Ethiopian Spring (May 2006): Part Two
As mentioned in our first report, there were three objectives for this trip. As a representative of the Lord’s church in America, I went carrying gifts from His people in America to His people in Ethiopia. The Apostle Paul carried the gifts of the believers on foot; 2000 years later, we carry the gifts by airplane. These gifts included monetary funds, which were exchanged at the best possible rate and deposited into a safe account for the purchase of Bibles and for the building of churches.
A total of over $26,000 was sent with us for His work, and a stewardship record has already been sent to those who have given. Also, some of you sent seeds, bracelets, clothes, ladies scarves, bookmarkers, protein bars, eyeglasses, and vitamins. All of these were distributed personally by us to the people who will be using them, or else to the church leaders closest to the people who will use them. We have tried to remove as many layers as possible of “bureaucracy” between the giver and the receiver.
Many of the seeds (such as okra, zucchini, and yellow squash) had never been seen before, but the Ethiopians are excited to try something new. The bracelets, scarves, and bookmarkers were given to those attending our teaching sessions, as a reminder of the subject matter. The protein bars were given to 3 evangelists who work hard, but have no physical reserve. One of these evangelists commented to me, “I couldn’t understand why I got so weak the last time I was sick.” In the past, these protein bars have made a tremendous difference in their physical strength within just a few short months. There are no protein bars in Ethiopia. The vitamins were given to rural church leaders to distribute to pregnant women who also have at least 3 children at home. And the eyeglasses were divided between the Alaba and Burji districts, for the leaders to distribute after testing the people.
Left: Women showing off their new bracelets after attending a women’s class at 5:00am! Right: We took about 400 pairs of eyeglasses, and didn’t have to pay any customs fee!
One of the greatest joys of the trip was the opportunity to visit the first church “we” have built in the rural Alaba district. (When I say “we,” I mean you, us, the Alaba believers, and our Lord Jesus.) In report #6 of our last trip, we shared with you how God has put in our hearts the desire to assist the believers in rural Alaba in erecting their church buildings. Each building costs $2,250, which is far beyond the reach of these people. The persecution is so strong that they quickly become impoverished the moment they name our Lord Jesus as their Saviour. But they are eager to work. So we are gathering funds to buy the materials, and they are doing the labor.
There are 9 churches needing to be built. As I write this, the church leaders are securing the legal status of the lands. The first church completed is called Galeo. It sits on a mountainside overlooking the Alaba Valley. As we approached it, the leaders said, “Look, you can see it already!” And sure enough, there it was, glimmering in the sunshine, its cross clearly evident, proclaiming to all, “This Valley belongs to our Lord Jesus!” What a joyous sight! We drove in a Land Cruiser as far as we could, then we got out and hiked up the mountainside. We paused every few hundred yards, still adjusting to the high altitude, but we eventually made it. The building was a simple rectangle, with space for several windows and two doors. The windows and doors will be of solid wood. There is no electricity; the floor is mud. The roof is corrugated tin. The walls are made from timbers manually hauled from a nearby forest and mud/straw “stucco.” The foundation is from purchased concrete, sand pulled out of the river, and stones obtained from the fields. One of the leaders donated the land. As you can see, this church stands as an example of the Lord’s people working together for His glory and His witness.
After a hike, we arrived at Galeo church on the mountainside overlooking the Alaba Valley. We paused in the building for a picture with Girma (Memory Program coordinator), the Galeo church leaders, and BeckyLynn.
Eating Kolo and drinking coffee beside the church, then a time of prayer and thanksgiving. We asked our God to give us the Alaba Valley as an inheritance in the Kingdom of our Lord.
The second church to be built is called Bedene. I met with one of the leaders of this church for about an hour over breakfast, as he quickly told me the story of his conversion. His name is Kadir. He had been a strong fundamentalist Muslim, highly dedicated to the beliefs of Islam. Coming out of Koran school one day he spotted a young lady. He went to talk with her and then declared, “By the name of Allah, you will be my wife.” She promptly retorted, “By the name of Jesus, NEVER!” To make a long story short, he kidnapped her, forcing the marriage. She refused to leave Jesus, despite his beatings. After about 2 years, he was lifting his face from the earth during his prayer ritual, and a person in shining light said to him, “To whom are you praying? I am the One who made you.” He knew immediately that this person was Jesus. But he resisted the claim of Jesus on his life. The story of his eventual conversion is amazing! I wish you could have been with me as he was telling me. Such animation! Such drama! What a wondrous story of grace and redemption! Let me tell you, NO ONE is beyond the grace of our Lord Jesus!!! Absolutely no one! (My father and several others have told me that I need to write a book with some of these stories; please pray for me as I consider this.)
Another great blessing was visiting Hajji Mohammed. We reported our first visit to his home in Report #5b, and on subsequent blogs we’ve kept you up-to-date on the continued persecution of this dear brother. In the 5 months since our last visit the enemies have tried to bomb his home, have attacked his wife, have stolen his crop, and now have filed false charges of cattle thievery against him. Also, his young son died of amebic dysentery complicated by the attack. The Muslim leaders have decided that this man is “the ringleader” of those converting to Christ, so they are determined to make him an example! We sat for 3 or 4 hours in the yard of his home, sharing with him various things. I gave him a blanket that had a flying eagle on it, explaining that this had reminded me of him and of the verse, “Those that wait upon the Lord… shall rise up with wings as eagles” (Isa. 40:31). I also encouraged him with Romans 8:28-39: NOTHING can separate us from the Love of our Lord Jesus. And I told him that I was praying for three things: that he would be strong spiritually, that he would remember he is not alone, and that he would forgive those who persecute him. (This is the example of our Saviour Himself who was persecuted to the point of death, remaining faithful for our benefit, and forgiving his enemies.)
You remember that when Hajji Mohammed was converted, Jesus told him to “come out of the cave, and bring others with you.” In January, I had asked him how many he had brought out of the cave, and he responded “17,” meaning 17 heads of households. This time, I asked again and he replied, “23.” So in the 5 months since I have seen him last, despite the persecution, he has lead another 6 heads of households to our Lord Jesus for salvation. In fact, as I was talking with him, a man walked into our midst; from his dress he was obviously Muslim. At the moment I was explaining the Bible Memory program, encouraging Hajji Mohammed and his little flock to memorize the Scriptures so that they could have their own Bible. But in the presence of this man I didn’t know if I should continue. Hajji Mohammed seemed entirely unflustered by the entrance of this man, so I continued. Later, the man gave his testimony; he had converted to Jesus only 2 weeks earlier, because he had watched the response of Hajji Mohammed to the persecution. He had never seen such peace and strength! The man has chosen to keep his conversion quiet because he doesn’t want the persecution. Please pray for him and the others that have been brought “out of the cave.”
Incidentally, in the midst of all the persecution these past 5 months, Hajji Mohammed had another baby son born to him! Do you know what he named the child? Immanuel: “God is with us!” What a testimony of faith! How blessed we are to be allowed to participate with him in the work of the Gospel!
We brought 2 suitcases of love gifts for Hajji Mohammed and his little flock. Right: Hajji Mohammed, a new believer, and Nathan.
This report has been prepared by BeckyLynn (Lapsley) Black
If our Lord wants you to become involved with us in Ethiopia, please make your check payable to BeckyLynn Black. No tax-deductible receipt will be given, but a sincere thank-you note will be sent. 100% of your gift goes directly to the Lord’s church in Ethiopia. We pay our own expenses and we do not deduct for “administrative costs.” May our Lord bless you for your kindnesses to us and our brethren in Ethiopia.
June 22, 2006