It was day two of the three-day conference for church leaders in Dilla, Ethiopia. Over 2,000 people gathered to worship Jesus and to be trained and encouraged. Throughout the day’s events, church planters continued to share stories of what God was doing in the places they worked and to encourage others to be a part of the mission of Jesus—to see people saved and discipled.
Numerous church planters shared stories of the supernatural, including miraculous healing, divine intervention, and abundant provision. For example, a witch doctor who tried to kill one of these church planters became ill, almost to the point of death, and called for the church planter to pray for him in the name of Jesus. The witch doctor was healed and became a Christian along with his family. His son recently graduated from the Bible school and is now a pastor in that village. There was story upon story of God showing up when there was no tangible answer and no known solution. And every time a story was shared, the people responded in vocal praise to Jesus for his goodness and provision.
These Ethiopians expected that, in the midst of hardship, God would intervene.
There was a sense that the people expected these troubles, these hardships. These church planters went out knowing that their mission was going to be filled with difficulties and the high likelihood of being injured and even killed. Yes, I felt that these people were fully aware of what lay ahead of them when they answered the call to plant churches, but that is not the sense that shook my heart in that church building that day. What shook me to my core was the sense that God would intervene.
These Ethiopians expected that, in the midst of hardship, in the midst of persecution, in the midst of the terror of a spear being flung at their head, God would intervene and work to bring himself glory and to fulfill the mission of Jesus. Did that mean that these people didn’t know or experience stories of persecution or even death? No, for they did and they do. But in that room the words of the Apostle Paul in his letter to the Philippians rang out, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (1:21).
The faith of these people—it overwhelmed me.
In the words of the popular hymn “I Have Decided to Follow Jesus” that is sung around the world, “The world behind me, the cross before me, no turning back, no turning back.” Where the Lord leads me I will follow. Yes, I have decided to follow Jesus and I will go where he calls and where he leads and if it means my life, so be it. For I shall then see the face I have longed to see since I tasted his grace and his mercy in the joy of his sweet salvation.
The faith of these people—it overwhelmed me. It showed me that my faith is often only in what I know that I can do in my own power, in my own strength. Oh, to have my faith completely in Jesus. To have the boldness and courage to step out of the boat and into the water at the simple call of my Savior. The Christians in Ethiopia have faith. It’s a deep faith and a faith that takes Jesus at his word. In fact, if they had needed to for the glory and mission of Jesus, I would not doubt that their faith and their prayers would have moved mountains.
What’s your faith in today? Where is Jesus calling you to go and what is he calling you to do?