By Liz Monteiro |

Woolwich Township — The purchase of a new home is exhilarating for most first-time homebuyers.

And that’s how it feels for Gebre Berihun, Zewditu Wolde-Semayat and Dawit Teklemariam.

They, and the local Ethiopian Orthodox community, are ecstatic that they finally have a home of their own for their congregation — the Debre-Sina Kidane Mihret Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church.

Their new home is the former Trinity Lutheran Church on Kramp Road in Breslau.

“I’m very happy with this. I cried when we got this church,” said Wolde-Semayat, a mother of three who came to Canada from Ethiopia in 1999.

“It was a gift for us. God gave it to us,” said Teklemariam, who came to Kitchener last year with his family as a refugee.

“We are leaving a legacy for our children,” said Gebre Berihun, president of the church board, who came to Canada in 1999 to study at Wilfrid Laurier University.

Trinity Lutheran was donated to the group by the Kitchener-based Eastern Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church.

Trinity Lutheran Church has had a long history in the area, starting as the German Evangelical Lutheran Church in 1860. The church closed in 2011.

The 1,800-square feet building was donated to the congregation but now begins the work to renovate the heritage building.

The group has volunteers in the sanctuary renovating the church entrance and building a three-door archway at the altar for the blessing of the church on Sept. 26.

“It’s not big but for us it can accommodate us,” said Berihun. The church can sit about 100 people.

Berihun said the church has about 25 active members in Kitchener, Waterloo, Cambridge and Guelph. With children, the congregation numbers about 70 to 80 people.

The local Ethiopian Orthodox community formed in 2000 and used space at St. Mark’s Catholic Church and then held worship at the Reformation Lutheran Church in Kitchener.

The opportunity for a new church came up earlier this year and the group jumped at the chance to have its own building.

“Our short-term goal is to have weekly worships while our long-term goal is to transform this place,” said Berihun, who hopes to renovate the multipurpose room at the back of the church for Sunday school and spiritual conferences.

“There is potential to grow. We would like to make it a religious center,” he said. The church sits on 1.5 hectares.

Later this month, the group will kick off its $100,000 fundraising campaign when it welcomes the Toronto bishop for the Canadian Ethiopian Orthodox community to the Breslau church.

Berihun expects about 150 guests and a tent will be erected outside on the property.

“When you have something people can see, they are motivated to help. People have mobilized,” said Berihun of the Ethiopian community who have donated money and time to renovate the building.

Berihun said most of the Ethiopians in Waterloo Region arrived as refugees and for them a spiritual place brought comfort.

“Religion is not only on Sundays. In Ethiopia, we pass a church and walk in and pray for five minutes and then we would go to work. Losing that here was hard for many Ethiopians,” he said.

“Getting this totally changes everything,” he said. “It’s our spiritual home. There is a lot of satisfaction and we are very proud.”

Source: The Record.com
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