by Joy Casey on Dec. 2
How I wish you could have been with us today! I know when you hear my stories you will understand what I mean, but I have to admit that getting to the church we visited was an ordeal. Even though we were in a four-wheel-drive, the craters in the road made it feel like we were riding in a covered wagon over gully washed terrain. Our abs got a workout! After two hours of winding through mobs of people and laden donkey carts going to market all the while trying to avoid the worst of the worst potholes, we pulled up to a structure with walls of corn stalks and a blue tarp roof.
This is a miracle church. For years our missionary has been sowing the seeds of salvation among his people. He has been bitten (yes, that is right!), chased with sticks and spit on. He spent a year recovering from a near death beating – and yet there he was with a huge smile to greet us and proudly introduce us to his church.
- Three years ago, Jason and I visited missionary “J” when he was struggling with intense persecution. The few believers met in various houses on different days to avoid detection. It was at Desalich’s house where we met, and I found out today she had been a Christian for only one day when we were there in 2019! When she accepted Jesus, she immediately said, “Whatever I have is yours, Lord,” and gave her house and her time to furthering His Kingdom. Her backstory is pretty incredible. As a young woman she was snatched (basically kidnapped) by a Mus!im man and forced into a marriage and a religion. Through “J’s” influence she became a believer and subsequently led her husband to Christ. They now serve the cornstalk church together and are incredibly happy. Jason and I so enjoyed hearing her story and seeing her smiling face again.
- Ayelle was a devout Mus!im and an extremely difficult neighbor to “J”. However, “J” would not stop showing love to this cantankerous man who surreptitiously observed “J’s” life over several years. He noticed how consistently and genuinely “J” loved on people and was always there to help. He finally became convinced that there was something about “J” that was vastly different than other Mus!im neighbors. “J” sensed that God was working in this man’s life and patiently led him to Jesus. Now Ayelle, his wife and six children are faithful to join in worship and the study of the bible.
- Ahmed shared a story you don’t hear every day. He was a dedicated Mus!im and was also addicted to Khat (pronounced ‘chat’ … a hallucinatory leaf that is chewed). He and his wife have 7 children and one of his boys was demon possessed creating intense turmoil in their home. Ahmed took his son to the witch doctor vowing he would go to any length to get rid of the demon plaguing his child. The witch doctor told him to make a concoction out of dirt and the blood from seven sheep. He was to rub this mixture all over the child’s body and he would be healed. Ahmed did that, but nothing changed. Ahmed was at his wits end when he heard about the free gift of salvation and how Jesus healed people and cast out demons. He was amazed that there was no cost, no bribe necessary to have right standing with God. When he understood, he raised his hands and asked Jesus to take his life and heal his boy. His son was immediately healed, and peace was restored. Ahmed, his wife, his seven children and his mother all became Christ-followers. Missionary “J” said Ahmed is like Peter in the Bible – courageously telling everyone about what Jesus did for him and his family and enthusiastically advancing God’s Kingdom in his village.
- Bonse, a faithful Mus!im man, was sick and in bed one fortuitous afternoon. Jesus appeared to him in a dream, calling Bonse to come to Him. When Bonse woke up, he no longer felt ill and immediately knew he wanted to be with Jesus. He sought out the only Christian he knew, missionary “J”, to learn more. He told his wife about his encounter with Christ and she, too, wanted to join his spiritual journey. When their families found out about their conversion, the couple suffered much persecution, but declare they will never waiver from following their Savior, Jesus.
Thirty-eight families attend “J’s” church! Grace Church in Olympia where Jason attends gave us money to build a church, and this group of believers so impressed us that it was decided to use this resource here. They already have land set aside, so it won’t be long before work can begin.
Jason has always wanted to bring home an authentic Ethiopian drum. The drum is the only musical instrument used in worship and it was hanging from one of the posts. He admired the drum — and they gave it to him! He gave money to replace it and walked away extremely satisfied with his oil can drum with cow hide on both ends.
“J” had gathered as many children as could come so we could observe a literacy class he teaches two times a week to about 40 children. Many of his students could not come at this time today because they had to help with cattle, but those that could get away came for a short lesson.
With only a blackboard and a few benches (not near enough seating), the children are learning the Amharic alphabet and other foundational pieces to reading. The nearest school to this village is a three-hour walk away!
There is always coffee involved with any gathering in Ethiopia and today was no exception. The ladies of the church served raw peas and popcorn with their coffee, although this coffee was like none we have ever had. This village has a tradition of adding salt to their coffee, not sugar! Quite unusual and also quite difficult for us to drink. “It’s the thought that counts” took on new meaning.
It was an absolutely wonderful time with our brothers and sisters in their cornstalk church. I loved hearing the testimonies of how God draws people to Himself. I enjoyed the enthusiasm of this new little church and can see the influence it will have on this community.
Jason hitched a ride on the back of the motorcycle of our area coordinator heading back to our hotel. Fessessework, Jeff and I waved goodbye to the beautiful children and followed Jason in our sturdy four-wheel-drive. Sharing with you about today’s events allows me to reflect on what He is doing among a people group that has never heard the Gospel. One former Mus!im poignantly observed: “Because of “J”, our whole area has heard of Christ and the church is growing. If only I had known the Light long ago, I would have followed Christ. It is because of “J” that I and many others are His disciples today.” “J” is a very humble man and knows that it is not him, but Christ in Him that draws people – he is only obedient to tell people about Jesus.
It is the end of a very long day, and I am physically tired. At the same time, I am refreshed in my spirit and sit amazed that God lets NewLife play a part in birthing a church in the middle of a corn field that holds little significance to anyone but God.
*a letter is used in place of a name to protect the identity of our missionaries.