What does it mean to be a Godly leader in Ethiopia?


The sun starts to burn through the mountain fog, and another day begins in Soddo, Ethiopia. Early morning here is always marked by the crowing of roosters, the braying of donkeys, the chatter of people walking to work, and the rich smell of coffee brewing in ceramic pots in front of almost every house and shop.

It’s the rainy season, which means mud. Brad shoulders his work bag, straps on his helmet, and climbs onto the back of his friend Isaiah’s motorcycle. The two men always exchange the same greeting every morning: “Salamno?” (“Is there peace for you today?”) “Dena, Igzabier yemesgen.” (Yes, today is good for me, praise God.”)

Isaiah deftly weaves the motorcycle along the muddy road that leads from the Canfield house, perched on the side of Demota Mountain, to Soddo Christian Hospital down below. When he and Brad reach a small bridge crossing a stream, they usually find it covered in a foot of mud this time of year, so Brad climbs off the and walks across the bridge while Isaiah carefully maneuvers the motorcycle to the other side. This is always great entertainment for the local school kids watching from a nearby hillside.

About 15 minutes later, Isaiah drops Brad off at Soddo Christian Hospital. It’s Thursday morning, which is Brad’s favorite morning of the workweek because it means he gets to do his weekly leadership study with two of the most amazing men he has ever met: Dr. Lealem and Redehegn.

Dr. Lealem, who moved to Soddo from the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa, joined Soddo Christian hospital as an internal medicine physician just a few months after Brad began serving at the hospital. The two men bonded over the following year, working together to complete some projects at the hospital. In the summer of 2016, Brad had the privilege of helping to appoint Dr. Lealem as Soddo Christian Hospital’s first-ever Ethiopian Medical Director. This is the position that directly oversees all of the hospital’s 20 physicians, and up until this point it had always been filled by a missionary doctor. It was a great step forward for the hospital to appoint an Ethiopian to this position.

Redehegn is the director of the hospital’s pharmacy. He is a bold leader who is unafraid to speak his mind, even when his opinion is contrary to that of senior management’s. Brad noticed this quality, especially because it is a rare attribute in Ethiopian culture.

After developing friendships with Dr. Lealem and Redegehn, Brad asked them if they would be willing to set aside an hour every Thursday morning to meet in his office to pray  and to study leadership together. “I think we have a lot to learn from each other,” Brad said. “We all have a lot to learn about what it means to be an effective, Godly leader in Ethiopia.”

And so the study began. Each Thursday morning, the three men meet over steaming cups of Ethiopian shai (sweet tea), praying and discussing the book that they are reading together – The Leadership Challenge. They debate and talk about how to apply western leadership principles in the Ethiopian culture. For example – how do you deal with problem employees in a culture that highly discourages direct confrontation? How do you increase training for employees when resources are so limited in Ethiopia?

Proverbs 27:17 reads, “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” This is exactly what is happening during these leadership development sessions. But the truly awesome part is that it’s happening across cultures, between men who come from vastly different backgrounds and ways of approaching the world.

For us, these kinds of stories are at the very center of why we believe God called us to serve in Ethiopia during these last two years: because of the opportunity to invest in people like Lealem and Redehegn.

We want to say thank you again to all of you have been a part of our mission through your support, prayers and encouragement. Even though you haven’t been physically with us at the hospital and in Soddo, you are are still a huge part of what is happening here.

-Brad Canfield