Daka Seri was a prominent man of God who was used to reconcile the tribes of Gedeo and Guji in southern Ethiopia. He was one of the first few believers and was the first treasurer for the Fellowship of Evangelical Believers as well as the first president of Kale Heywet Churches Association.
Daka was born in 1919 at Qortisa locality, Deresa district in Sidamo province. His father’s name was Seri Maldae and his mother’s Rodu Tuffa. Daka’s mother tongue was Gedeonya. In Gedeo there were traditional prophets, and in 1941, one of these, a non believer by the name of Warassu, was given a vision from God saying that people would come with the truth. Eight years later, on February 2, 1949, a dedicated missionary couple, Mr. Albert and Evelyn Brant arrived in Dilla, the main town of Gedeo. These people built a school, a clinic, and a house. Using an audio tape, they started to preach to the people passing by their area. This was the beginning of the fulfillment of Warassu’s vision. People came to the mission station to get medicine, a job or to take literacy classes. At this time, Daka came to join the literacy classes as a permanent student and the man who had had the vision, Warassu, became the first believer.
One day in mid 1959, Mr. Brant came into class wearing a white shirt, white short trousers, and a white canvas pair of shoes. He was carrying charcoal, a Bible, a mirror, a pail full of water and a jar, soap and a towel. Soon after entering the class he stained himself and his clothes with charcoal while the students were watching him in shock wandering what was happening to him. Then he read John 3:16 and began to preach. But in the middle of his preaching he picked up the mirror, looked at his face and in apparent horror, shouted at the students “Why didn’t you tell me? Why didn’t you say something about how I looked?” Then he washed his face with water and soap and changed his clothes, cleaning up all the dirt, and looked into the mirror again. Smiling he exclaimed, “The blood of Jesus cleanses from all sin.” This was the turning point in Daka’s life as he himself testified: “We knew our sin. We were anxious. And they also showed us how to escape from sin. I personally poured out my heart like water. That day, I received the Lord Jesus as my personal Savior. My inner eyes were opened. No more delay. Even before studying the Bible adequately, merely because of the truth of the new life that was shining within me, I started to preach, saying: ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus! Repent!’”
Daka and his wife, Duke Galano, had eight children. There were five daughters named Lawe, Mulunesh, Hirut, Adanech, and Amarech and three sons named Yohannes, Endale, and Belay. Daka also had thirty-four grandchildren and thirteen great grandchildren.
In Gedeo the men were polygamous and Daka, after having eight children with his wife, arranged for a second marriage after his conversion. But the same day that he was supposed to go get his second wife, he had to go to court to clear up a case of mistaken identity. One evening while returning from church, some people had seized him, thinking he was a thief, and had taken him to the police. He had obtained a guarantee which released him from spending the night in detention but he had been told to come to court that particular day. On the day of his court appearance, not knowing what to do, Daka asked Mr. Brant which appointment to cancel. On hearing Daka’s case, Mr. Brant was shocked and asked him why he needed a second wife. Then he gave Daka a lesson on God’s intention about marriage using Adam and Eve as the first example. Daka understood and dropped his appointment for the second wife. He lived with his wife faithfully after that incident and became a good example for others. Then Mr. Brant arranged the first Christian marriage in the church and all the brothers asked him to confirm their marriages officially. So, the marriage of Daka and Duke was confirmed with twenty-three other couples who were formerly married. After that several husbands, in agreement with their wives, began living with their first wives. This way, the Gedeo culture was positively influenced and adopted the Christian practice of monogamy.
Daka lived near the mission station on the edge of Gedeo territory near the Guji tribes. He was taller and darker than the Gedeo people and looked more like the Gujis. Daka knew Amharic and this made him very important because Amharic was the official language of Ethiopia. He also knew the Guji language and spent most of his time among the Gujis. But these two tribes, whose lifestyles differed greatly, were longstanding enemies. The Gujis were nomads while the Gedeos were farmers of coffee, corn, and inset. Nevertheless these ennemies were reconciled by the gospel of Jesus Christ through Daka, the perfect evangelist and mediator who knew both tribes well. He was made an evangelist for the Guji area first. He accomplished the reconciliation through the help of the Holy Spirit and both the tribes took Daka as one of their own. Because his home was close to the mission station, Christians who came to conferences from both tribes were treated well as guests in his house.
Daka matured spiritually, witnessing and preaching fearlessly to all he encountered. He took a firm stand against injustice and did not hesitate to expose it publicly. Because of his preaching, he was taken to Dilla for questioning. There his accusers mocked him, pretending he was Jesus. They derisively announced that if any were waiting to visit Jesus, here he was. Daka knew that the prison was the best place to witness to criminals so when Mr. Brant came, concerned to keep him out of prison, Daka told him it was an opportunity to witness to those in prison.
At times, God took severe measure against his accusers who died after meddling in his life. At one time, Daka was preaching and a judge who owned the land near Daka’s house arrested him. They asked Daka in court whether or not he knew about the virgin Mary and her role as a mediator. Daka said that he knew her but had never read in the Bible that she died for his sin. The judge was shamed but he released him so that he could reappear on another appointment date. On the appointment day, Daka was called to appear and his opponent was also called to appear. Daka came, but another man in the court announced that the opponent had died. So Daka’s case was immediately dismissed.
Another time Daka was accused again because of the gospel and was thrown into jail. Then the accuser saw to it that Daka did not appear in court on the right day. Because Daka was absent on the appointed day, the court condemned him to paying a fine. When Daka appeared in court another day, he replied, “I am not a criminal. I came here not because I am a robber. I am here only for the sake of Christ and the gospel. Therefore, if the court demands a fine from me, this Christ must pay. Demand him to pay.” That same evening the accuser died. Finally, the court set Daka free on the second appointment day.
As Daka always witnessed, he was very often in chains. One day when he was arrested, one of the officials was heard complaining, “It is possible to handle murderers and criminals but what can one do about these believers?” Daka was accused of building a church without getting the landlord’s permission but he was released with the help of a guarantor. He was asked to pay twenty U.S. dollars. He said that he would rather suffer for Christ than pay a bribe. Finally the high court released him.
Mr. Brant, in his book “In the Wake of Martyrs” acknowledged that Daka was one of the three pillars of the church raised up by God to be leaders in that area. Like Peter, James, and John, these faithful apostles made the work of the Lord steadily expand between 1962 and 1964. In 1967, the churches grew so strong that they became part of the mission’s administrative team in Addis Ababa. The three leaders had the privilege of participating in the establishment of a nationwide fellowship called the Fellowship of Evangelical Believers.
Daka and his coworkers were exemplary in forming one national united church in the country. But doctrinal issues interfered so that it finally failed. But the SIM and the Baptist General Conference worked together for years and established the Word of Life Evangelical Church, later to be known as the Kale Heywet Church, of which Daka became treasurer and then president.
Daka also served in the government especially in the parliament, acting as an arbitrator whenever there was a problem between farmers in his area and the Ethiopian government. Although a simple tenant, he was full of the grace of God. Landlords and witch doctors were afraid of him, and other believers followed him joyfully.
After preaching and exhorting his listeners, Daka was often in tears, and this touched the lives of his audience. He was also a man of dignity and integrity in his private life. He died in on August 27, 1996 due to illness.
Zewdu Mekbib, “A Brief Biography of Ato Daka Seri” (2003), EGST, Addis Ababa.
This article, received in 2004, was researched and written by Dr. Dirshaye Menberu, retired professor from Addis Ababa University and graduate of the Ethiopian Graduate School of Theology (EGST), a DACB Participating Institution. EGST liaison coordinators are Dr. Paul and Mrs. Lila Balisky, DACB Advisory Council members.