Beyond the Dark Night: An Ethiopian Journey
The Tesfa Beyene Chutta story by Ingrid Koss
There are so many stories that come our way; stories of economic hardship, of war and earthquakes, of survival, of struggle and grace. The constant barrage of news has the power to numb us to sorrow, and to God’s work in individual lives in the midst of a blur of global trends and realities. Beyond the Dark Night: An Ethiopian Journey, written by McIvor Avenue MB Church member Ingrid Koss and published by Kindred Books, traces one particular story of faith and perseverance simply and chronologically through the complex and unstable times of one particular place, finishing on Canadian soil.
The chapters are short and episodic; each chapter can function almost independently as a short story dealing with a particular event in Tesfa Beyene Chutta’s life. Many of the stories are accompanied by pictures: a story about early years is illustrated by a picture of Tesfa on more recent trips to Ethiopia, Sudan, and other destinations, reunited with the people who are part of his faith journey. These more recent images of former mentors, teachers, and family, giving perspective to the years between original story and picture, add a rich texture to the book.
On occasion, Koss frames Tesfa’s stories with an overview of political or faith history, a framework to help the reader understand the larger stage on which this story unfolds. The opening chapters briefly sketch a history of Christianity in the Ethiopian Orthodox tradition, linking the Ethiopian faith community back to the Ethiopian eunuch of Acts and even further back to King Solomon. She writes an accessible account of a complex reality. A bibliography gives helpful background for the historical framework of Tesfa’s Ethiopia.
This biography reveals a remarkable perseverance, an obedience to his Lord despite harsh persecution, and a willingness to walk away from security and success rather than disobey Christ. These are important stories for a generation who sees education as a burden, security and possessions as rights.
Though the hardships of a homeland create a longing for freedom and a new land of promise, Ingrid Koss also reveals some of the disorientation associated with emigration. Life, ministry, and even a sense of calling require translation in a new culture.
The simplicity of the telling lends the book to a variety of settings in addition to an individual read: family readings, teen Sunday school classes, and people exploring work with immigrant communities. Tesfa’s story opens windows into a world with diverse religious practices and religious persecution, into the value of literacy in the face of poverty, into the richness and layers of names given in another culture, and into the difficulties in facing a first Canadian winter. “While Tesfa was still in Sudan, he had heard rumours about a city in Canada called Winnipeg. It was so cold there, the story went, that if you were standing at a bus stop waiting for the bus, your ears would dry up in the cold and fall off of your head.”
At its heart, this book provides a window into the life of a man profoundly shaped by his love for Christ.
—Darlene Klassen is an adjunct professor at Bethany College, Hepburn, Sask.