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September 2012

"Beyond the Rivers of Ethiopia"


What image is evoked in your mind when you hear or see the name "Africa"?  Does your imagination sketch a huge continent wrapped in a dark blanket, thus deserving the nickname "the Dark Continent"?  Does it paint for you the myths and customs of the "savage tribal societies" which have existed on this continent since primordial times?

As a native of Africa and as a member of the Seventh-day Adventist Church my perception of the continent may be quite different from yours.  I see Africa as a continent where the prophecy of Isaiah, though made in reference to "Galilee of the Gentiles" is being fullfilled.  I quote, "The people which sat in darkness saw great light; and to them which sat in the region and shadow of death light is sprung up" (Isaiah 9:2 as quoted in Matthew 4:16).  I see it as the land which early welcomed the Saviour when the parents of the Infant had sought refuge from the fury of Herod (Matthew 2:13-16).  I see it as the land whose native son bore the burden of the cross on the way to Calvary (Matthew 27:32).  I see it as the land to which the Saviour early directed His gospel of salvation through His angel, His Holy Spirit, and human agency (Acts 8:26-39).

I see Africa as a land rich in names of great historical prominence in the early church.  There was Origen of Alexandria, Tertullian, Athanasius, Augustine of Hippo and Cyprian of Carthage.  I see it as a land where the sabbath of the Ten Commandments was continually observed when the rest of christendom accepted observance of the papal substitute: the sunday.

And I see Africa as the land where, through the ministries of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, the prophecy of Zephaniah is meeting its fulfillment.  I quote, "From beyond the rivers of Ethiopia my suppliants, even the daughter of my dispersed, shall bring my offering" (Zephaniah 3:10).

-Bekele Heye, in a preface to The Seventh-day Adventist Church in Africa (Reinder Bruinsma, editor, 1988)