by Joy Casey
For the safety of the people, I am not going to use the real name of the town nor will I show pictures of or use the true names of the Christians working in the town.
Asoto is a dusty town clustered alongside a rural highway in the southern part of Ethiopia. About 10,000 people live there and Asoto’s pace of life has a rhythm similar to many others of its size and location. The dominant feature of the town is a beautiful mosque, and the echo of the loudspeakers calling the faithful to prayer has been heard by generations.
Thirty-odd years ago, a 7-year-old boy accompanied his father to the mosque in Asoto to hear a discussion on Isa (Jesus is referred to as Isa in the Quran). His father and other men gathered in a side room of the mosque and the Imam began comparing what they believed about Isa to what the Christians believed about Jesus. Young Kadir became very attentive and his interest was piqued as he listened to the men discuss this honored man of the Quran. For some time he thought about what the men had said and began to want to know more about Isa. In the town of Asoto where he, his father, his father’s three wives and 16 siblings lived there were no Christians, so he kept his questions to himself but during the required prayer time, he would ask Allah.
When he was about 11-years-old he was allowed to go with his father to the nearby larger town, and it was during that visit that Kadir acquired a copy of the New Testament. Over the course of the next three years he surreptitiously read that little book, and as he read the Word, he became convinced that Jesus was the true Son of God. He no longer prayed to Allah, but began praying to Jesus. When his older brothers found out that he no longer believed Allah to be the true God, they told their father and Kadir was severely punished, but he would not renounce his conviction that Jesus was the only way to the Father. Eventually, he was disowned and told to leave.
Walking and catching rides, 14-year-old Kadir finally came to a town called Nazaret and for the very first time in his life entered a Christian church. He listened in awe to the worship and the pastor preaching, and at the end of the service went forward to publically dedicate his life to Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
God’s hand was on this new convert, and through fortuitous connections Kadir was able to finish his education and attend college. He married a young woman whose fervor for sharing about Jesus has never waned. He and his wife actively serve in their church and tell everyone they know about what God has done for them. Through Kadir’s persistent sharing, two of his brothers have become Christ followers and his older brother (the one who tattled on him to his father and got him in so much trouble) is now an elder in the church that has been planted in Asoto.
|Abebe and Joy|
I had the privilege of going to Asoto with Kadir to meet the leadership team of the church and to hear their strategies to reach their neighbors with the Good News. My friend Abebe and I went with Kadir, not knowing what to expect. We found a thriving fellowship of about 300 Christians determined to live out the gospel by caring for the widows and the poor. There are seven evangelists (all who formerly followed the Quran) who have each taken a section of the town or surrounding area where they boldly share their faith and are bringing some to Christ; the church is growing!
When I arrived at the compound, I heard children’s voices singing and as I followed the sound into the church, I saw a young boy enthusiastically leading a group of about 40 children in song. I found out the church gives spiritual training to the children every morning, and in the afternoon they attend the government school.
To nurture of the tender hearts of children, the church wants to build a kindergarten that will be open to the children in the town regardless of their faith. There will be no tuition, but along with the alphabet the Bible will also be taught. They have a good start on the classrooms and the pastor is trusting God to provide the funds to finish and to hire teachers. They also want to show the Jesus Film (both the child and adult versions) in their church every two weeks, but need a laptop and a projector to do this. There is enough room for a large kitchen garden to augment the support they give to widows and their families and they want to start a chicken project that will generate funds to support the evangelists. In order to do either of these things, they need to bring water to the compound.
I was inspired with their vision as well as what they have already accomplished. Only a small percentage of Asoto’s population is Christian. This area is a stronghold for the more militant brand of I*lam and they are indoctrinating their young systematically. I, along with Abebe and Kadir, know that with intense prayer the assignment Satan has for this area can be broken! The pastors and evangelists I met fully expect to be martyred for their faith, but their love for their neighbors and for Christ far outweighs their concern for their comfort and safety. I am not sure what role Adoption Ministry will have in this town… I am praying and waiting on God, but I hope that in some way we can, with the help of others, support and encourage these brave and dynamic church leaders.