no home of her own but depended on the hospitality of the wives of the other evangelists and of Gofa believers during her travels. In 1962 Baloté returned to Wolaitta when the Wolaitta Church Council assigned her to assist in coordinating the women’s ministry within the Wolaitta Kale Heywet Church.
Baloté’s faithful years of service in Gofa and Wolaitta have been recognized by the Wolaitta Church Council. Many continue to rise up and call her blessed.
E. Paul Balisky
Personal information from Baloté Aymalo.
E. Paul Balisky, “Wolaitta Evangelists: A Study in Religious Innovation in Southern Ethiopia, 1937-1975,” Ph.D. thesis presented to the University of Aberdeen, 1997, pp. 236-238.
Raymond Davis, Fire on the Mountains (Chicago: Moody Press, 1966), pp.196-206.
This biography was researched and adapted from “Wolaitta Evangelists: A Study of Religious Innovation in Southern Ethiopia, 1937-1975,” by E. Paul Balisky (University of Aberdeen Ph.D. Thesis, 1997, pp 157-160). Dr. Paul Balisky is a former lecturer at the Ethiopian Graduate School of Theology, a DACB Participating Institution.