Three people groups—the Konta, Oyda, and Melo—celebrated the dedications of their New Testaments in southern Ethiopia in late June 2022. A Seed Company writer who attended the dedications provides the following reflection.
Amid the raucous, joyous celebration that is the Konta New Testament dedication, something quiet is happening.
In the stage’s back left corner, a middle-aged woman—beautifully dressed in traditional Ethiopian attire—is sitting in a chair, bent over. She’s intently shuffling something with her hands.
The sound equipment on the stage prevents you from seeing what she’s doing. Only when a sweet aroma drifts your way do you realize she is tending to incense.
A ceremony within a ceremony.
In the main ceremony—the dedication of the Konta New Testament—a church leader says a prayer thanking God for the gift of his Word, followed by the choir leading the people in worship.
All the while, the woman attends to this almost private ceremony of igniting hot coals and stirring them around, producing smoke that fills the air with the earthy, floral scents of frankincense and myrrh. Incense is a part of the fabric of Ethiopian daily life, imbuing occasions both large and small with meaning.
For the One Who Is Worthy
The biblical significance of this juxtaposition of ceremonies—the incense alongside the New Testament dedication—can’t be missed. Revelation speaks of twenty-four elders who fall down before the Lamb while holding “gold bowls filled with incense, which are the prayers of God’s people” (5:8b, NLT).
It is fitting, then, that later in the dedication service, a community leader reads aloud from the very next verse:
And they sang a new song with these words:“You are worthy to take the scroll and break its seals and open it. For you were slaughtered, and your blood has ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation. And you have caused them to become a Kingdom of priests for our God. And they will reign on the earth.”
— Revelation 5:9-10
A New Song
On the day of their New Testament dedication, the Konta sing a new song, in their heart language, as a kingdom of priests.
And their worship rises, a sweet aroma to the Lord, accompanied by this distinctly Ethiopian fragrance, a mixture of frankincense and myrrh.
And the Lord knows, “Yes, these are my people, the Konta.”
New Testament Bears Fruit among Konta People
Heart language Scripture is already bringing about holistic transformation in the community.
Church members are reading the Word of God for the first time, enabling them to become disciples of Jesus. Pastors are correcting misinterpretations of Scripture that people have held for too long due to not understanding the national language translation.
In the educational sphere, officials are developing a Konta curriculum for schools now that the language has been written out for the first time. Their ultimate goal through this new curriculum is for every person, from young children to adults, to grow in their understanding of both the Konta language and the Word of God.
Praise God for what he is doing among the Konta, and pray with us for all three of these people groups as they receive God’s Word—that it will bear fruit and that many will become followers of Jesus!
Click the pictures below to see some of the faces behind these New Testament dedications:
Continue the Journey
Want to “visit” another dedication celebration in East Africa? Experience the sights, sounds, and people of the Rendille project in Kenya.
Pray for East Africa and learn more about how God is moving in this area of the world: Explore the Pray for Zero Journal.