Roots: Ethiopia Church Version
The year is 1951. The place is "Gembo," where the beginnings of a mission station are being established. The woman is Theresa Fellows. The record is called "Burji Log Book." And in that book we find some old-fashioned typing, done by Theresa, that tells the story of the how the Gospel first came to Burji, Ethiopia.
If it were not for Theresa's notes, the details of this explosion of Truth would have been lost. She tells of her husband, Alex Fellows, trekking from village to village with an Ethiopian evangelist from the Woyetta section of Ethiopia. As they trek, they stop at any place that has signs of human life. And they tell the story of Jesus, the Savior who had come to remove the chains of the Evil Spirits, to break the power of the Witch Doctor, to set the people free from the life of fear that had plagued them for centuries.
Today many in the USA of African descent are wanting to return to the "African religion." They don't know what they are talking about. The "African religion" is animism....the worship of evil spirits that reside in trees, rocks, or people. These evil spirits play havoc with the human mind and emotions. Curses and omens abound. Uncertainty, fear, dread, bondage hound the person who wants only peace for his soul.
I grew up in the midst of those who practiced "African religion." I know first-hand the horror of such a religion. I've watched as twins are set out for the hyenas to eat because of the bad omen that they represented. I've seen persons possessed of evil spirits, as they turn mad and live as animals. I've seen men and women in desperation do anything the Witch Doctor tells them in order to get peace and safety for their children.
It is a horrible religion, full of darkness and terror. From Theresa's notes in the Burji Log Book:
And this religion reigned supreme in Burji until Alex and Theresa came with the Woyetta evangelist. Then the light of the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ shown in the darkness of the native religion. The Spirit of God moved in the hearts of those who heard the good news, and they embraced the freedom Jesus offers.
On January 21, 1951, the first one to believe was a man named Sego. He has since passed to Heaven to meet his Savior face to face.
Six days later, the second one to believe came to Christ, a young man named Ware ("War-eh"). He is now about 85 years old. He is still living in Koro village, in the mountains of Burji. He walks slowly, using a walking stick. His eyes are becoming dim. As an evidence of God's grace to us, he traveled down from his village to meet with us in Soyama Town.
He radiated the settled peace of a saint who has walked with the Lord a long time. We had made a copy of the Burji Log Book for him. He squinted at the picture of the first converts...he was the 4th from the left.
While Sego and Ware were learning of the Savior, a young man was living a wild life. He was from the Amaro tribe, which neighbored Burji on the other side of the Burji Mountains. This young man would fight others without reason. He delighted to burn homes and crops. In fact, he would catch rats, tie a piece of cloth to their tail, light it on fire, and then release the rat near someone's home. He sat back in delight as the fire spread wherever the rat went.
One day this young man was sitting in his hut in Susay village. He was 20 years old and single. In the Ethiopian calendar, it was 1942...that would be 1951 in our calendar. God saw him in that hut. God knew his life of destruction. And God loved him. So much so that He sent Alex Fellows and the Woyetta evangelist right to his door! They shared the story of Jesus with this young man, and immediately he embraced the Gospel. His life was radically changed...from the inside out. He began to read the Bible. He traveled over the mountains to attend Bible School at the mission station.
And today Olka still travels all over the Amaro and Burji areas speaking of the Lord Jesus. He came to Soyama Town and waited 8 days for me to arrive. He drew a map of all the churches that are now established in Amaro; these are the same churches where my father trekked on mule to help establish church-schools.
Olka is a fireball for the Lord! Although in his 80s and suffering from what appeared to be congestive heart failure, he keeps on going. Give him half a minute, and he has a word of encouragement, correction or teaching from the Scriptures. Psalm 119:9-16, John 3:16-18, Hebrews 11:6 are some of his favorite Bible passages. Does he have a message for his brothers and sisters in America? "Please pray that they will expand the Gospel."
We met with many other "old-timers." These first believers in the Gospel are precious...they are hidden treasures in Burji. Imagine living in a culture that had never heard the name of Jesus, a culture full of wickedness and fear. Then suddenly the Light of Jesus comes from outside visitors. Lives are changed dramatically. Joy replaces fear, Love replaces anger, Goodness replaces Evil.
As I think of these precious ones, my mind goes to Ephesians 5:14-17. "Wake up! Live wisely! Don't be a fool! Redeem the time! The days are evil. Don't be a fool, but live with an understanding of the will of the Lord for your life!"
And what is that will? To represent the Gospel of Jesus Christ in word and deed to a generation of people that are living in fear, in wickedness, in bondage. I thank God for Alex and Theresa Fellows, and for the Woyetta evangelists who traveled with them. They lived wisely. They redeemed the time. They lived understanding the Lord's will for their lives. And because of them, the Gospel came to Burji.
The question remains....to whom is the Gospel coming because of the way that I live? Or because of the way that you live?
April 29, 2010