The Body of Christ

By Brendan

We say it all the time in Church, but we rarely ponder it, at least I don’t. We often wonder how to do church better or how to grow our church body. But yesterday I was given an opportunity to participate with the body of Christ, with parts I had never met. I know many members on the side of the body I live on, down near the shin, but meeting these other parts across the body was a gift. I’ll tell you what I saw, open eyes, listening ears, anticipant mouths, and ready hands and feet.
Continue reading “The Body of Christ”

A Day of Beauty

By Jessica:

Today we drove 20 minutes from our hotel near the Gumuz area to the Hadia Tribe. It’s incredible how, just a few miles away, God paints a different picture of beauty in both physical disposition and culture. 
 

The Gumuz people from yesterday’s visit were very dark skinned, almost purple. With flawless complections, high cheek bones and huge smiles, I found myself staring in awe–probably just as much as they were staring at me. 

 

The Hadia tribes were a bit lighter skinned, less full faces, and just as gorgeous. They all had pearcing, curious and deeply profound eyes. God says the eye is the lamp of the body. Even though we could not speak each other’s languages, the joy in their eyes captivated me. 

 

Unlike the Gumuz’ circular huts, the Hadia’s had square houses made of mud and grass. The architecture and craftsmanship was outstanding, knowing that they were all made by hand. Some houses even had multiple rooms. 

 

The hospitality of these people was beyond comparison. They would carry out every piece of furnature, including tables and cooking utensils, from the house just for us to sit down. 

 

We walked through incredible, lush gardens, papaya and mango trees, flowers, corn stalks and clay to get from house to house. According to western culture, these people had “nothing”… but in actuality they had everything. 

 

An old man heard the gospel and accepted Jesus at the first house, and followed us to the remaining three houses to hear it again and again. At each house, his gaze was equally as strong, as if he heard the message for the first time. I admired his devotion and wondered what he was thinking. He explained that his wife had just passed, and he was a proud father of two girls. He carried years of smile lines on his face, and today looked deeply pensive, as if he was pondering creation itself. 

 

Our lives are so fast paced in the States. Sometimes we can hardly spare a full lunch break, let alone an entire afternoon to hang out with “faringi,” or strangers. This man had no problem dedicating his day to us. 

 

At our 4th house, the clouds rolled in. Rain was coming. A young girl quickly bagged corn that had been drying in the sun, and we said our goodbyes.

 

As we ran to the 5th house, it started raining… then pouring. Immediately our arms were being tugged and we were quickly led into a house for shelter…. the very first house we visited that day. 

 

This family whipped out chairs, made sure we were comfortable and then opened the doors for any neighbors who were also caught in the rain. Soon the living room was full of 20 people, all who we had met earlier. 

 

I’ve always loved thunder storms. I think they’re one of the most awe-filled expressions of God’s power. Today, a thunder storm brought two nations together in a teeny grass-hut living room. 

 

If you’ve never heard rain on a tin roof in Africa, it’s like New Year’s Eve as a 12-year-old with pots and pans. Loud, chaotic, and amazing.

 

We brought our chairs to the outside and watched the rain from the porch. It kept us together and deepened the trust we had built earlier that day. It was as if God commanded us to share his word–then prove it! Love your God, love your neighbor. And that’s exactly what happened.

 

If I ever find my way back to the Haidia tribe in northern Ethiopia, I know I’ll have a place to stay.
We’ve all heard, “God works in mysterious ways.” Today he brought an old man to faith who just couldn’t get enough. He sent a thunderstorm to join strangers under one tin roof with a few chairs and a pad of stickers. He let me experience my very first coffee ceremony with incense, loads of sugar and an ancient crop that has fed this land for centuries. He broke language barriers and let us commune like old friends–not like people from two different nations. He brought laughter, trust, and love. And the greatest was love. 

Angels are Rejoicing

By Bill:

“Salvation has come to this house today.” Just as Jesus proclaimed those words when Zacchaeus welcomed Him into his home and life, so we have proclaimed those words in homes throughout Gumuz, Ethiopia the past two days.Ethiopians are hungry for the Gospel and the forgiveness of Christ. That is so refreshing. It is not that way in America. What a blessing to be used by God to bring the message and love of Christ to these beautiful people.

 

At one home, as we shared the Gospel to a woman suffering from malaria, many neighbors were standing around and listening. They all heard the message of Jesus and prayed for Him to come into their hearts. I told them that the Bible says, “When one sinner repents and turns to Jesus, the angels rejoice in heaven.” I told them that today salvation has come to this house and the angels are having a party in heaven. Then, I said we should rejoice on earth as well – we should dance and celebrate. Our translator then began to sing and dance and laughter filled the air. At one home, a Catholic man accepted Jesus as there was thunder in the air. I told him that perhaps the thunder was the noise of angels rejoicing in heaven.

  

We simply offer the Gospel and love then with Christ, but it is God who saves. My prayer is that what ver we do on earth, especially here in Ethiopia, will cause great rejoicing in heaven, and that the joy of heaven will be experienced here on earth.

The Lord’s Plan

By Jax:

The trip is a great trip. The best part is that I have the opportunity to share Jesus with the other people who are the same as us. They make me feel good and they make coffee to honor us. The only problem is that one house did not accept Jesus Christ the Lord so we pray for them. Yesterday some of the best things was that ten people had accepted Jesus Christ as their Savior! I love that day when I have the opportunity to share with the people of my God….the Lord who loves!!! God is good! I’m so so so much blessed by the Lord! GOD IS GOOD!!! The Lord put me on the right path to share with people that God does not have to be feared… He has to be loved as He has loved us.

Not a Cheesy Christian Movie

By Matt:

If you wanted to read a heartbreaking or miraculous story, I am sorry because this won’t be it. I really wish it was though. It would be cool to have some story that could one day turn into one of those cheesy Christian movies that that everyone pretends to like but no one really does. Perhaps that experience may happen for me on this trip but no such experience occurred on my first day in the village.

 
However, that doesn’t at all mean today wasn’t amazing. And looking back at it and hearing the stories of the other team members, it definitely was a great day. The first three homes Dave and I visited had new people believe in Jesus and the heads of the other homes we entered were already following Christ. For the homes with Christians, we were able to tell them stories from Bible and talk about the stories with them. We also got to pray for each family we visited with and passed out gifts and supplies to help each household. 
Yet as we left the homes of these people, I had a weird mixture of emotions. I was happy that they said they were going to trust in Jesus (or that they already were following him) but I also felt like we were leaving them before we really got to know and care for them. And given the double translation from English to Amharic to the language of the Gumuze people, I wondered if they truly understood what we told them in our short time with them. I left asking myself if we actually made a difference.

 
If that last question is to be answered yes, it is really because of the work God will do through the disciple makers that accompany us as we visit the homes. I take comfort knowing that all the concerns I had will be addressed by the disciple makers. They will be the ones following up with the villagers, caring for them and helping them grow in a sincere and true faith. To allude to the parable of the sower, all we are doing is throwing out the seeds of the gospel because for whatever reason the Ethiopian people are more receptive to Americans. We are just seed sowers and while it is a very important role, anyone who has ever tried growing a plant from a seed knows that it is also the easiest job. It is Mesfin and his team of disciplemakers that do all the hard work to ensure that those seeds are firmly rooted in good soil so that they do not wither away but instead grow up to be fruit bearing believers. They truly are the ones that God is working through.

 
Before the trip, my prayer requests focused on our team and the people we would be sharing with. And after day one in the homes, I am completely aware of how misinformed and self centered I was in this request. While I am not going to say to stop praying for us, I do ask that you shift your focus in your prayers to praying for both the people of Ethiopia AND the disciple makers. Pray that God would keep the disciple makers safe and that God would grant them the perserverance to effectively and lovingly minisister to these new believers in the years to come. And when this trip is over for us, please remember that the people who came to Christ on this trip are more than numbers we report back and that they need your prayers more than ever as they begin their new walk with God. Thank you all for support and for your continued support of the disciple makers and people of Ethiopia!

I Can Trust Him to Provide

By Allison:

Yesterday, our first day in Ethiopia, we visited Women at Risk, a ministry that helps prostitutes get off the street. Erin asked me to lead an I Am Second study while we were with the women. An I Am Second discussion starts with the telling of a Bible story. I chose the feeding of the five thousand. After telling the story we ask several discussion questions, and a couple people are asked to repeat the story. The final two questions are, “How will you live differently after hearing this story?” and “Who will you tell this story to?”

Hands shot up around the room as the women were eager to share how they wanted to live the way God calls us, and they named friends and family members they could share this story with. I can’t help but thing about all the times I hear something God has done but then keep it to myself. These women couldn’t wait to share.

 
When we were here in April this particular group of women had just entered the program. What a difference six months makes. This was not the same group of timid women I remember from April. These women now know their true identity, who they are in Christ. They know they are loved and that God sees them as whole.
I’ve heard and told the story of Jesus feeding the five thousand countless times. The insights and perspectives these women brought up during our discussion blew me away. I think every member of our team can agree that we learned something new during this study.

 
The woman sitting next to me said, “When I was in prostitution I was making a lot of money. God took the fish and bread and fed the entire crowd. I can trust Him to provide for me. I may never again make a lot of money, but I can live a life that honors Him. He will bless me and provide.”

 
We were there to minister to this group of women, but I’m pretty sure we were the ones who were ministered to. What a privilege it is to see the work the Lord is doing in the lives of these women.

September 2016: Field Day 4 (as well)

By Nancy Evanston

THE BIG PICTURE AND A DIVINE APPOINTMENT

Maybe you have been somewhere like the Grand Canyon. You want to capture its immense beauty and grandeur so you take a picture only to be disappointed because it doesn’t come close to what you just saw and experienced. This is how I feel when I am trying to write about my time here in Ethiopia.

 

 

 

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Because it rains intermittently there, the landscape is beautiful, only a picture God could create.

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The poverty is none that you can imagine unless you are here with the children begging at you constantly, but there is generosity and hospitality in the huts and hearts of these believers. One Christian woman shared 4 types of food, all delicious, that she had prepared beforehand. We shared about sex trafficking and the gospel with her neighbors. One grandmother responded that this was “good what we shared” because her son was taken away. The husband of the home asked us to pray a blessing for him to be strong in his faith and persevere because they are persecuted for faith in Christ. This region is steeped in Ethiopian Orthodox and many walk away when you share that “Jesus is the way, the truth and the life and no one can come to God except through him.” Please pray for Alum, Amaritch and their 3 children.

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Today we had the unexpected opportunity to go to a funeral procession and service of a Christian woman. It was an honor to be there. David, one of our team members, spoke an amazing gospel message for the unbelievers and also encouraged the believers. My heart was overflowing with joy as the Holy Spirit empowered David to speak the truth with boldness and compassion. We trekked miles to visit small numbers of villagers the past few days, yet David spoke to literally hundreds today. While it was an unexpected opportunity for us, we know it was a divine appointment from God.

God has encouraged many believers and we have witnessed others come to new faith in Christ. Many seeds of truth and hope in Jesus were planted this past week. Ears were so attentive to our human trafficking message. Someday when we meet Jesus we will clearly see the big picture of all that has transpired this week. I can’t wait to see my Ethiopian brothers and sisters in Christ then. For now you will have to settle for this snapshot. To God be the glory!

September 2016: Field Day 4

By Dave Helfrick

Thursday

A time for mourning.

I’ve taken 4 trips to Ethiopia now. I would never say I’ve experienced it all, not even close. Today, though, I added a new experience I never expected to have, particularly in Ethiopia. I spoke at the funeral of an Ethiopian grandmother. I’ll call her Betty.

After breakfast this morning, Tom came to my room and said we had an opportunity to speak at a local funeral, and also to present the gospel. Betty died yesterday, and there was to be many, many people coming to the funeral. Betty was a believer, but many of those attending are not. Sharing the gospel here would be a chance to share with more folks than we have the entire week to date.

I wish I could tell you that my heart leapt at the thought, and that I said through Christ I can do all things. If only. I did say yes, however, and I did know that the Holy Spirit would guide me. In fact, after I had prepared on the way, during the service I began to become nervous, maybe even fearful, that I would mix up my notes, or forget them altogether.

And THEN IT HAPPENED. A Scripture came to mind, and I knew the Spirit had given it to me for this very time. Immediately after, I relaxed and knew that “God’s got this.” The Scripture was “when you stand before men, do not worry about what you will say or how to say it. You will be given what to say, and it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit speaking through you.”

While that verse is taken slightly out of context, nonetheless I knew that message was for me at that moment. From then on, I was confident knowing I had prepared as much as I could, and that the Spirit would lead me. During the time I spoke (through an interpreter of course), I forgot to say some things I had planned, and I said some things that I hadn’t even thought of till I began to speak. At the end of this, one man whom I will call Adam, professed his faith in Jesus. I will likely never see Adam again on a trip, but I will see him again one day. One glorious day.

-Dave

September 2016: Field Day 1 (as well)

By Jeremiah Shue:

Jesus told his followers to go out in twos and share about Jesus and perform miracles. Today we had a chance to exemplify that command. We went to the town of Dorze and shared the Evangecube and the PricelessCube with the people there. Today was a very exciting day, but also somewhat disappointing for those of us for which it is our first time to Ethiopia. For example, we drove to a church in Dorze excited and ready to share. I was with Dave Helfrick, our translator Wonbere, and our disciple maker Iraj, whose name I have most likely misspelled.

Anyway, it stated raining before we arrived, and by the time we left the church to head to the homes we were going to, the ground was nice and muddy, which did wonders on our shoes. Thankfully we had transport most of the time, but I still managed to get mud on my nose. 😯 Our first house was probably 8 feet square, but we still managed to share to about six people. As it turned out, four of them were already believers, one completely rejected our message, and one was an Ethiopian Orthodox believers who said essentially, “Your message is very good and necessary, but I do not believe.”

Oh well, we thought, maybe the other teams are doing better, and the next house will be more receptive. As it were, most of the other teams had about the same experience as we did. We learned this as they were passing by next to the church we had started at, which apparently was our next destination. We got there at about 1:30, but the people we were supposed to meet did not show up until about 4:00, right when we were leaving. In the meantime, we played with the children who kept showing up. Soon the other teams started to arrive and the kids swarmed Jax and his mom.

Although only one person came to Christ today, over 70 people heard the gospel, which is amazing. I would love to see what God does in the lives of these people. Please pray for the people we met today and those that are still waiting to hear this wonderful news.

September 2016: Field Day 1

By Greg Shue:

So many thoughts, and in so many directions! Today my team only had the chance to present to four non-believers. One seemed to be looking for income as a tour guide, and he and his companion hurriedly and adamantly left as soon as we pulled out the Evangecube.

We then had a rich and open conversation with an Ethiopan Orthodox college student. He almost knew the whole gospel already, but didn’t have 100% confidence he would go to Heaven if he died today. Though he didn’t come to faith today, he did express a desire to study the Bible with the host family. (Ethiopian Orthodox laity are not allowed to own Bibles so this is a significant step and shows he must be a seeker.)

The last person we saw was an Ethiopian Orthodox woman who refused the gospel message, saying “What has been good enough for my first 35 years is good enough for the rest of my life.” Sad, but a mild reaction given what else we heard from the local believers.

I have heard about the persecuted Church a bit over the years but it was always “out there”. Today I was hearing the stories from the persecuted themselves. Stories of communal shunning, a mob trying to burn down a house and kill the believers (and God sending a vicious and feared neighborhood dog to drive the mob away), stoning and threats of dismemberment! What happened to tolerance? Oh yeah – it is getting redefined.

Now that I have connected with all of this, what am I supposed to do? What would you do?