March 26, 2001

Dallas Ethiopian church constitutes
___By Staishy Bostick
___Dallas Morning News
___DALLAS--After almost 20 years of childhood dreaming, adolescent growing pains and constant aspirations of independence, the Ethiopian Evangelical Baptist Church in Dallas has finally reached adulthood.
___The Ferguson Road church was constituted--became a free-standing congregation--in January during a special celebration ceremony commemorating the church's coming of age.
___The church, which has about 330 members, started as a mission of Highland Baptist
Church in North Dallas.
___"We were a mission fellowship; we were not by ourselves," Pastor Bedilu Yirga said, explaining the importance of the event. "We are in a place now where we can help others; we can send out missionaries and evangelists."
___Members have met in other Baptist churches since the congregation was established in March 1983. Many say they have struggled with membership and as they tried to make a place where they felt at home and could worship in their native language.
___In 1995, congregation members made a step away from their status as a missionary fellowship toward independence when they moved into their current Ferguson Road building near Buckner Boulevard. They had been meeting at Lakeside Baptist Church near White Rock Lake.
___About 300 congregation members from the Ethiopian church, Lakeside and Highland churches attended a bilingual service, which featured music, prayers and inspirational words in English and Amharic. A reception followed the service.
___Martha Ketsela felt the excitement in the air at her church's special service. She loved singing along with the choir and swaying with the audience during a few of the hymns.
___The 10-year-old from Plano knew she and other Ethiopian Evangelical Baptist Church members were celebrating an important milestone in their church's history. She just wasn't sure what it was.
___The church was formed almost 20 years ago when the first handful of members began worshipping in an Oak Lawn park on Maple Avenue.
___"We have enjoyed having them over at our church," said Robert Bleakley, a Lakeside member who attended the service and reception. "We just wanted to be a part of this."
___Yodit Hizekiel, one of the Ethiopian church's Sunday School teachers, said she was proud of her church's accomplishments and enjoyed the special service.
___It included thank-you gifts for those who played an instrumental role in the church's development.
___"You get to go back and show appreciation that you have for the people who helped you along the way," she said.
___Debebe Tekle, a congregation member for about 10 years, said this was an exciting and important step for his church.
___"I am very happy because we can now help others and we can bring others to Jesus," he said.
___Tekle said his church's being constituted was especially important because members can use their cultural customs and language to teach their children about the gospel.
___Patty Lane, director of intercultural initiatives for the Baptist General Convention of Texas, told members not to stop what they are doing now that they have achieved their goal of independence.
___"Don't stop growing now; don't stop being a great church," she said, challenging members to take on missions and do for other congregations what Lakeside and Highland members did for them.

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