Five questions with Ethiopia team members Tyler and Katie Selby
Tyler and Katie Selby and their children Ruby and Joanna serve with CMF’s team in Ethiopia, where they live in a “village” of 200,000 people with minimal infrastructure. They visited our Indianapolis home office recently and shared some thoughts about their eventful first term of ministry.
Why did you decide to serve in Ethiopia?
Tyler: There is a long legacy of successful work in Ethiopia, and the team has a reputation of being hard-working. The team has also been full of fellow Milligan College and Emmanuel Christian Seminary grads. Many of us discussed going there while we were students. We joined the work because it seemed that there was a clear place for our gifts to be used. Ethiopia is a difficult place to live, but the work is meaningful. It’s an interesting way to see a different shape of the Kingdom of God on earth, as a place of reconciliation between the Gumuz and Oromo people. Outside the church there is animosity and violence; inside, they worship together.
Tell us about Nekempte, the town where you lived.
Katie: Nekempte is a “village” of 200,000 people and minimal infrastructure. There are a couple of seven-floor hotels that are the biggest structures around. There are tons of people on the road all the time, in part because of recent ethnic tensions. Thousands have been displaced from their communities. It’s also very full because it is the main college town for surrounding villages. Most of the people you see are 20-25 years old. It’s green, lush and hilly, not desert. Many little suks (shops) line the main roads in town.
You work with the Kristos Andinet Church (KAC) that was planted by CMF missionaries in the 1950s and now includes more than 140 congregations. What is your primary ministry with them?
Tyler: I coordinate and teach trainings for the Ethiopian church leaders. CMF works in four main regions of western Ethiopia: Oromia, Metekel, Kamashi and Assoisa. The KAC churches across these regions are all at different levels of maturity. The Oromia churches (where Nekempte is located) are more mature and established because the KAC has existed there for more than 50 years. Last year we established a training center in Nekempte to better support and equip KAC leaders to live out the gospel in their communities. Most KAC leaders from Metekel, Kamashi and Assoca can’t travel safely to Nekempte for trainings, so when we go back, we will move west to Asossa to better support those pastors and congregations with a new training center.
What’s a typical week like for your family?
Tyler: If we are hosting a training, I will teach in the morning, break for lunch with the church leaders, and then go back for an afternoon session. If I’m preparing for a training, I spend a lot of time getting supplies from the many shops. If I need 20 bottles of water, I have to visit several shops, picking up 12 here, another four there. It can take all day. Sometimes I take a long and dusty car or motorcycle drive to another one of our churches to preach.
Katie: I’ll start homeschooling Ruby when we return to Ethiopia. Before our furlough, Emily Weeks (a teammate) and I began working together to homeschool. Two days a week I would teach preschool with Ruby and Charley, Emily’s daughter, while Emily taught her older daughter Clare.
If there is power in the morning, I’ll do laundry. My washer/spinner is on the front porch, and I really have enjoyed the rhythm of doing laundry outside while the girls play. Sometimes we visit a suk for treats, like a soda or balloon, and the girls occasionally play with neighbor kids. Food preparation is time-consuming because it’s all from scratch. Tyler usually cooks unless it’s a training week. We have varying levels of electricity and sometimes water throughout the day, so we have to be flexible.
On Sundays, we go to one of the three KAC churches in Nekempte and in the evenings we have family church with Travis and Emily Weeks.
Katie, you were involved in a serious car accident in Ethiopia that was not your fault, but that resulted in your going to court and spending nights in jail. Does that affect your desire to return to Ethiopia?
Katie: There’s no such thing as a risk-free life, especially in Ethiopia. Our work there isn’t finished; it’s timely and needed.
Tyler: We found real meaning in our work. It’s a “kingdom is near” moment, and we want to see what happens. We feel privileged to participate in this moment.
Katie: I need time to recover, and I’ll take advantage of the resources CMF can provide to bring myself back to a place where I’m ready to return. We need to go back; there is good work that we have left to do. Tyler’s gifted to do this work, and that’s something I want to support.