I was incredibly blessed to participate in the 2014 Ethiopia trip with Pastor Sutton.
Since I spent most of my twenties as a missionary in many of Asia’s third world nations, this felt like a homecoming of sorts.
The Ethiopian people are wonderful and kind. Their eyes will readily meet yours and they are quick to give you one of their amazing smiles. Their joy and laughter betrays the extreme poverty many of them live in.
I was slated to speak during the pastors’ conference, teaching on a healthy church. Moments before I was to take the stage, however, I was simply too sick with a fever and extreme nausea to speak. Pastor David Fairchild filled in on a moment’s notice and hit it out of the park. The next day, he too succumbed to a fever and the stomach ailments that are so common in Africa. That gave me an opportunity to fill in for him and preach at one of the churches the next morning.
In order to snuff out the church, the Communist government arrested and imprisoned all the elders. Instead, by the grace of God, the church grew.
As I was praying about the message, I felt God put Mark 5:21–43 on my heart, the raising of Jairus’ daughter and the healing of the woman with the bleeding disease, a message of hope for the desperate, cleansing of the unclean, and new life for those who are dead.
During the service, our translator provided the translations for the songs that were being sung. The songs immediately preceding and following could not have matched the message more perfectly. According to the elders, in God’s providence the songs and message matched the current need to a T.
The church I was privileged to speak at was in the same building where, 25 years ago, the elders of the churches where imprisoned by the Communists. In order to snuff out the church, the Communist government arrested and imprisoned all the elders. Instead, by the grace of God, the church grew. After their release the elders approached the government and asked if they could buy the prison. The government miraculously agreed and today the church is thriving with between 400 and 500 gathering for worship. Out of this initial church, several hundred churches have been planted, church planters are being sent to unreached areas of Ethiopia, and thousands have been saved despite severe persecution.
What a joy and privilege to be able to serve and worship alongside these faithful brothers. I can’t wait to go back!