Who are Debbie & Mark? Get to know our GM partners in Ethiopia!

Some background for those who are new to our partnership with Mark and Debbie MacLachlan:

Mark and Debbie have been long time members of Grace. Debbie joined the church in 1985 when she was working as a social worker in Christian City before meeting Mark in Atlanta. Mark is a forester and was doing refugee work with World Relief at the time. They joined SIM in 1993 and moved to Ethiopia where they have served ever since. They raised their four children in Africa, but they returned to the states after high school and are all currently living in the US.

For the past 17 years, we have worked among the Awi people group in northern Ethiopia. They are more than 90% Coptic Orthodox. We live and work in the countryside where even the majority of the priests do not own Bibles and are only versed in the traditions of the church. This rural orthodoxy is overlaid onto their ancient pagan beliefs which manifest in having witchdoctors, complete with sacrifices. The agricultural project that we founded gave us reason to be present and build relationships in the countryside where outsiders are viewed suspiciously. 

By simply helping neighbor children receive medical care, people opened their hearts to us. Opportunities for Gospel proclamation are broad at this point though we still have enemies. We have seen pockets of priests who seek to learn to follow Christ and encourage their people to do the same within the Orthodox church. Having access to the Word and learning to know and follow Christ through His Word is primary. And it is happening!

In addition to our work with the Awi, we currently spend half our time in the capital, Addis Ababa, working within the SIM leadership team. While Mark coordinates the administration team, I coordinate member care. Major restructuring is taking place in SIM Ethiopia and the two of us have been privileged to play a role in that. Our heart passion is still with the unreached in northern Ethiopia and in supporting missionaries who live and engage in ministry outside the city of Addis.  

Prayer requests:  

  • Restructuring is exciting and stressful, pray that we are faithful in representing the “wisdom from above” in James 3:17 – But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.  

  • Our co-workers that work with the Awi people are transitioning to another northern location which means that we need to reevaluate our roles among the Awi, pray for wisdom.  

  • Splitting our ministry work between the city (Addis) and the countryside (Awi) is challenging, pray for unity and peace in our spirits as well as stamina for our bodies.  

Silvina Erwin