by Joy Casey 

What a day!  Our missionary retreat among the Oromo people group started out wonderfully*.  These men have been living and working under extraordinary pressure.  They are joyful, full of hope and not discouraged despite the upturn in radicalism among their people and the anxiety the Oromo Liberation Front (a terrorist group) causes.  They are simply amazing – as are their wives who hold the home together and support their husbands.

But home is not all these women do!  Can I brag for a few minutes about the fairer sex?  Much is expected of these women – they have large families, little money, three meals to prepare over an open fire, hauling water is a daily pressure and keeping themselves and their kiddos clean, fed and in school (if there is one) is no small thing.  And they don’t live in houses with electricity (most of them), they sweep a dirt floor, help with farming and use a communal squatty potty.  But that is not all!  These mighty women find time to intentionally reach out to their Mus!im neighbors and invite them to their home for buna (coffee) and something to eat.  Being former Mus!ims themselves, they are understanding and attentive to their friends’ problems, always ending their time together with prayer in the name of Jesus.

We heard many stories today of Mus!im women coming to know Jesus Christ through the witness of these hospitable women who show kindness, concern and share the gift of the Gospel.  Some of the Mus!im women have come to faith in Jesus and want to openly acknowledge it, some are hidden Christ-followers and remain in the mosque, while others are not yet ready to commit.

Several times we heard stories like this:  My Mus!im friends call me when their kids are sick.  I go to their house (sometimes secretly or when their husbands are not there) and pray for their sick child and he/she is healed.  This is not a one-off scenario!  In these villages there is no medical infrastructure.  If you are sick you either get well, die, or are healed supernaturally.  One woman said her neighbors come to her with problems asking for prayer, like … My teenage son ran away.  But your God would know where he is and can bring him back to me. The women are not daunted by these requests because they pray and expect God to answer … and He does!

They use ordinary life to initiate conversations, and we are giving them tools that will help them.  Women from several small groups attending High Pointe Church in Washington made gospel bracelets to give to these women.  Aren’t they beautiful?  We used the colors that many children are introduced to in Sunday School to tell the entire story of salvation from sin in the Garden of Eden to eternal life with God.  Along with the bracelet a friend of Dinah’s in Arizona made beautiful, handmade picture books telling the Gospel story for them to use along with the bracelet.

We gave each lady a bracelet and then they made one to give to another Christian lady in their church, teaching her what she just learned.  The ladies at High Pointe also put together hundreds of kits for the missionary wives to use to teach others how to witness using them.  The lovely bracelets will draw the attention of other women when they are getting water, attending a funeral or wedding, going to market or having someone over for buna.  The bracelets open the door for a spiritual conversation.

We had so much fun today learning about the gospel bracelets, making them, and then practicing using them to share the gospel message with each other.

In the midst of all this, the missionaries interrupted us with a surprise birthday celebration for Dinah!  In came the celebratory bread, songs and clapping were spontaneous, a candle was lit and a sparkly tiara was placed on her head.  She was certainly surprised (!!) and took it all in good stride.  Everybody got a hunk of delicious fresh baked bread – it was fun to bless Dinah and have time to laugh and sing together.  Rapport and trust were easily established on this first day of the retreat — Mission accomplished!

*All of the pictures will be of women as we do not post pictures of the men anywhere on the internet.  This may give the impression this retreat is all about the missionary wives, but the men are gathered together with our Country Manager, Abebe, and our Evangelism Director, Zerihun.  We also give space and time for the couples to relax and enjoy a reprieve from responsibilities for a few days.