Yohannes Anshebo was an outstanding evangelist in the Kale Heywet Church.
Yohannes Anshebo was born to Anshebo Ugiebo and Ajisie in 1922 in a village known as Shemba located in the Angecha district of Shoa province. As was customary in the Kambatta ethnic group, his father had two wives who had ten children-five boys and five girls-between the two of them. Yohannes was the second child in the family. He lost his father when he was five years old and was brought up by his mother and the rest of the family. He grew up practicing the family religion known as Fendanno.
At age sixteen, he was baptized into the Ethiopian Orthodox Church and was given the name Woldemariam. But a year later, in 1939, he accepted Jesus as his personal Lord. As he had a strong desire to learn to read and write Amharic he sought out evangelists willing to teach him and they led him to the Lord. Soon after his basic education, the church in which he was a member assigned him to teach the Amharic alphabet to members of different local churches in the area.
In 1947, he married Desta Eliemo at the Shemba Kale Heywet Church. At first Yohannes faced a problem because his wife could not bear a child during their first three years of marriage. His relatives wanted him to abandon his wife because of that, but Yohannes refused and kept his marriage vows. God was good and after three years of marriage Desta gave birth to her first baby, Estifanos, who now serves God in many capacities. Then the second son, Teketel was born who has a Ph.D. in chemistry and is a lecturer at Addis Ababa University. Seven other children were born and they are all now well educated with college degrees. They are all born-again Christians and serve God wherever they may be (2004).
In 1949 he was sent to the Bobicho Bible School for Bible training. But the school was closed because of conflict and he was assigned to Wondo Kale Heywet Church as an evangelist. Then he was transferred to Adara Kale Heywet Church and later, in 1950, he enrolled at the Duramie Bible School.
When he finished his studies in 1953, he was sent to Gumer in the Gurage region, a three days trip on foot from his home. At this point, only his first two sons had been born. But food was scarce in this area and he and his family suffered from starvation. However, in 1956, he was transferred to Chabo where he faced the most difficult persecution from the Orthodox Church leaders and was forbidden to preach the gospel along with other evangelical preachers. In fact he resorted to another strategy to spread the gospel. He opened a school to teach the Amharic alphabet to the children of the community and when the parents came for registration, he used this opportunity to witness.
As he was serving in an area known for its banditry he wore a simple gabi (a hand-woven towel-like cotton cloth that is used traditionally to wrap around the shoulders) because not even a bandit would want to steal that. In 1958, he was sent to the Bale province in Jara which was a border town between Ethiopia and Somalia. At this time a border war was going on between the two nations and even though the family suffered from it they trusted God and prayed for protection. Two years later he was transferred to Ginir, another town in Bale and again, two years later, he was transferred to Robie (1962). Here the Orthodox priests falsely accused him of teaching against the Ethiopian Orthodox belief of abstaining from meat during certain periods. As a result, he was imprisoned for a time.
Between 1966 and 1983 he was assigned to the countryside of Shashemene where he planted a church and served the Kale Heywet churches that already existed in the surrounding areas. In 1983, he was called back to Alaba town in Kembatta and served there until 1993, living alone while his family remained in Shashemene. This time of separation was not comfortable for him in his old age nor was it good for the family to move with him to Alaba so he resigned at the age of seventy-one. But he is now giving part-time service in the Shashemene area (2004). He says that, just as a farmer earns his keep from his farm, likewise he wants to earn his bread from preaching the gospel until the end of his life.
He has always been compassionate and loving and has lived a life of sacrifice, helping others. People always came to his home for help or advice and the family treated all visitors in a kindly manner. He has been a role model for his children and for others, in his marriage and family life. God has rewarded him for his faithfulness.
Adapted from Estifanos Yohannes (son), “Biography of Evangelist Yohannes Anshebo Ugiebo,” student paper written at the Ethiopian Graduate School of Theology (EGST), Addis Ababa (2003).
This biography, received in 2006, was researched and written 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, formerly serving with SIM and at the Ethiopian Graduate School of Theology.