Updated: Jun 24
Missionary to America: Teka Fogi, Ethiopia
For fifty years I’ve had a stone on my desk. It was given to me by the pastor who supervised my vicarage intern year, Walt Grumm. The stone has quotes from Ugo Betti, “That’s what we want to do…we yearn to tell…We need someone who will listen.”
Ugo Betti was a philosopher in early twentieth century Italy. He wrote about the nature of evil and themes of redemption. His work came out of a need to tell what he had learned about humanity during two world wars. He spent years as a prisoner of war in WWII. Ugo Betti could not resist the call to tell what he knew.
When You Resist God’s Call
Teka Fogi tried to resist a call from God. Born in the Oromo region of Ethiopia, as a child he saw much destruction. The Oromo people, especially the children, were traumatized. One day a teacher came to his village, a Christian teacher, who took time to tell the boy about Jesus. Two young evangelists followed up and stayed in his village for two months teaching adults and children.
Teka knew then the Lord was calling him into full time ministry, but he resisted. He was a smart boy, did well in school and a door opened for him to become a veterinarian. But that first call persisted, sitting at the back of his soul.
St. Paul knew that call and in his letter to the Corinthians cried, “Woe is me if I do not preach the gospel.” And, St. Peter resisted preaching the gospel to gentiles, those others who were not like him – until a vision on a rooftop woke him up.
Despicable Roman soldiers knock on his door and lead him to Caesarea, to a door of a gentile house. I can imagine Peter standing there, smelling the strange smell of gentile food, hearing the language of the oppressors, and resisting going in – until he answers the Spirit’s call to share Jesus.
Staying Ready for the Spirit
People ask Teka “When did you decide to become a pastor?” He always responds, “every morning.” You have to stay ready for the Spirit to call you to a new place, a new community, a new vocation.
Teka saw the church in Ethiopia grow beyond its capacity to recruit pastors and teachers. That first pull to serve the Lord in full time ministry grew to the point he had to give in. The joy he felt when he surrendered grew as he became a part of the growth of the church.
Traditional church in Ethiopia
He was there at the beginning of the Lutheran Church in Ethiopia which today numbers more than eleven million and climbing.
When Teka’s wife was offered a position in America he resisted – until he saw an open door to bring Christ to the thousands of Ethiopians immigrating to America. He came to see his calling as starting churches in America, a more difficult task than in Ethiopia. Here the people have many distractions. They may come once a week to worship but they are too occupied with putting food on the table and guiding their children in a new land with new customs. They do not have time for the Bible studies and small groups that bring people closer to God and to each other. It was much easier in Ethiopia to be a disciple. But here is where the ministry of a seasoned evangelist pastor is needed, maybe more than in Ethiopia.
When you resist God’s call you know it from that deep Spirit inside. Know also the Spirit is never done with you. If you ask Teka what he would have done differently during his ministry, he says, “Not take myself so seriously and be more vulnerable.” This is good advice for anyone who senses the call of God’s Spirit.
Called as a child- Introduction to Teka Fogi
Watch the complete interview: