SERVE is a fellowship of mission-minded volunteers, committed to making a lasting impact in largely unreached settings, demonstrating the love of Christ in transformational ways.


The Bethel Evangelical Secondary School (BESS) has evolved from the first school started by early Presbyterian missionaries to Ethiopia in 1919. Today BESS, under the care of the Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus (EECMY), continues the challenge of preparing young people to carry the life changing gospel of Jesus Christ to the Oromo people and beyond. Many of the buildings at the current BESS campus were constructed over 40 years ago and some were badly in need of repair. The roofs were leaking and water causing damage to the roof structure and ceilings. The roofs on the main classroom building and the boys’ dorm had deteriorated to the point where they needed to be completely replaced. This work was scheduled during the ten-day school break at the end of January 2016 since it is rainy season in the summer.

U.S. volunteers, Bill Synk, Tom Kaufman and Ed Pollock arrived at Dembi Dollo as planned on January 27, in spite of last minute flight changes caused by the winter blizzard of 2016. They were hosted by missionaries Brenda Stelle, who teaches English at BESS, and her husband Steve who teaches at the Gidada Seminary. Thanks to the detailed information about the buildings provided by Steve and preparation done by BESS Director, Amanuel Tesfye, things were ready for work to begin on January 28. Since we had a limited time to complete the work, I had asked Amanuel to arrange for at least 11 people to work with the U.S. volunteers. He hired 4 carpenters and 4 labors to supplement the school maintenance staff.

The Stelles warned us that the school maintenance staff had a reputation of long coffee and lunch breaks and that educated Ethiopian people did not think they should work with their hands. Since Steve was on semester break he helped to change that attitude by joining us working on the roofs. He pointed out to the Ethiopian workers that Our Lord did carpenter work too. When Steve had to resume his teaching duties, Brenda took over coordinating the painting work. Amanuel worked with the carpenters repairing the ceilings and Assistant Director, Naga, joined us on the roof. The school boys who did not go home during the break worked with us every day and some of the teaching staff also volunteered. The first day of the project I told our crew that if we were going to finish both roofs, we would have to work from 8:00 in the morning until dark, including Saturdays. They responded by taking only a five-minute morning coffee break, keeping lunch to under an hour and working until 6:30 each day.

The original ceilings were designed so that it is not possible to replace an individual damaged panel. We tested two approaches. In the first classroom we removed the old ceiling and built new framing so that the new 4-foot by 8-foot chip board panels could be installed without cutting them.

 In the second room, we used the old framing and panels that we could salvage from the two classrooms to rebuild the ceiling. This took a little more effort, but finished out reasonable well. It was clear that there was not time to do the ceilings in the other classrooms and the dorm, so these were left to be done by the school staff during summer break. See the before and after pictures of the classroom with the repaired ceiling below.

The balance of our time was spent repairing the ceilings on the porches and the gables of both buildings to prevent the rats and bats from getting into the attics. Since we had a little extra time, I had the carpenters also make these same repairs on the Eating Club building.


Saturday afternoon before we left, Amanuel and I walked the compound and examined the other buildings. It is clear that the roof of the Eating Club needs to be replaced. The other roofs need loose nails replaced with roofing screws and caulked. I left my cordless drill and impact driver as well as a supply of the roofing screws so the maintenance staff can make these repairs and replace the Eating Club roof when funds to purchase the materials are available.


Special Word of Thanks

I deeply appreciate the help provide by Steve Stelle in collecting the information about the buildings so we could make accurate estimates of the materials needed and the time required to do the repairs. Thanks to him there were no surprises. His enthusiastic participation in the work set an example for all and contributed to timely completion of the work. Brenda Stelle deserves much praise and thanks for the way she cared for and fed us. She has spoiled us for future projects unless she agrees to ccontinue serving in this role. Thank you to Amanuel Tesfye, for the care which he took in arranging for the materials to be purchase and on the site before we arrived and his leadership during the project. Thanks to his involvement, this was one of the easiest projects I have done. Finally, a special thank you to all those who participated in the project - most are shown in the picture below. The project could not have been completed without the special effort one each made.


July 25th - 30th, 2015

Ed Pollock led a project right after the ending of this years mission conference to make some improvements to Anderson Auditorium shown in the photo in it’s original condition. Saturday, a group of 14 conference delegates stayed to share in the joy of working together stripping off the old green translucent material off both ends of the building and cleaning away 50 years of bird nests and spider webs from the superstructure. A heavy storm Sunday completed cleaning of the superstructure. Praise God there was good weather rest of the week. A little hot for some, but no rain on work days. It should be noted that the roof had been repaired a few years ago.
Monday the core group of volunteers reinforced by three men from Pittsburgh who came for the day began the process of installing the new siding. At the end of a long work day the sound room end was cloaked in its new siding. Tuesday volunteers from Hampton Presbyterian Church, led by conference

director, Rev. Don Dawson. joined the core group. By end of the day much of the lake end of the building had been completed. Photos show some of the work.

Tuesday evening four of the core group had to leave. Wednesday and Thursday, the five remaining volunteers completed the siding, painting, installed trim, and cleaned up the site. See photos below for completed project.

A total of 31 people participated in the project. God provided the right number of volunteers with the right skills for each day of the project. Thanks to each participant for contributing your special talents to ensure a job well done. Special thanks to Gib McGill who not only was there every day during the project week, but came back a few weeks later to clean moss off the exterior of the sound room walls and paint them so they matched the new siding.

Prepared by Ed Pollock

E. Arnold Reinikka, SERVE Project Director