Regassa Feysa, a sports teacher by profession, has served as an evangelist for many years in many different denominations. He began his ministry in the Berhane Wongel Baptist Church and is known by many Christians as Ababa Regassa, a title indicating that he is a father to many in the faith.
Regassa Feysa was born in 1930 at Chancho village in Ambo District to non-believing parents who practiced idolatry. They worshiped trees, rivers, and evil spirits. He too followed this worship which they practiced eight times a year. His parents were poor but managed to educate him as far as the seventh grade in the Guder School where he first enrolled when he was fifteen years old.
In 1950 he married Gudinay Yabasa and was blessed with nine sons and five daughters. One of his sons, Wakjira has also become an evangelist.
In 1952 he graduated from sports training and moved to Addis Ababa where he was hired as a sports teacher in 1953. He continued his education up to the tenth grade, but beginning in 1958, he suffered serious eye problems. He sought healing through traditional religion as well as other healing methods but to no avail. He and his wife had given up until one day he heard someone read John 3:16 in an Orthodox church. He wanted to try the truth of this new information so he bought a Bible. When he opened it to the very first verse, Genesis 1:1, he thought he was reading a geography book. He consulted Abba Gebre Sellassie, a teacher of the Orthodox Church who said to him: “God wants you” three times, and advised him to begin reading from the Gospel of John. When he reached John 6 where Jesus says, “I am the bread of life” he asked Abba Gebre Sellassie what that meant. The teacher promised to teach him after the worship service and later he could take Holy Communion if that was what he wanted. When he was ready, Regassa took the bread and wine on June 14, 1959 from his teacher. At that point he understood that Jesus was his God, Savior, friend, and brother. He has continued in the faith ever since that day.
In 1960 the Orthodox Church sent him as a delegate representing the Holy Trinity School students to Dr. Billy Graham’s evangelistic campaign at the stadium. He also had the task of explaining Dr. Graham’s teaching to his comrads afterwards. That was the first time he preached to the students. He then also began preaching in an evangelical church, the Berhane Wongel Baptist Church, near the Addis Ababa abattoir and God started doing miracles in his life.
In 1965 he was filled with the Holy Spirit on a Friday and began to exorcize evil spirits on Saturday. Those foreign missionaries of the Berhane Wongel Baptist Church and the Ethiopians who witnessed it said that this practice belonged in a Pentecostal church and not a Baptist church. No matter how he tried to explain that this was God’s doing, they refused to accept his ministry and told him to leave. He left in tears but went away with Jesus.
He rented a house near the Lisse Gebre Mariam French School with 38 birr, furnished the place with chairs, and began to preach the gospel. For the first time a man with folded legs who could not walk was healed by Regassa who explained to him that “Doctor Jesus” was the source of his healing. Following that incident, Regassa was taken in for questioning at the Fifth Police Station. Then, at Gola Sefer, somewhere near the rented house, a deaf man was also healed through Regassa by “Doctor Jesus.” After many years of service in that rented house Regassa handed over his ministry and the care of his followers to the Full Gospel Church and left the area.
He moved near the Zenebe Work School village. There, through his prayers, a young schizophrenic boy was healed by “Doctor Jesus.” Regassa attracted a group of local people by his gospel teaching and these he later gave into the care of the Heywet Berhan Church under the Swedish Philadelphia mission.
It was his habit to spend nights away from home, preaching during work breaks and holidays. He never appreciated the differences between church denominations. When the Russian communist spirit took over Ethiopia and an atheist government was set up, the Lord told him not to mention names of religions and governments. In those years, God’s Kingdom grew even more and was not hindered.
In 1974 and 1975, evangelical Christians suffered great persecution and he and others with him cried out, “Lord, are they going to destroy us?” The Lord replied, “I am standing between you and those who hate you; no one will hurt you. Don’t be afraid!” As he said, God helped them all to pass through many storms and they were saved.
One day Regassa was reading his Bible in a car and the man sitting next to him asked what book he was reading. Regassa did not want to answer. But the man repeated his question. When he asked for the third time, Regassa finally looked at him and said, “This is a book that saves human beings but kills the Devil.” The man collapsed in the car-possibly because he was demon-possessed. The other occupants of the car who witnessed this were amazed.
The authorities of the Dergue regime decided that Regassa Feysa and Daniel Mekonnen should be killed wherever they were found. One person saw Regassa walk in front of the General Post Office with his Bible and was afraid for him so he cautioned him, saying, “You know that they are planning to kill you. Why do you walk in broad daylight with your Bible?” Regassa pointed to two soldiers nearby and responded, “Do these soldiers feel uncomfortable because they are seen with their guns at hand? So it is with me. I am proud to walk with my Bible in my hands.” Then he continued walking on the main road carrying the Bible on his head.
One day, a soldier who had believed in Christ at Regassa’s birth place came and told him that he was one of the soldiers ordered to kill him. The soldier told him that he admired Regassa’s faithfulness and courage and had decided not to kill him.
While Regassa was preaching one day at a Pentecostal church, he told his audience that the people should obey the law so that all might live in a peaceful society. Just as God gave laws to mankind and punishes all who do not obey his laws, in the same way, earthly governments punish people who disobey the law. That day there were police officers in civilian clothes in the audience who had been sent to arrest him but because of this statement they could not lay their hands on him.
Regassa has been an evangelist since 1961, preaching in Addis Ababa and beyond with great faith. He has always obeyed the Holy Spirit’s guidance. He was never proud of his gifts, and he never wanted to be known as a specially anointed preacher with the gift of healing or prophecy. He thought of his experience and gifts as the work of the Holy Spirit possible in any Christian’s life.
It is not only in his spiritual life that he has brought praise to his Lord but also in his secular work that he has earned respect because he demonstrated qualities characteristic of a great citizen. He was a sports teacher in three well-known schools in Addis Ababa and was given a prize from the Ministry of Education in 1966 for the quality of his teaching.
He has been exposed to many different doctrines but his focus has always been on the Bible. He says that the Word always corrects him whenever he errs.
He was pensioned in 1972. His wife has died but Regassa’s love of the gospel is still fresh in him. God is providing for him in a wonderful way and he is very happy in his ministry (2004).
“The Testimony of a Senior Father of the Faith, Abbaba Regassa Feysa,” Heywot, # 49, (2001) pp. 10-11.
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.