Zerubbabel Mengistu — Africa Arise – Thoughts of a Way Forward: Book review

Pastor Zerubbabel Mengistu.

I recently thought of a book I had read a while ago called Africa Arise – Thoughts for a way forward.

The book is written by Pastor Zerubbabel Mengistu of Beza International, known as Pastor Zee. The church is based in Ethiopia and annually hosts the Africa Arise conference, at the same time as African Union Heads of State Summit in Addis Ababa.

The book seeks to give background to the experiences that brought about the Africa Arise Movement and give thoughts of a way forward. These thoughts are not just for the Africa Arise Movement but rather for anyone in Africa seeking to see every space and sector they occupy in Africa transform.

Having participated at the Africa Arise conference I found that the book gave me a perspective which helped me appreciate that it was not just another conference or another gathering, but rather a prophetic action to lift up the name of the Lord at the same time and same city where heads of African states meet.

The hope is that as the name of the Lord is lifted up, His glory will come down. And in the same way God promised to save a city if He found the righteous, He would overlook all the iniquity of Africa’s leaders and save the continent.

Pastor Zee recounts the experiences of his father, Dr Betta Mengistu, who is the visionary of the Africa Arise Movement. His journey began when God healed him supernaturally from leukemia without anyone preaching to him, but just by reading the Bible. He experienced firsthand the power of the Word to heal and redeem and is a firm believer that the Word that can redeem and heal a person is able to redeem and heal nations.

The vision for Africa Arise is “Redeeming nations in righteousness” and in order to realise this vision, the three key areas are a focus for Africa Arise i.e. leadership, trade and youth.

One of the key things that Pastor Zee highlights regarding leadership is the fact that vision must be forged in the power and conviction of personal experience. When individuals are truly convicted by the vision they are pursuing, they will be able withstand any form of opposition and not compromise.

This is unfortunately not the case in our continent, where most African leaders are pursuing visions and ideas that they are not convicted of but instead have been convinced by. These are ideas agreed upon in boardrooms or ideas of interest groups that lobbied the most. As a result, we see resolutions passed each year and yet no implementation or change because our leaders’ hearts are not connected to them.

In addressing the subject of trade, Africa Arise seeks to confront the challenge of corruption in Africa. While policies and laws are helpful, they cannot fully address the challenge of corruption because it is more of a moral challenge than it is a legal one. This is an area that government is not able to address, but it is rather an area that requires the Church to lead.

The Africa Arise movement sought to contribute to this challenge by developing an “Ethical Charter” for business people and professionals. The charter is a personal pledge made by professionals and business people to conduct their work and business with integrity and in the fear of the Lord. Since its launch, the Ethiopian government has used the charter as one of the tools to fight corruption within the civil service.

On youth, they recognise the need to deliberately invest in the next generation and to have systems and a process for succession planning. Pastor Zee refers to a succession planning model found in the Bible, that can help to ensure one generation is able to pass the baton to another.

The Levites were appointed between the ages of 20-30 to serve in the temple until they were 50. The older priests would play the role of mentors and bring needed wisdom to the younger ones. This, he explains as a strategic window for succession planning. He encourages leaders who are 50 and above to intentionally be developing young people (20-30) if the work is to continue.

Another strategic window for succession planning is between 4-14 years. Luis Bush founded the 4/14 Movement based on research showing that commitments made for Christ between these years tend to stick. As a result they are driving a movement to share the Gospel with as many children as possible in this age group.

The biggest lesson he brings is that that there shouldn’t be competition between the older and younger generation. Older pastors (+50) must create room for the younger ones (20-30), who will be more likely to reach the children (4-14). In so doing we can ensure that every generation is prepared to carry the vision forward.

This book was written to help communicate the purpose of Africa Arise. This movement has grown over the years and it became necessary to give context for both new and old participants. Pastor Zee emphasises the power of ideas written-down — while they may never be realised in one’s lifetime, they will be found by a runner, the same way socialist ideas found expression in Ethiopia years after Karl Marx, Vladimir Lenin and Friedrich Engels had died.

He also reminds the reader to never underestimate the power of one encounter with the Word. While there is a limit to the people that can be reached by the Africa Arise movement, for a nation to be transformed, all it may require is for one leader to have just an encounter with the Word. That is seen in how the Ethiopian eunuch met with Phillip on his way from Jerusalem, and through that encounter Ethiopia became the first Christian nation outside Israel.

As tensions in our nations increase over land expropriation, next elections, increases in petrol prices and instability of provincial governments we must never forget the power of the Word to heal and redeem, not just people but also nations.

The Africa Arise Conference takes place every January, around the AU Heads of States Summit in Addis Ababa. For more information www.africarise.org

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