Beyene was born in 1952 to Ato Gutema Jilla (father) and Woizero Abeba Kebede, in the eastern part of Wollega. He first attended Sibu Sirie County Elementary School near Nekemt Town then Nekemt Comprehensive High School, and finally finished his high school education at Be’ede Mariam High School in Addis Ababa in 1972.
While at Nekemt high school, he heard about Jesus Christ and came to the faith through the protestant church. Immediately after that, he became very sick and had to be sent home so that his family could care for him. When he arrived, not knowing about his new faith, his parents suggested taking him to the traditional spiritual healers called the Kallicha because they believed that was the only way a sick person could be healed. Beyene defied tradition by refusing to see the Kallicha but he did not, however, tell them about his new faith. Aboma Bayessa, his nephew, who was a small child living in his grandmother’s house at that time, remembers that Beyene, who had suffered a lot from the illness, returned to school as sick as before. According to Aboma, Beyene’s school friends must have taken care of him and nursed him back to health.
The next time Beyene came home from school, he was very healthy and was able to teach his nephews and nieces the right way to God. At that time, Aboma only knew the Orthodox Church’s teaching and criticized his uncle for what he was teaching them. In the Ethiopian culture, the Orthodox faith is considered the only correct path to God and Aboma took his uncle’s stand as apostasy. In Aboma’s mind, it was not right for Beyene to spoil the faith of innocent children. Later, as these children grew up, the seeds that Beyene had sown in their hearts began to grow and they all became Christians. Most of Beyene’s family members are now devout believers because of his evangelization efforts throughout the years. Even Aboma is now (2005) a missionary and a church planter living in Boston, doing his masters at the Gordon Cornwell Seminary and sponsored by the Assemblies of God Church. Many others in Beyene’s family are involved in ministry.
Beyene attended Addis Ababa University and obtained his first degree in biology in 1979. He then worked as a biology and chemistry teacher at Addis Ababa Heywet Berhan (Philadelphia Mission) Girls’ School for four years.
In 1982, he began working for World Vision International, Ethiopia. Besides being coordinator of various projects, he was also active in their evangelism outreach until 1986. In 1988 he became the supervisor of the environmental development department and then was promoted to the position of general manager of the southern Ethiopia development projects where he was able to provide much needed services both on a material and a spiritual level.
On January 22, 1988, he and Blene Moltotal were married and the couple was blessed with two daughters, Beza (age 17 in 2005) and Bithia (age 12), and one son, Barkeal (age 15).
Beyene was appointed head of the administrative office of World Vision International. Beginning in 1994, he worked as special assistant to the general manager of World Vision International. After October 1995 he was director of the partnership development division of the organization.
In the meantime, he served in his local Meserete Kristos Church in various capacities such as executive committee member (1990-1995), vice president, and general secretary. Beginning in 1995, he became president of the committee until November 21, 1996, the day he died in a plane crash. In addition to this, Beyene Gutema served the Lord during his spare time in the Evangelical Church Fellowship of Ethiopia (ECFE) as a volunteer doing evangelism and winning souls for Christ.
On November 21, 1996, Beyene was flying to Nairobi, Kenya aboard Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 767, flight number 961, as the World Vision representative with another colleague, Zelalem Mengistu, also a member of the same organization and a member of the Mulu Wengel Church. A few minutes after take off, the plane was highjacked and crashed in the Comoros Islands off the coast of Mozambique, killing 125 passengers. There were a few survivors but most of the passengers, both Ethiopians and foreigners, including Beyene Gutema, Zelalem Mengistu, and Andrew Michens from the Kale Heywet Church, perished in this tragic incident.
Misikir Magazine, an Amharic quarterly publication put out by the Mennonite Mission, (March 1997), Vol. 4, No. 11, p. 8.
Belene Moltotal, Beyene’s widow, interviewed on June 22, 2005, and contacted by email in October 2005 by the author.
Aboma Bayessa, Beyene’s nephew living in Boston, interviewed by phone on October 19, 2005 by the author.
This article, received in 2005, was researched and written by Dr. Dirshaye Menberu, retired professor from Addis Ababa University and 2005-2006 Project Luke Fellow. She is a graduate of the Ethiopian Graduate School of Theology (EGST), a DACB Participating Institution.