by Joy Casey
During my recent time in Ethiopia I had the opportunity to accompany a new friend from Scotland to places in the southern part of Ethiopia I have never been before. My new friend is Malcolm and he heads up a Scottish ministry called Steadfast Global (www.steadfastglobal.org ) that works with Voice of the Martyrs (VOM) in Canada.
I am on a steep learning curve about the persecuted church and bringing the gospel to unreached people. I loved hanging out with this incredible man of God for four days. We visited one M*sl*m area where YWAM is supporting families, building a school, and providing Income Generating Activities for evangelists. Then we visited three other fundamental areas of Ethiopia where churches are small and struggling and where converts are few. We grappled with how to disciple new converts and how to help them with the intense persecution they will encounter if they come to the Lord. We listened to a struggling church and found ways to help, encourage and motivate them. Steadfast Global is helping with a safe house in one town where converts can come to get established in their faith and learn how to reintegrate into their culture.
None of this is easy! Throughout my time on the road, I met dedicated men and women who helped me understand the culture of this unreached group and clearly laid out the obstacles and persecution arising out of establishing a Christian presence in such hostile territory. Some of the stories I heard were terrifying and very recent. God must have known what I would be facing because I was given the book The Insanity of God before leaving for Ethiopia. This is a book detailing the persecuted church throughout the world, and reading it certainly heightened sensitivity to my surroundings.
Prior to meeting Malcolm, I spent some time at the opposite side of Ethiopia with a band of evangelists who have brought thousands of people from their former religion to the Lord. I felt a little like a character in a spy novel meeting with them as it had to be done very carefully and secretly. I took down nine mind-blowing testimonies about how God put His finger on their lives, sometimes in visions, sometimes with an audible voice (like to Paul on his way to Damascus), sometimes through divine revelation, and always accompanied with intense persecution in some form. The small Christian church in this area is afraid to share the gospel and sits huddled together, but these men working amongst their people and at great personal risk daily share about al-Mesih Isa (Messiah Jesus) and the Holy Spirit is blessing and drawing people to Him by the thousands.
While I was with these men, I was so glad to be able to give each of them a personal audio Bible in their own language and a solar powered light. MANY THANKS to those of you who have purchased these items from our gift catalog!!
To give you a sample of some of the stories I have heard over the past several weeks, here is Ishmael’s testimony (name changed). Reading this story will help you understand why I feel I am living in the Book of Acts!
Ishmael was raised in a M*sl*m home that also was involved in witchcraft. As a teenager, he went to work in the bush with his brother. While working, he heard a voice say, “Ishmael, why are you against me?”
A frightened Ishmael replied, “Who are you?”
“I am al-Mesih Isa.”
“I am M*sl*m, I don’t want you.”
“If you won’t come to me, you will die in your sins.”
Ishmael fell down and became like an epileptic foaming at the mouth. His brother witnessed this but did not hear the voice.
Ishmael continued his life as a M*sl*m and participated in witchcraft like his parents. One day, he became suddenly blind and the same voice came to him for the second time, “I am al-Mesih Isa. I have come to you two times now. This witchcraft is not good, and I have blinded your eyes.”
Desperate, Ishmael pleaded, “If you will open my eyes, I will stop the witchcraft.” His eyes were opened and he kept his promise and threw out all his witchcraft paraphernalia but did not seek out Jesus.
Two years after this he went away from his hometown and began chewing khat (pronounced ‘chat’ – a narcotic found in a leaf that is chewed resulting in a high; it is not illegal and readily available) and making spells (witchcraft). He decided to attend a Christian conference because he heard that the speaker could read minds and could tell people what they did and he wanted to see this. During the session, the speaker described the witchcraft Ishmael had been doing and called to him to come forward, but he would not and left the conference.
That night, he had a dream where someone came to him with a Bible and with fire. “Who are you?”
“I am al-Mesih Isa.”
“I don’t want the Bible, I want the Qur’an.”
“This is your last chance. This is three times I have come to you. I have also spoken to you through my servant.”
“I don’t know about this Bible, how can I do this?”
“I will teach you.”
“My mother and father will reject me.”
“I will teach you and you will serve me. Your mother and father will also serve me.”
Ishmael then sought out the conference speaker and told him everything and the evangelist prayed with Ishmael to accept Jesus as his savior.
When his parents found out what he had done, they kicked him out of their home and were very angry. He moved to another town and lived with a Christian brother and learned much from him. He then went to another area and started an underground church with the M*sl*ms who he convinced to come to Jesus. There is a Christian church in this area and Ishmael works both in the mosque and with the pastor of this church. The good news is that after a year, Ishmael’s entire family … the family so involved in witchcraft … has been converted and are now avid followers of Christ.