by Joy Casey 

I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord.”  Psalm 122:1

It is Sunday – a day set apart to worship and honor our Lord Jesus Christ.  We left early this morning for a church that was recently built through the generosity of High Pointe Church in Graham, Washington.  A year ago, this congregation raised money for construction, and today several from the church (me included) were in high spirits in anticipation of seeing our dream a reality.  We were not disappointed!

The choir and church leaders met us as with joyful singing and many, many welcoming hugs.

We followed the singers into the church where worship continued until time for Pastor Steven from High Pointe to share God’s Word.

With his English words translated into two different languages, he challenged all of us who follow Christ to extend the invitation of eternal life to others.

The building was packed with people standing outside to hear.

There were masses of children everywhere!  These young ones were so well behaved squeezed like sardines on a bench or sitting on the floor.  Knowing that most of them had come to the church at seven this morning for Sunday School and stayed for the long church service, I was greatly impressed with how attentive and quiet they were.  This church teaches children how to read and do simple math on Wednesday and Friday and then provides spiritual teaching Saturday and Sunday mornings.

When Steven finished preaching, church leaders presented him with a traditional drum as a thank you to him and the church he represents.

The ushers in colorful robes took an offering from those unable to walk forward, but the majority of people came with their monetary or food gifts, placing them on a table at the front.  It blessed me to see the people tangibly show their commitment to their church that they are so obviously proud of.

Once church was over, our team was invited into the basket weave structure next door that was the old church.  Tables were brought over from the new church and we, along with the church leaders, were invited for coffee with a little something to eat, too, typical of Ethiopian hospitality.

The women brought out plates of local bananas (ohhhh, how sweet!), bowls of popped corn, fresh bread laced with cinnamon, and boiled taro and sweet potatoes.

It was a joyful time of fellowship, good food and thick, rich coffee.

And just to make our time even more meaningful, Missionary Abe* introduced us to an elderly man and two of his sons who related their fascinating stories of how they as fundamental, radical Mus!ims came face-to-face with Jesus in dreams.  It is quite a conversion story of one family that I will tell at a later time as it would be too long to include in this post.  We still have one more church to visit.

Saying thank you and goodbye to the friendly, hospitable people of this village was poignant as God only knows when or if any of us will be back.  But, like one of the men said as we left, “I’ll see you in heaven if I don’t see you before!”

Once again, our trusty 4WD took us down pathways and through gullies not fit for vehicles.  An hour later we pulled up next to a familiar house and yard that I had been to three months ago.  I was excited to see the dear people of this house church and bring greetings!

The sun was hot and at an angle that in order to get shade we all sat at the far side of the yard directly under the tree.  Steven brought a message based on the story of Lazarus that resonated with the listeners even through translation into two languages.  The people of this village are all converts from Islam within the last year-and-a-half.  They are hungry for God’s Word!  It was our joy to be with them and encourage them …

I especially loved the women I met a few months ago, many of whom I had the pleasure of giving audio Bibles to.  The ladies assured me they were listening and expressed their deep pleasure in having access to the Bible whenever they wished.  I am determined to bring more audio Bibles to this fellowship as there are many men and women who cannot read.

We left for the town where we are staying and made it to paved roads just as the skies opened up and poured rain.  We were more than grateful that we didn’t get caught in the downpour while on the roads (or rather non-roads) as the water would have made them impassable and we would have had to sit stuck in mud until the rain stopped and things dried up.  That would have been an “adventure” I could do without.  But, as it was, we arrived safe to our hotel and ready for some dinner.

Our Ethiopian friends wanted us to have one of Jason and mine favorite traditional foods – roasted goat.  Dan and Steven agreed the “tibs” were delicious.  But more than good food at the end of the day was time to share around the table about the experiences of the day and also have the opportunity to ask questions and better understand the dynamics of building Christian communities among Mus!im people.

I think our team will agree it was a satisfying and blessed Sabbath among God’s people in Ethiopia.

*not his real name