Gosaye Zemedkun is a senior church leader in the Kale Heywet Church who has contributed to in the growth of this church. As a former Orthodox priest, he has done very important evangelical work among the Orthodox.
Gosaye was born on July 20, 1930, in Arusi Town, Showa Province, to Mr. Zemedkun Guchale-Work and Mrs. Etunesh Dorri.
He became a deacon in an Orthodox Church monastery called Zequalla. He was diligent and outshined his colleagues in the monastery. Abune Lucas, the archbishop of the area, after observing Gosaye’s efficiency in service and his knowledge, nominated him for the priesthood in the Orthodox Church. Gosaye was then assigned to the Serre-Tirriba Parish and began a rewarding ministry. His teaching and preaching brought many members of the Oromo tribe to the local Orthodox Church. He also traveled to the lowlands of Arusi to convert more people and baptized thousands of souls.
The archbishop was very happy with Gosaye’s achievements and recommended him for more awards and advancement from the synod in Addis Ababa. As a result, he was made the chief priest for Arusi town. But when other senior priests who wanted that ecclesiastical rank discovered they had lost this opportunity, they plotted to assassinate Gosaye. Fortunately he became aware of their plot and, in 1951, he fled to Addis Ababa where he sought refuge in the home of a relative who advised him to seek another job. Accordingly, he found a job at the Diabaco Cotton Factory (the present Edget Cotton Factory) where he worked for three years.
A co-worker and a close friend familiar with the Sudan Interior Mission brought Gosaye to see how the missionaries preached the gospel. Before this, Gosaye was exposed to the testimony of Lakew Tesema in the vicinity of the Tekle Haimanot Orthodox Church and was impressed by the way Lakew presented the love of God. In November of 1954 Gosaye and his friend attended a church service in which Hawaz Welde Michael was the preacher. At the end of his sermon, Hawaz announced that newcomers could remain behind and discuss their questions with him. Gosaye stayed behind and discussed many controversial issues with Hawaz who was well equipped for the exchange as he too was the son of an Orthodox clergyman, Memhir (meaning “Teacher”) Welde Michael. Hawaz was the right friend for Gosaye and influenced him to accept this new faith. In the end, Gosaye received Christ as his personal Savior. He abandoned his priestly symbols such as the cross, the turban, the priestly staff or rod that he held during church services, and other garments given to him during his appointment to the Orthodox Church. He left his religious duties and his new job in the Cotton Factory. He was baptized and began studying the Scriptures.
He demonstrated the new direction in his life through his strong desire for evangelistic work and began witnessing his faith first to family members and friends in Zequalla, Serra Michael, Akaki, Abba Samuel, and other places that he knew best. In Addis Ababa too, he diligently pursued evangelistic activity around the Orthodox churches. Hawaz and his other friends at SIM were worried about Gosaye’s decision to go out preaching as a new convert without any pay. But Gosaye was used to living on bread and water obtained only through begging, as was the tradition in the Orthodox Church for believers when they were young. He therefore wanted to continue living this way for his survival. He followed the verse in Matthew 10:10 and did not take a bag for his journey or an extra tunic or sandals or a staff. When Hawaz rebuked him on the actions he took to preach without pay, Gosaye responded: “I don’t demand pay from you as one can preach while begging. And imagine, how can I become needy when Jesus is with me?”
Seeing his determination, Hawaz and the group of missionaries recruited him as a potential evangelist with a salary and sent him to Bahir Dar. Upon his return, they equipped him with a manual tape player, evangelistic cassettes, a bullhorn, a bag, and books. Gosaye continued to openly evangelize people in the streets, market places and around church yards. Many listened to his preaching and asked him questions to which he responded with explanations, preaching the gospel effectively.
On several occasions, he was imprisoned by the police and interrogated at length. He was asked to produce his permit paper for such “public misconduct,” but he boldly replied that he had been commissioned by Christ himself and needed no other permit to preach. Police officers had to listen to his cassette recordings for further investigation and Gosaye was delighted that his work of evangelization was being done this way and that these officers were hearing the gospel message first-hand. They tried to accuse him of collecting money from the crowds who listened to him but they could not prove it as he did not do such a thing.
Hearing of Gosaye’s reputation, some of his former friends in the Orthodox Church have had debates with him, mocked him, and tried to beat him to death but have not yet been successful.
Gosaye was also known for his mission work in the Gurage areas–Kambatta, Wolaita, Hadiya, Gideo, and Bahir Dar, among other places. As a prominent and zealous church leader, he has richly contributed to organizing the evangelical movement and drafting the constitution of the Gospel Believers’ Union and to preparing a faith statement for the Meserete Heywet Church (MHC). He is now engaged in revival work with Orthodox Church members. His old EOC foes have been sending him warnings to stop but he is still deeply involved in the process.
Addise Amado, The Bare-foot Evangelist: A Short Biography of Gosaye Zemedkun (Addis Ababa: EGST, May 2001).
This biography, researched and written in 2005, was reviewed again in March 2010 by Dr. Dirshaye Menberu, retired assistant professor from Addis Ababa University and graduate of the Ethiopian Graduate School of Theology. The liaison coordinator is Dr. John Wheeler-Waddell serving at Ethiopian Graduate School of Theology.