Berhane Gensa, wife of Bafe Hatasa, was a hero in her church, supporting her husband in ministry and raising a family together with him while the church suffered great persecution under the Dergue Regime.
Berhane Gensa was born at Ambukuna village in Kambata and Hadiya in 1933 to non-believing parents. In 1942, while yet a child, she received Jesus Christ as her personal Savior. During those days, women who knew the Lord were rare and she was the only young Christian girl in the area. So she began to serve when she was only nine years old. Willingly and happily, in collaboration with the church elders, she did cleaning work, prepared the bread for the Lord’s Supper, and welcomed guests. She grew up in the church in this fashion. There was no grist mill in those days and she prepared the flour from the wheat by grinding it by hand with the traditional stone. As she was very young, it was hard for her to grind it fine enough at the first grinding. She had to repeat the grinding and it took her a very long time to get it ready.
She served in this manner in the church and, when she was old enough, she married Evangelist Bafe Hatasa in December 1956. Although they were poor, putting their faith in the Lord, they began a family.
As the saying goes, behind every wise leader, there is a wise woman. Berhane was the backbone to Bafe’s life in his ministry. She supported him with her prayers, her comforting words, sharing his burdens, filling the gap, exercising patience and tolerance, and shouldering the responsibility of the family and the church. She served everyone in love. As much as possible, she lived with others in peace and put her grace and faith into action. She brought up her nine children according to the Word of God through her faithful efforts at home. Thus she made her contribution to the world by replacing herself with nine others for church ministry. In raising her children this way, she became a blessing to the family and her church.
In collaboration with the SIM missionaries, especially with Mrs. Jean King from New Zealand, Berhane led the District Christian Women’s Association and trained the wives of evangelists. She also coordinated the ladies’ prayer group and taught them songs and the Scriptures. In addition, she trained mothers in home management, child care, handcrafts and knitting. In the mid 1960s, she served as a caretaker or nurse and teacher in the first and only women’s SIM elementary school in the district.
In 1977 when the missionaries left the country, with her husband, Berhane served amidst persecution and in freedom, in plenty and in want, in prison, in suffering, and in joy. At one point both husband and wife were imprisoned and their young children were all alone at home. The two oldest children were at school, a three days’ walk from home, and could not come to help the younger ones. No one was bringing food to the imprisoned parents because if the Christians were discovered supporting each other in this way they would be arrested. The police went into the house and confiscated Berhane’s property and her Bible. After one month, she was released but Bafe had to stay in prison for three months. She lodged a complaint to retrieve her confiscated property but to no avail. Finally she asked to get back only her Bible. The authorities said that if she could read her Bible in their presence, she would get it back. She agreed and went to stand the test. Housewives were generally illiterate and they thought she was one of them. They did this with evil intentions only to mock her.
But even in this, God had His own plan. All the authorities were present when she was given her Bible to read in their presence. She opened the Bible to Romans 3:23 and read, “For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” Then again, she opened to Acts 4:12 and read, “For there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.” This time the authorities came to their senses and realized that she was preaching to them while they were there to oppose the very idea of preaching the Bible. They said to each other, “This woman is preaching the Bible to us when in fact we are trying to stop Bible preaching. So give her the book and send her away.” Thus even though she was imprisoned for preaching the Bible during the Ethiopian Revolution God’s divine plan could not be thwarted and the authorities heard the Scriptures even though that was not their intention.
As the Lord’s grace was on her side, she always used her circumstances to fight the good fight. She testified in word and deed as a good wife, caring mother, and faithful servant until the end of her life on June 6, 2002.
At her burial ceremony on June 11, 2002, five days after her death, many received Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord. In that place, the District town of Waka, where she had been despised, she became the cause of the salvation of many and this became big news. All the government offices were closed that day. The family and the church were happy because of this event.
Through God’s grace both husband and wife were successful in their ministry, blessed with children and grandchildren, and honored on the very soil where they had suffered. All this was possible through Christ.
Rahel Bafe (first child of the family), “Short history of Gospel Heroes: Ato Bafe Hatasa and His Wife W/o Berhane Gensa,” Part 2 (Amharic article), March 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 coordinators are Dr. Paul and Mrs. Lila Balisky, serving with SIM and at the Ethiopian Graduate School of Theology.