by Joy Casey in Ethiopia, Aug 4th
The roads to the village where we are going to church this morning reminded me of descriptions I’ve read of the Oregon Trail in the spring after a hard winter. You may wonder why I am constantly talking about road conditions.
I spend a lot of time in our trusty 4WD because our outreach villages are deep in the countryside. With the roads (if they can be called that) this time of the year (rainy season) in crazy bad condition, the trip itself to wherever I am going is something to be faced and conquered. It is part of the experience.
Having survived the drive to the village without tipping over, getting stuck or killing cattle I was ecstatic to step out of our very muddy vehicle to be greeted by beautiful children. They ushered us into church from which rousing singing poured forth.
NewLife has had three exceptional missionaries working in Artu (name changed for security reasons) for several years. As men and women come to Jesus the missionaries disciple them and begin fostering a Christian community to support and encourage each other.
Artu now has a solid core of believers meeting for church Sunday mornings in a storage shed of one of their members. There are also Bible studies throughout the week and several prayer groups.
The owner of the shed will need the building to store crops after harvest, so the church is putting up a temporary structure on another piece of the brother’s property behind the storehouse. The structure is in process, not yet finished.
A Good Man’s Story
The man who is so generous with his property has only been a Christ-follower for one year. Denebo is a businessman buying and selling grains; a respected figure in his community. He, like everyone else in Artu, was raised Muslim and has always been faithful to his religion. Eighteen months ago the Holy Spirit drew Denebo’s wife to Himself and she became an active member of the church fellowship.
She and Denebo have a good relationship of love and respect and Denebo, being a kind man and loving husband, acquiesced to her determination to serve Jesus and turn away from All*h. But God’s Spirit was also working on Denebo’s heart, and with gentle patience the missionaries planted seeds that eventually took root. Today, Denebo is one of the Artu church leaders and is growing in his knowledge of the Lord by leaps and bounds. He voraciously consumes God’s Word and has insight and wisdom far beyond most new converts.
We Need A Church!
Church was wonderful. The singing was heartfelt and the congregation of about 50 held nothing back expressing love for their Savior. There were scads of children. Five of us adults sat on a backless wooden bench feeling rather squished – but in front of me was the same sized bench filled with 14 little bodies, all of them belting out the songs with abandon. They were beautiful! Special Children’s teachings are on Wednesdays and Fridays and are well-attended. Mikiyas, our Child and Youth Director, met with the children’s leaders after church today. He reports they are doing a good job.
I had the privilege of greeting the people and letting them know that despite distance and different ethnicity we are related by our love of Jesus. I told them I have been praying for them and the Artu community for a long time. Seeing them worshipping their Savior is my payday. “Thank you, Lord, for letting me be with this band of believers today!”
After church was over all the children were shooed outside and the adults explained carefully their need for a permanent, formal church building. There was much back-and-forth. NewLife has wanted to build a church in Artu for some time, but it has been a problem securing land as the M*slim dominated government doesn’t want a church built. So, Pastor Zerihun and Abebe told the people that if they could find land on which to build, we would provide the materials.
I am in Shashemene where tomorrow will be spent in orphanage work. I have a whole suitcase full of diaper covers some ladies from Arizona made, preemie formula, cloth diapers and hand sanitizer. Can’t wait to see the sweet babies God has tasked us to care for and to find loving Christian families for. Our staff delights in this assignment!