We know that bringing the Gospel of Jesus to hardcore Mus!im areas comes with risk. The 37 indigenous NLE missionaries working among 3 distinct tribal peoples (2 unreached* and 1 minimally reached**) are, of course, on the front lines and initially take the brunt of persecution. Those who convert from Islam to Christianity know with certainty there will be backlash to their decision underscoring the necessity of establishing a strong, vibrant Christian community.
When a core of converts reaches critical mass (a fancy noun meaning ‘too big to fit in a house or under a tree’), a church structure needs to be considered. The ‘critical mass’ rule of thumb is usually between 50 and 100 converts. Building a formal church in Ethiopia offers a degree of protection, too. There is religious freedom in Ethiopia. Theoretically, anyone worshiping in a formally recognized church building is safe – meaning the police/military should protect the people and structure from harm. However, as we have experienced, this is not always the case in Mus!im dominated villages.
Missionary “A” is an energetic, intense man of prayer living in his home village with his wife and child. For the past 5 years he has shared the Good News with his Mus!im family and friends – not an easy thing to do – but he has been encouraged along the way, especially when his mother became a Christ-follower. There are now 50 adults (and that many children!) who are being discipled and are growing in their faith. The challenge is where to meet for corporate worship that is so important to the vitality of any community of Believers.
One of the converts donated his land so a building could be erected to bring together their fledgling congregation. This certainly was a welcome first step! God provided the next step when High Pointe Church in Washington donated $15,000 to buy construction materials. Two weeks ago with the rainy season waning, trucks once again could navigate the roads and their construction loads were deposited on the new church property. Two days later, the men of the church began framing with the strong eucalyptus poles. When the villagers saw what was happening, they were enraged and violently protested. The uproar was so great, missionary “A” halted the construction knowing they could not proceed without better security.
Late that night, a mob of several hundred village men vandalized the construction site, destroying what they could and carrying off what they couldn’t, leaving only a few poles. They next set out to find missionary “A” and the man who donated his property to the church. Providentially, someone warned the two men who went into hiding and escaped bodily harm.
Over the past 16 years working in Ethiopia, we have seen God time and time again orchestrate redemption out the ashes of defeat. There is no doubt He will use the major setback of a demolished church and disruption of the church community in such a way that will bring God glory and strengthen His Church. We’ll keep you posted as His story unfolds!
There is no wisdom, no insight, no plan that can succeed against the Lord. Proverbs 21:30
*Unreached: an ethnic group without an indigenous, self-propagating Christian church movement; less than 2% evangelical Christian
**Minimally Reached: 5% who identify as evangelical Christians with some churches established