by Joy Casey on Dec. 4
I have butterflies in my stomach, and it is not because of the food or anything else organic. We are on our way to a village Jason and I visited three years ago – a village without a church and very few Christ-followers. Since then, the church has grown, and a physical structure built to accommodate their worship and teaching. I am eager to see the people, the missionary who has tirelessly shared Jesus in this Mus!im village and Asmuch, the regal community leader who donated his property so the church could be constructed.
I could write an extremely colorful and interesting story about Asmuch, but that will be left for a later time. Suffice it to say he is a force to be reckoned with and I can’t wait to see him.
I like to start stories that lead into the deep countryside with the journey getting there. This, in my opinion, is Africa at its best. The drive is slow due to the condition of the paths we travel, but that allows us to peek into everyday life of the scattered mud huts we pass and wave at the dusty, bright-eyed children who greet us with big smiles. We weave in and out of cattle and goats and a few motorcycles along the way, but the air is clean and fresh and a sense of being right dab in the center of God’s will floods me with wave after wave of gratitude for allowing me to be a part of what He is doing in Ethiopia. Two hours and we will be there!
The church building is decent size, and it is full of people singing in their tribal language. The only instrument is the drum. A boy has the biggest guitar I have ever seen but only plays it when the choir of young people sing. It is terribly out of tune and the skill of the player is lacking, but I love seeing the youth worship and incorporated into the church service. The benches were full of moms with babies, dads and teens. The younger children sat on a mat in the front and knew all the songs, singing and clapping with gusto.
Fessessework, my Ethiopian-American friend, shared a message. Because she speaks Amharic the sermon only had to be translated into the tribal language. If Jason or I shared, it would have to be translated twice. We have both spoken before but felt Fessessework might be the better candidate to preach this time around. When it was time for the offering, people walked to the front and laid their crumpled bills on a table. Instead of money, some gave milk or a sack of beans which will be distributed to the most needy.
Asmuch, the man I referred to above, then spoke to the church and to our team. He recounted the journey of this village church and how God has blessed it indeed, thanking us for partnering with them to accomplish much. He also gave big thanks for the food NewLife supplied to his village this past summer. Many children died, he said, and many more were on the brink of death. Some of the children sitting in front of us were saved only because trucks with sacks of maize came in time to revive them. He thanked us again and again.
Every Sunday after church, there is Sunday School for the children. Today, instead of Sunday School, the missionary had the kids stay and he demonstrated a lesson he might give for the literacy classes he holds for Christian and Mus!im kids every Monday and Saturday morning at 7 a.m. He has been doing this for about a year.
Several children came forward and demonstrated their ability to read, reading the books purchased for this very purpose. (More about the books here.) There are five fluent readers between ages 8-10. One boy stood out – he could read a more advanced book and read both the English and the Amharic words! That is fantastic for a child who has had no schooling and only has reading classes at the church two hours a week.
The nearest school to this village is a three hour walk away, so all these beautiful, bright children are growing up illiterate. We hope to change that outcome for a few. Many more books are needed as well as tables, exercise books and pens. I impressed on the missionary the importance of reading and that the children who can read will be future village leaders. He said, “I will teach children to read, but I am raising disciples.” He has his priories exactly right.
All of the missionaries of this area, 8 of them, came to this church so we could have time together to pray and worship. As Abebe did during our prayer time Saturday, he gave an inspiring teaching on prayer and challenged the men to go deeper and deeper with God. These men pray with authority, let me tell you! There is nothing quiet or wishy-washy about their time before God’s throne. They pray as if everything depends on God showing up and seek His direction and anointing for all that they do. They pray for rain at the proper time so they can have food. They pray for the salvation of people they are witnessing to. They pray for many healings, for the children and youth and for provision of food. They pray for comfort for those who have lost so much to the famine, including loved ones. They pray for the children who have been sold to brokers so they can eat. In the midst of prayer, songs break out that are sung prayerfully and then one or the other will spontaneously lead in a prayer. I prayed for them and the church and many other needs as well as expressing thanks for all God has done in this place.
They then gathered around Jason, Jeff, Fessessework and me and prayed for us. It was a fantastic and humbling experience to be surrounded by intercessors such as they are.
It was a long, good day. I think I speak for us all when I say — It was good to go to the house of the Lord and keep the Lord’s Sabbath holy.
There is an interesting footnote to the day you will find fascinating—or perhaps you’ll be horrified—but the hut right next to the church had friendly people who invited us into their home. While there, their son led three cows to one side of the hut and tied them up. Mom continued to prepare food right next to the cows and the family’s rhythm didn’t miss a beat. Our eyes were as big as saucers and my mind immediately went to the clean-up after the cows are released back outside. I hope they aren’t noisy at night!