​Paul Gingrich served as president of Mennonite Board of Missions from 1980-1994. Mennonite Church USA Archives.

Paul Gingrich gave me a second chance

By Assefa Haile
Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Assefa Haile, who worked at the Mennonite hospital in Nazareth and other hospitals in Ethiopia, recounts how Paul Gingrich helped him get a start. Haile eventually came to the United States and worked at Eastern Mennonite Missions. 

I first met Paul Gingrich at the train station in Nazareth, Ethiopia, in 1961. I and several other students had just completed a 10-hour trip on the night train from Dire Dawa. Paul greeted us with the customary Ethiopian hug and kiss. He even knew my name.

I had finished eighth grade and had never been so far from home. My plan was to enroll in the Dresser Bible School at the Mennonite Mission Hospital in Nazareth. My mother was not in favor of this plan, but I insisted.

Many multiple-choice biblical questions were part of the entrance exam. I had never attended a Bible class, so my answers were guesswork. While waiting for the exam results, we were assigned to clean the hospital and cut the grass on the hospital compound. After a few days, Mr. Gingrich called me into his office. I had failed the exam and would need to return home with money provided by the school.

My heart sank. How could I face my mother? I refused to go and begged for a second chance, explaining that I had no Bible education. Mr. Gingrich listened and kindly wrote an agreement for me to sign: If I failed the first semester, I would return home at my own expense.

In tears, I stood under a thorn tree at the edge of the soccer field and prayed to the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob for help. I studied diligently. At mid-semester, Mr. Gingerich again called me into his office. He told me I did much better than he expected, and I could complete both the medical and the biblical classes.

I accepted Christ as my personal savior, was baptized, and participated in church youth activities. Because of Paul's faithful service in Ethiopia and elsewhere, many of us are part of God's Forever Family.






In his retirement, Assefa Haile and his wife, Grace, live in Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania. He enjoys creating in his ceramic shop and relating to the local Ethiopian church.







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