by Joy Casey

We are on the road again heading out to the second church we want to visit.  I especially wanted to go there because I brought a gift of an audio bible to the girl who received a wheelchair.  Ever since meeting Safiya in December I have been praying for her.  She was outside sitting in her wheelchair with her mother and father when we walked up to their hut.  They were singing!  Safiya greeted me with a smile (the first time I have seen a smile!) and a hug.

This family has been transformed from a witchcraft form of Islam into joyful and exuberant followers of Jesus.  Their circumstances haven’t changed, but their worldview has vastly altered, bringing them a peace and hope never before experienced.  Peace and hope.  Powerful realities that change everything.

You should have seen their faces when the words of the bible were heard in their Orominya language!  Safiya’s dad could hardly contain his amazement and joy.  I shared with them some of what God had put on my heart for them, encouraging them to listen to His Words every day.  They added to that exhortation by saying they were going to invite their neighbors to listen, too!

God works in ways we rarely understand.  The gift of this wheelchair has mysteriously become a catalyst to pique the interest of many in surrounding towns.  I was told today that leaders, Mus!im men of influence, have come to marvel at what the Christians have done for this family.  Two neighboring village chiefs have formally requested the missionary to please come to their village and build a church and create a loving community like what is seen here.  Jesus’ words, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another,” (John 13:35) comes to mind.  I can tell you that the people who donated money for this wheelchair had no clue how God would leverage their simple act of kindness.

Back at the church, the beautiful children who are being taught to read gathered around newly constructed tables eager to show me their exercise books and what they are learning.

Miki, who oversees children’s activities, brought out a soccer ball for the boys and jump ropes for the girls.  In a flash the children ran outside and begin playing with all their might.  I relished the sounds of playing and seeing their energy level back to what it should be.  During the drought time, children were listless and quiet.  Today, thankfully, the scene is quite different.  Food makes all the difference!

The last church to visit today is on the periphery of a larger town and we eventually hit respectable roads.  The establishment of this place of worship is a miracle and a testament to the two missionaries who have withstood years of severe persecution.  The location of the building is smack in the middle of a Mus!im residential community – and this unreached tribe of people has, and still is overall, extremely resistant to the gospel message.

There are many factors to this backstory, but the main thing that has garnered favor with the Mus!ims is the literacy program.  It is quite a distance to any formal school, preventing the children access to education.

Even when the church was made of cornstalks, Missionary “J” invited the community children to come and learn reading basics.  We recently have made the classes more formal with tables and writing utensils and put limits on the age of the children (8-12).  Mothers and fathers, Mus!im or Christian, know what a gift reading is for their children’s futures.  When it was decided last December to construct a church for this growing Christian fellowship, Mus!im neighbors volunteered to help with the heavy lifting!  “J” is creating an enviable community through kindness and service to his neighbors, breaking down traditional barriers.  But it has not been easy and the cost to him personally has been high.  He almost did not survive a severe beating that left him suffering for nearly a year.

We were hungry when we pulled into the place where we are staying.  However, we are in a Mus!im town and it is Ramadan, so most restaurants had no food, and certainly no meat, to offer us.  We finally found a place to serve us shiro* or rice and vegetables.

I look back on the sights and sounds of this day and am profoundly grateful – in awe, actually – for what God is doing among individuals and whole communities.  I am once again full of humble thanks that He chose me to be His disciple and then invited me and our team to serve as His ambassadors among these amazing people.

*Shiro is a traditional Ethiopian dish made from ground dried chickpeas and various spices …  it is YUM!