by Joy Casey
It was hot and dusty driving from our orphanage toward the heart of our evangelism area. As we pulled into the hub town where we stay, I soaked in the rhythm of life as we passed children in uniform walking to school, women sweeping dirt in front of their small kiosks, the aroma of coffee wafting into the street from many little coffee shops, men sitting on a big rock or water can getting their shoes cleaned, donkey carts weaving in and out of traffic, burn piles smoldering. I am definitely in Ethiopia.
I am traveling with our core staff who, over the last seventeen years, have become dear and trusted friends. Today we are going to a new place where there are a handful of Christ-followers in need of – well, a lot of things – but mostly teaching. Two of our missionaries have been trying to disciple these Mus!im converts, but this place is out in the middle of nowhere and very difficult to get to. It is a 1 ½ hour walk to the church established by these missionaries.
The little band of 6 families meet Sundays in the little hut shown in the video that is on the property of a former mosque leader.
Muhammad led the prayers in the mosque and because of his position was an honored person in his community. He was also addicted to khat (a hallucinatory plant that is chewed and highly addictive). One night Muhammad had a dream that a man all in white revealed himself. “I am Jesus. I want you to get rid of all your khat and stop growing it, dedicate yourself to Me and give your land for the work of the Lord.” He awoke shaken to his core and didn’t quite know what to think! He only knew one man who was Christian, Missionary “S”, so he searched him out and started down the road of understanding the Gospel. When Muhammad accepted Christ as Savior, people began to attack him, and the mosque hierarchy ordered his death. The hand of God has protected his life thus far, although he still receives threats and is treated poorly. The first thing he did was to share what he had experienced with his three wives and 21 children – all eventually gaining understanding of the free gift of eternal life through Jesus.
Our team listened and asked questions to gain a fuller understanding of the challenges facing this intimate group of believers. There is no formal Christian presence anywhere in the area. The majority people are fiercely Mus!im; it will take strong, consistent prayer to overcome the strongholds of Islam, idol worship and witchcraft that dominate the spiritual landscape of this beautiful place.
Our Director of Evangelism is determined to persevere here and is asking God to raise up a local person with the call to evangelize his tribe living in this agrarian area.
When we got back to town, we met with our missionary who recently has suffered a severe set-back in his Mus!im village. It was more than a set-back, he came close to losing his life. This fall, Missionary “A” attempted to build a church and encountered violent opposition. He halted the work, but that night more than 250 men from 20 surrounding mosques entered the church property with torches and machetes to do damage to the construction and to find and kill Missionary “A”. “A” was warned of their intent and hid, escaping violence. He is trying through legal means to secure the right to build a church but has no illusions that the Mus!im dominated government and court system will allow a Christian presence in their area. Many of the Believers have left the village for safer areas, but 15-20 are standing firm. They meet for worship and prayer in a small hut on the property where they tried to build a church. Missionary “A” is a man of devout and persevering prayer. He is disappointed, of course, that church construction is indefinitely on hold, but extremely optimistic knowing God’s plans cannot be thwarted by man and God will bring good from this whole situation.
Ever since I heard about the attack on the building and the physical threat to “A”, I have been like a mother wanting to comfort and assure one of my sons. Today I got to do that. It was too dangerous to go to his village, but he came to a church in the town where we are staying so he could freely share with us and we with him. The couple who sponsor “A” sent him a note of encouragement that meant a great deal to him. I love this young man, his wife and two little children. I count it an honor to stand with him, and I know he left encouraged.