Ermias Choliye: African Leader, Christ's Disciple

Ermias Choliye: African Leader, Christ's Disciple

Ermias Choliye is field strategy coordinator for the Horn of Africa and pastor of a Nazarene church in eastern Africa. He and his wife, Mulu, a former teacher, are the parents of three sons.

How did you come to faith?
When I was 10 years old, I attended a youth camp meeting at a church.

Religious background?
My grandparents-both sets-were the first converts to Christianity in that village. My parents were raised in the Christian faith as was I.

What's unique about your area?
For the last several years, the Spirit of God has been moving and many people are coming to Christ. Those involved in witchcraft (witchdoctors) are coming to Christ and are burning their magic elements in front of the district assemblies.

Many lives in the communities are being changed because of the holiness message being shared.

Share about your background in the church.
First, I was a layperson and taught youth Sunday School, sang in the choir, and was the youth leader. Then I became a lay pastor in the Church of the Nazarene in 1998-2000. I attended Africa Nazarene University, was ordained in 2004, and became one of the first national district superintendents in Ethiopia.

In 2004, I became the superintendent of two districts, then in 2005 three districts were added, and the sixth was added in 2006. So I was superintendent of six districts, and the mission coordinator for the country.

Along with that, I was a CLI (Creative Leadership Institute) college teacher and extension pastor trainer.

How did you manage six districts?
It's really because of other leaders that I could mentor and hand over responsibilities to others, once they were trained. With all this, the mighty hand of God just worked out all of the things we needed to manage. It's God through the Holy Spirit who gave me the strength and the power to do this.

What's your favorite food?
Ingera'a local bread. If I stay somewhere without it, I miss it. At home in my country, I eat it three times a day!

Favorite music?
Local music-gospel music by Ethiopian artists.

Favorite scripture?
Ephesians 2:8-9, "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God--not by works, so that no one can boast" (NIV).

What person in the world would you like to meet?
Nelson Mandela.

Who do you most admire?
My grandmother, Kathere, because of her faith. She helped to bring me and my family to Christ.

How do you like to spend a day off?
With my kids and wife, reading, walking, playing games, swimming, and hiking in the mountains.

Isn't there a great legacy of Christianity in your country?
Yes. In the book of Acts, chapter 8, the first African convert started the church around 34 AD in Ethiopia. After that, the Christians kept that tradition even to this day, in spite of other cultures and their influences.

The North Africa area lost its Christianity, but the Ethiopian Christianity was protected by faithful believers for generations. We are a part of that tradition, and have had Christianity in our own language, reflected in our music, and part of our culture.

Can you speak on poverty in your world area?
There is spiritual poverty more than physical poverty. They need a holiness revival in every part of our country.

In the field, because of conflicts and ethnicity, women and children especially are starving and need food and relief help from other world areas.

If you could package an essential element of church growth in your area, what would be in that package?
Openness. People provide their homes, lands, and families to be available for church services.
A hunger for holiness.

Dream destination?
Jerusalem.

Favorite author?
John Maxwell.

What would we surprised to learn about you?
I'm afraid of snakes, or was as a boy. I don't like them but grew up with them being in the bed, roof, my school bag, our yard--they were everywhere. When I was young, several of my friends and our animals (goats, sheep, dog, donkey) died from snake bites.

What is life like in your household with three active boys?
They're teenagers and sometimes get a bit rowdy when playing football (soccer).

I have a lot of books and spent time as a physics teacher. My second son reads all my books and did so even when he was in sixth and seventh grade. He reads theology, science, fiction, and physics.

Holiness Today, July/August 2011