September-October were unusually active months, including a ten-day trip to Ethiopia with a local missions organization called Indigenous Outreach International (IOI), October 3-12. IOI supports indigenous pastors in Ethiopia and other parts of the world who daily minister the gospel in poverty. I travelled with two other pastors from the West Tennessee area and an IOI representative (a friend since college). The goal of the trip was to come alongside IOI-supported pastors and churches and provide encouragement through Bible teaching, prayer, and fellowship. The trip also gave us the opportunity to witness firsthand what God is doing to build his church on the other side of the world. There is obviously much that could be shared after such a journey, but I thought I would provide a snapshot of each day we were there, to give a feel for what we were able to experience.
On Wednesday, we travelled north of Addis Ababa to the village of Demu. For years, only one believer lived in this community. Ostracized for his commitment to Christ, he was forced to walk two hours for any Christian fellowship and instruction. Over time, the love of Christ in him has drawn many of his neighbors to receive the gospel. .Today, the original believer has donated land for a church building (pictured below – still under construction) where around twenty believers now worship the Lord. They took off from farming to hear us preach.
Every Thursday afternoon, IOI-sponsored pastors meet in the city of Addis Ababa for a ministry report and corporate prayer. This week, they gathered in the morning also to hear us preach. It seemed absurd to exhort men who have faithfully preached the gospel in a hard setting longer than I have been alive. So, we pointed away from ourselves to Jesus, and were all mutually encouraged in our time together.
On Friday, we drove south into the countryside to visit a whole circuit of village churches. The highlight of the day was a great baptism ceremony of new believers we were privileged to witness. Upon our arrival, we found a houseful of men and women praising the Lord, overjoyed to identify publicly with Christ in baptism. They danced and sang the whole two mile journey (!) to the river, calling their unbelieving neighbors to acknowledge the work of the true God. Afterward, they received their first Lord’s Supper.
On Saturday, we travelled to a number of nearby villages, preaching the gospel to expectant gatherings, visiting households and praying for the sick. No matter how far back we travelled, to places no one on earth has ever heard of, we continued to find that Jesus had already been there. We met some giants of the faith on these visits. The building that served as our sleeping quarters and the church building in the central village there is pictured below.
On Sunday morning, our group woke up and hiked up a mountain to meet with a nearby congregation gathering for Sunday morning worship. They had just completed their church building, a stone’s throw from the olive tree they once worshipped. One of the most moving sights was the pulpit in their new building. The Word of God is not bound; it is being proclaimed with power on top of that mountain, calling men from darkness and into light.
On Monday, we visited the True Light Childcare project, which supports a multitude of needy children on very little money through IOI sponsors. We each preached the gospel to them, then roughhoused with them out in the yard. I was able to meet the child Candace and I have been sponsoring the past two years, Mukerrem.
Tuesday was our final day in Ethiopia, and the Lord had prepared many providential visits for us to make. These included delivering Bibles to a Sudanese family taking refuge in Addis from persecution, and sharing the Gospel with a Muslim man who just so happened to be visiting his daughter’s family, sponsored by IOI, who we had come to see. That night, we shared a final meal in the IOI guesthouse before flying home.