Mekonnen was born in 1953 to Ato Gegera Gudeta and Woizero Kebitu Fafa in Nekemt, Wellega. His family practiced idol worship. In 1961 he fell ill and was admitted to Teferi Mekonnen Hospital where he heard the gospel and his life was transformed.
When he reached the appropriate age, he went to school and finished his primary and junior secondary education at the Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus (EECMY) in Nekemt. In 1974, during a revival in Nekemt, Mekonnen was filled with the Holy Spirit on his own, without anyone praying for him.
Since his desire to serve the Lord was growing fast, he quit his regular education and enrolled in the EECMY Bible Training Center in Nekemt where he earned a certificate. He was again filled with the Holy Spirit with other students in his class. His teacher, Belena Sarka, who also had been filled with the Holy Spirit on his bed a couple of days before, came and prayed for his class during his teaching period. Six students fell down, including Mekonnen. Three were demon possessed and the other three were filled with the Holy Spirit. Mekonnen’s filling was again confirmed but his teacher who thought that this was the first time Mekonnen had been filled with the Holy Spirit. After that Mekonnen began serving the Lord and, at the same time, he continued his education and finished his 11th and 12th grade education through evening classes.
He and his friends prayed together fervently every day and recorded God’s messages as they came to them during their prayer time. As a leprosy survivor, Mekonnen had deformed fingers. Due to this disability neither he nor others around him thought he would be called to become God’s messenger. But one day, as he was serving in the choir, the Holy Spirit said: “I have one person among you whom I will use.” This message was for him.
The Mekane Yesus Church in Nekemt saw God’s gift in Mekonnen’s life and sent him to Addis Ababa for theological studies by permission of the Central Synod of EECMY. In 1975, he obtained his diploma from the Mekane Yesus Seminary, but could not go back to Nekemt because of the harsh persecution there. So, he stayed in Addis Ababa and Mekanissa Mekane Yesus Congregation invited him to be an evangelist for them. He accepted the calling.
Mekonnen’s desire was to liberate people from evil spirits and fill the house of God with believers. So he prayed for people after preaching the gospel to them wherever he went. He counseled and prayed for young people and many came to Christ. Under the Dergue Regime, many churches were closed except the Mekane Yesus churches. So many people came to Mekanissa Mekane Yesus Church and Mekonnen ministered to everyone with great power and revelation. Strongholds and evil spirits were cast out of many people. The number of believers coming in from the closed churches grew and the Mekane Yesus Church members were blessed by hosting a large number of believers, which was a sign of unity between many denominations during a time of great persecution.
Mekonnen had the gift of teaching and preaching the gospel as well as the gift of healing. He could discern the presence of evil spirits and cast out demons. He gave words of wisdom and knowledge clearly and they came to pass. People had great respect for his gifts. In his ministry, dying people were brought back to life, the blind received back their sight, and the crippled were made to walk again.
On one occasion, there was a strong disagreement between church members and deacons, which no one could stop. Mekonnen went to the pulpit and said, “Wait! God has a message for you.” Then he started to pray and evil spirits were cast out of about fifty people in the gathering and the disagreement died down immediately.
A person who had been bedridden for eight years was healed during his prayer. Mekonnen also prayed for a couple who, after twenty-one years of barrenness, finally had a child. The doctors had told the couple that they would have no children, but God performed a miracle through his chosen servant. When Mekonnen was questioned by the central synod about his gifts one of the testimonies he gave was the story of this couple who had a child after his prayer. Many other unrecorded miracles occurred as a result of his prayers.
Besides his visits to all the provinces of Ethiopia, Mekonnen was able to visit many countries such as Sweden, Norway, Belgium, Scotland, and England to minister by invitation. He was invited to live in America but he said that God had not called him for that and that he would not leave his congregation in the Mekanissa Mekane Yesus Church. He loved his country and his church very much. Some people came to see him in person and when he found out the purpose of their visit he said: “Don’t put your eyes on me. Believe in Jesus and you will get everything. Look at me. I am not an attractive person, but I have Jesus, so I have everything.”
A good listener and learner, he was respectful of those who ministered to him the Word of God. Everybody listened to him with respect and he warned people to beware of false teaching.
He was known to feel disappointed for just two minutes but then he forgot everything and praised God for it. He had a forgiving heart and spirit. One weakness he had was his anger which was only for a moment. People associated it with his physical disability which they thought had affected him psychologically.
He was single for a long time although he was not against marriage. He was always busy preaching the gospel, receiving messages and transmitting them to his people. When he least expected to get married, Woizero Addis Alem Yegez came into his life from Arsi to receive his prayers that lead to her healing. She then chose to be his housekeeper and he did not resist her decision. They lived in the same house for some time in this fashion. In 1994 they were married and were blessed with one child.
One day in November 1996, he said in his sermon, “I don’t fear death. Confess your sins and love each other. I hate this world and my soul needs rest.” Twelve days after this he became sick and was admitted to the hospital. He died three days later. His sudden death shocked many of those who knew him, but some remembered his last sermon and understood that he knew the hour of his death. Now thank God that many of Mekonnen’s followers serve in his church with the grace that God gave him.
Tamirat Gebre Sellassie, “The Biography of Evangelist Mekonnen Negera,” student paper, submitted May 20, 2004, Evangelical Theological College (ETC), Addis Ababa.
This article, received in 2006, 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.