Ethiopia Unveiled - A Powerful Interview

Ethiopia: A Powerful Interview with a National Leader

RON: It is my pleasure today to introduce you to a missionary who is working in the country of Ethiopia. Who’s worked there for many years. Who’s a good friend and he and his family have been involved with all facets of the church in Ethiopia today and for many years. And I thank you so much, brother, for coming here today to tell us the story of the past, the present, and the future as to what God is doing in that country, I know when you take me around and we go out into the to the outback, shall we say, and we go by a lake and we interview all these people. My heart burns within me, almost like I was walking with Jesus on a pathway, and it’s sort of like you just, all of a sudden, sense the presence of God in Ethiopia today, so thank you for coming and sharing with us as much as you can as to what God is doing in that country. 

LEADER: Thank you very much, Ron. It’s good to be with you. 

RON: Well, let’s start off with this. Where was Ethiopia in the past? 

LEADER: Ethiopia had been dominated by a dry Orthodox religion. And coming through communism, they destroyed their faith, they destroyed hope. And as communism ended in 1991, and it was at that point that the church was around a million people, it was small, primarily underground, facing terrible persecution, but it was strong. And as persecution ended, communism ended. There was an outpouring of hope in Christ through the church, okay, and that began in small form. Little by little, began to grow as this church began to realize what it was like to live under the freedom. And freedom not like we have freedom in North America, but the freedom of embracing and proclaiming Christ without government persecution. 

RON: Okay, and there was government persecution before that. 

LEADER: Yes, during communism the government would put many of the religious leaders in prison and would beat them. Some even passed away. Due to the persecution, some were directly killed, it was overt government persecution. 

RON: Shutting down of churches, learning of Bibles completely? 

LEADER: Everything like that. Everything was forbidden for people that believed in Jesus Christ. 

RON: Yes, what did it do to the church under persecution? 

LEADER: You got rid of anybody on the periphery. What you captured was the heart of people dedicated to Jesus Christ. And so you had people coming to faith knowing that their commitment meant life or death, and so they would be baptized and they would come to faith in Jesus Christ and they would be fully committed and some of them passed away. Some of them were killed, but many of them became the leaders because when they would go into persecution, didn’t matter what background they were when they went into persecution, when they went into prison, they joined together in unity and there was a unity of the Spirit across all denominations. There was understanding that without the Spirit’s power, we cannot continue. 

Some of them were killed, but many of them became the leaders

RON: Do you think there was the foundation that launched to what we’re seeing there today? 

LEADER: Absolutely, yeah, it was a work of the Spirit in this, bringing people together, and when the unity of the body is there God commands His blessing, and that’s what we’re seeing. The fruit of unity is a church on fire at church, exploding. People coming to know faith in Christ and new territories being touched with the Gospel. Because what started in certain pockets, particularly in the central South of Ethiopia, began to expand and you pushed into new territory. So you were going further east and further north. Even down to the borders in the south and the west, where it was hard to penetrate. And now the doors were open as the Gospel was going forth, this united the church that had been under persecution, came up, and exploded. 

RON: Okay, now you’ve told us the beginnings. Now give me the current. What are we looking at today? Is it one area? Is it across the country? Is it growing? How would you explain it to somebody that’s never been there before? 

LEADER: Well, Ethiopia is a unique place because you’ve had a history of where Christianity was strong a lot in the south area, and now you’re seeing like an explosion from the south and further away it goes. We don’t see it maybe as powerful yet, but you see it growing in capacity. And so you’re seeing down in the very strong Islamic areas in the south and the east we’re seeing a move of God’s spirit, and you’ve supporting some church planters and training these brothers and sisters who are embracing Christ and then saying, Hey, I gave my life to serve the military of our nation. How can I not give my life to go and be an ambassador, Jesus Christ?” And they’re crossing into enemy tribal territories where they can proclaim the Gospel of Christ as evangelists and church planters in that region. 

RON: Okay, so they’re going into these areas and they’re winning people to the Lord. Churches are popping up and are they like our churches here? When I say that, is it the same style, the same look? Or do they have a different look? 

LEADER: Well, when we have general evangelical church planting, which we’ve been part of for many years. We’ve partnered together to see that happen, and in some areas it looks like a church. It’s a celebration service. There’s a pulpit at the front or a platform. It might be very rustic. It’s not like our churches in North America, but it’s this simple little building where people gather and there’s expressive worship, and there’s dancing in their celebration, and there’s many of those churches. But paralleling that, those churches are now engaging in a contextual church planting movement among Muslim people groups, and what that means is you’re planting Christ into a community of people that continue to dress the same way, they meet in the same way, they encounter each other in the same way. Their fellowship is now shaped around Christ but in the same context they were before. So they’re sitting on the ground as they discuss religious things, before they’re sitting on the ground but now they’re discussing Christ. They used to read their holy books. Now they’re reading the Scriptures. They were discussing questions around their religion. Now they’re discussing questions around Christ. And what does it mean that Jesus is the son of God? What does it mean that Jesus is Lord? These aspects have transformed them as Jesus Christ has been planted. It’s not the culture of the church that’s been planted. It’s Jesus Christ planted, and they’re forming small communities. Many of them are house churches. Yes, some of them are not house churches, some of them become public gatherings in an Islamic community where Jesus Christ is being exalted as the Messiah, the Savior, the Lord. 

RON: When I have gone in with you, and we’ve sat in some of these houses, and you’re introducing me, saying this was a sheikh, this was a teacher in the mosque. This was this and you go down the list and you’re talking to leaders there that have come out of it. How did they come out? Was it all of a sudden? Intellectually they saw it? Or was there a miracle involved? 

LEADER: Well, we have a variety of ways, so let me give you a few stories, so there’s one brother I met with who was a former sheikh. He was a student. He had gone to Saudi Arabia and trained many times and he’d come back to Ethiopia and he was studying in his religious books and as he studied he saw this text that said Jesus had made a sparrow and had breathed life into this little sparrow made of mud, and the bird flew away. And as he said this, his heart was challenged by the question, is God the only creator or is there another, and over a series of time, a period of a few weeks he wrestled with this question and went back to study and it said there’s only one creator and that’s God. And the question to him was who is Jesus and that’s from his own background, his own religious books, his own religious study. And through that intellectual process, he came to a saving faith in Jesus Christ. 

RON: Okay.

LEADER: He gave his life to Christ, became a disciple of Jesus, got mentored and developed, had disciples in the church, and became a catalyst in his community. He still working in the Islamic community as a leader, but he is an evangelist in Christ.

RON: Okay, so truth drew him in, and the light went on. We call that illumination in theology, the illumination of the Holy Spirit came and that convinced him.

LEADER: Absolutely, and he began to search out others who had left Islam to follow Christ, and that helped him through the process but it was very much God engaged his mind. We have an area in the eastern portion of the country where this one Muslim leader who was involved in all of the spiritual activities and leading in different types of witchcraft and power, activities in the Islamic world. He was helping people to do all kinds of evil, and he could not help them to find their cattle. And this is something he could do all the time. And these people were struggling, like where did our cattle go? And as he was trying to do his incantations and whatever his, you know, witchcraft practices where he encountered Jesus Christ in a dream, or a vision. He sees Jesus challenge him. If you will follow me, you will find their cattle. Yes, now he’s looking for their cattle to try to get power over this family’s life. And here Jesus confronts him and says you follow me and you’ll find their cattle. And so he begins to surrender his life to Christ because he wants the cattle. And then Jesus says don’t take anything from that family, and he turns his life to Christ. And now he starts to lead a small community of Muslims who are looking to him to be the leader and he is now leading them to follow Christ.

RON: That’s amazing simply because we often think here in the West that there is one pathway, like you go to the Billy Graham crusade, you hear the message, you walk up to the front, you’re saved, that’s it, yes, but you’re telling me that in Ethiopia, God comes to them and finds them and searches them out. 

LEADER: Yes, and then God is calling some, and you would remember, you sponsored a number of camel schools, and you sent out a bunch of people who were trained as teachers with camels to go out among us, nomadic people groups, and move with them to be teachers and presenting the Gospel of Christ. And that was from an Islamic background they sensed the call to their own people, and so sometimes it’s these divine, without people, encounters that God is reaching out to people where they’re at through their intellect, through these powerful encounters, through these various ways. But other times, he’s working through other Muslims that he has brought to Christ, who now have become a representative of Christ back to their people group, and those schools went on in the eastern portion of the nation where there was more than 57,000 who turned to Christ over three years. 

RON: The camel School?

LEADER: The camels, the 12 camel schools then became disciple-making communities where the teacher was an evangelist winning people to Christ and by the means of education there was a doorway into that community of 57,000.

RON: That’s amazing. Okay, that is what many people would say is a revival, and you’re telling me that’s only a portion of the country? 

LEADER: Well, yeah, and that’s a few years back. What we’re seeing is God often will encounter the leaders with a supernatural, with a divine encounter, and it might be after somebody is challenged them that they go away, resisting and hard. As this brother up in the north, he was resistant to one of our brothers going out to disciple him, trying to challenge him with the Gospel, and he was leading a movement, and he rejected. And then God came and said, no go back to this brother, and that starts a movement. And it’s those leaders that God encounters that then become the catalyst for sharing Jesus Christ with their community. 

RON: Okay, now, brother, I’m going out with you a lot and we go out to these villages and I remember one time in the springtime we were sitting there and there was a group of these gentlemen who were leaders in the mosques, etcetera. They were all sitting around. I asked him a question like, Did you all have a vision?” Because everybody in the room was talking about their encounter through a vision or dream or something like that. I remember they had a little discussion amongst themselves when they said, Well, we’re sure there’s somebody somewhere but every leader we know has had some sort of we’ll call it a power encounter, a miracle, a vision, a dream, something to show that God was breaking through to talk to us, yes.” And that is the big thing I believe I learned from that encounter with those gentlemen is that God is seeking and searching for these people today like never before. 

LEADER: Absolutely, and this is a season where there is a lot to divine. In the Islamic world, what we are seeing in Ethiopia, but also in some other nations where there’s a network of people that are turning to Christ, if there is an attentiveness, there is an alertness that there is something, and maybe our Creator wants to show us something. And so there’s this openness, this sensitivity, and in that God is appearing with signs and wonders, miracles, the power encounter that the divine revelation to an individual’s life that I am the way, the truth, and the life. And that is drawing these brothers and sisters to Jesus Christ, but often it’s leaders, and with that there is often a greater amount of persecution, so in one of the situations a man went into a mosque where he was leading and he saw the vision of Christ confront him and he went out and struggled with this and gave his life to Christ and he went back into the mosque and this is all quite quick. He goes back into the mosque and begins to preach and tell them that this is wrong. We need to follow Jesus very boldly, very aggressively as a leader, and they took him out and they began to beat him and they attacked him with a machete and they threw him down a well. He should have been dead, and yet God reached down and held him so he didn’t hit the bottom, and he’s calling out, and some ladies going past with their donkeys laid down their ropes and brought this man out. And he’s not destroyed. He’s not wounded and he goes back into the village and goes back to the mosque, and they know what they’ve done to him and he’s standing there, not dead. And that miracle of his encounter with Christ caused him great persecution. But the result was the community turned to Christ, and we saw baptisms of 297 people from that village. 

RON: Okay, there’s couple of things here you touched on that we’ve got to expand on. First of all, baptisms. Let’s just start with that one. The people are baptized, but there’s not all that much water around all the time. So what do they do to show the baptism on display, shall we say, for everyone else to witness?

LEADER: It depends, what would they try to do is find somewhere where they could dam up a little bit of water. And if there’s a tiny river, if it’s rainy season, then they’ll try to plan a way that they could dam up a little bit of water and it doesn’t often have to be much. I mean it could be small as a bathtub where they could be baptizing people and oftentimes, when it’s the new people in a new region they’ll go to the mother church or the area that sent them where they could be baptized without causing too much offense to the community. 

RON: Disturbance.

LEADER: Disturbance to the community. But as they go, then they start to have baptisms so when you start getting a critical mass of 2025 people in the community, you can add baptisms. Yes, one or two, you’ll get everybody killed. Yeah, but you start getting numbers, yes, and you start seeing this term and then the community wakes up. So I remember back we had 429 Muslims baptized in one day. And they had come to faith they had come to the home church. They came in little trucks in the back in these different areas, and they came to the mother church because there’s no water in that area. Yeah, and as these 429 are being baptized they’re celebrating and they go back to their home areas. And when they came with a little bit of fear, trepidation, they go back singing and shouting, We are a new tribe, we are the tribe of Jesus,” and the community started to say like, Who are you? What have you got? How come you went without it?” And what started with 429 people going to encounter baptism, they went with fear and came back with confidence and they presented the Gospel to their community, and we saw a church planting movement spring up in that community. Amazing.

<p>Baptism in Ethiopia</p>
I mean it, be small as a bathtub where they could be baptizing people

RON: Okay, second point. The word of God, when I’m in there with you, we get requests all the time and there’s a dear brother that I’ve come to love. He’s in the southern part. He’s a leader down there and he said to me with this last time there was I need 300,000 Bibles, New Testaments, immediately, Ron.” And this was for the group that you’re talking about. Is this so that they can walk around with a Bible in their hand like it’s a holy book, or do they study the word of God and are transformed by it? Yeah, I’ve told people stories, but you are the expert. What happens to the Bibles?

LEADER: First, there’s hardly any Bibles, so they’re just a cry for the Scriptures. They’ve seen over 1.2 million people in that community come to faith in Jesus Christ in the last six years. We don’t have 1.2 million Bibles. We don’t have access to 1.2 million Bibles. Actually, they’re not asking for something to put on the shelves. They’re asking for the very word of God to be put in their hands, and when they get the Bible, there’s such a celebration. They treat it not just as a holy book, but as something special. Their very connection, how are we going to understand God? We have the Bible and I remember going into one of those communities where we were able to take some Bibles, Scriptures, and so we had these free boxes that you had provided us. We went out and there was a Church of over 800 people and we had 100 Bibles between the three boxes and we asked them how many of you have a Bible in this church is over a year old. We sent out the planter, planted the church, there’s over 800 members. How many of you have a Bible? 11 people in the entire church, 800 had a Bible and we didn’t have 790 Bibles. We only had 100, so they have a list. Who were the oldest people that would be able to be teachers to others and those 100 people that they had a list for. They went through them and now they had a list of more because they were hoping to bring more Bibles but only had 100 to take and we took the 100 Bibles and one by one we began to give out the Bibles to these people that had been disciples of Jesus and had no access to the Gospel. They took the Bible and with, you know, such reverence and honor they held the Bible up, and it wasn’t something they could put on the ground. It’s not something to put on the bench, they held it over their hearts and they’re holding onto their Scripture with celebration. Now when you go back and visit those places, there’s other places like that when you go back and visit them, you still see the Bible and it’s not in mint condition. It’s been read, it’s been studied, you see marks on the side where they’ve been opening and where they have little marks, they’re making these little pencil marks. You go to a training seminar for some of these that are going to be leaders and their Bible comes out and they’re so careful because this is their access, and if it’s gone, how would they ever know about the Gospel of Jesus Christ? 

RON: Whenever I travel anywhere in the world, I hate to see a new Bible. I’d rather go into churches and see worn-out Bibles because I know somebody has been turning a page, and I saw that. First of all, in China, and I’ve seen it in other countries of the world. When I’ve been in Ethiopia, I know that’s the case, what you just told me. I’ve been preaching and telling people all across this country. And it’s the same thing that these people are taking the word and making ink and paper into flesh and blood, and I just thank you for confirming that because it’s hard for us over here sometimes in the West to understand this hunger. And I want you to speak to that now when it comes to evangelism these people have a hunger for God themselves, but they also have a hunger to share it with their families. And I’ve noticed before that they’ve been sent out to go to their families who live in various areas around and they’ll take time off their work and give up their, shall we say, money in order to take the Gospel to their family and friends. Is that true? 

LEADER: Yes, so some of the most exciting things for me when I first went was we had just had a few church planters back then we didn’t have a lot of resources, but we would send out just one or two and that was all we had. But when we sent out one and we went down to visit this one, and this is for me burned into my mind as it is one of the first experiences that just symbolizes what happens. This church planter went out and he planted a church, and we went in three months and there was already three other churches that he had planted and when we followed up six months later, it’s nine months after the church had been planted, they had seven other churches planted and it was just in their DNA that we have found the Gospel of Jesus. It is transforming our life. How can we not give it to somebody else? Fast forward now to today. Year ago, two years ago, when you were with us, we’re going out and visiting some of these church planters and we’re pounding through these dirt roads into the middle of nowhere. Or you say, Where are we at?” We’re in the middle of nowhere and you get into this place where they’re meeting and there’s hundreds of people there. And we sat with them and we said, How long have you been going to this group?” They were almost going on for 70[JB1] years and we asked him, What was their vision?” and they identified seven other people that were planting. Now four had planted but three more we’re going to go plant and they were going in every direction, and we had worked with you to sponsor the one plant. But out of that one was seven more going up, and it’s not something that happened a long time ago or just happening now. It’s consistent. The Gospel touches them, and we set it up in northern Ethiopia, where the Islamic community wrestled with who Jesus is. It came to a belief as a community, we will follow Jesus the Messiah, and then they began to share with their neighbors and their relatives, and it went across the border into Sudan, and it wasn’t held by a border of a nation. We cannot let our relatives, our family, our friends there not know about what we have found in Jesus. And they began to spread it. It became like a little lion, where everyone was sharing with their friends. And as it got further and further away, it seemed like it was so disconnected, had nothing to do with what started in northern Ethiopia, but it started to spread out like a spider web, just going and going and going. And that’s the nature of knowing the transformation of a relationship with Jesus Christ 

RON: And you can’t plan this can you. How do you plan a spider web?

LEADER: You can’t. 

RON: And this is what people often criticize the work of the Spirit, in some of these countries where there’s an outpouring of the Spirit that’s so big it’s just going to go where God wants it to go and God will take care of his church in these situations. 

LEADER: Yes, and the strategy is where God is at work, let’s work. God is stirring in Ethiopia. He’s stirring among the Islamic community. He’s stirring around the historic religious background. He’s just stirring up where people are part of tribalism and witchcraft. And he is stirring. And this is a time that we have an opportunity in the middle of that stirring to present Jesus Christ.

RON: We’re going to go back for a second, to the planting of churches, and when we go back far, this is something new, isn’t it? It’s not something that was done traditionally, but is it effective in getting through to these people? Is it easier for them to believe in somebody? Great! 

LEADER: Yes, so one of the challenges we have in the church is we have a culture and oftentimes it’s hard to separate our culture from our faith. Our belief of Jesus Christ sometimes gets confused by the practices that we have. And what was happening was they would try to go out and try to make all these people like them culturally and the challenge was there’s people that would never respond because of the culture, not because of Christ and some of our brothers. Some of our good friends began to work and we would then work. They began to push new opportunities and new ways of engaging and this looks very different because they don’t meet on a Sunday with a pulpit or a platform at the front with a preacher shouting or a choir singing or this big, you know, front person with everybody watching and celebrating. It’s not like that and it might be a little bit less explosive than celebratory than we think church should be. But it’s very much centered in knowing Jesus Christ and as a community coming together around Christ and in the midst of that they keep their form of culture. And they worship Jesus in their own language, and they have their own way of expressing who Jesus is to them. But it is very clear, he is the Messiah. He is the Savior. He is the Lord. He is the son of God. He is not just a prophet. He’s not just a good man. They’ve come to understand Christ. And sometimes when the church was resisting, this model may be pushing back against it because it doesn’t look like us. And then we can’t claim it. It’s not, we can’t own it, it it’s not ours, but it is the body of Christ expanding? It’s the Kingdom of God taking new territory in. So we started to see a turn, the church began to embrace that this is not something outside of us, this is something bigger, this is something that God wants to do and so now the church is engaging and asking some of our brothers to come in and train them how can we better engage these cultures that are not like our culture. Their background is not the same. Their language or linguistic style is not the same. They want to engage Jesus Christ for those who don’t yet know. 

RON: This is why I came back to this issue because I wanted to ask you this question. Do you think, therefore, from what you just hinted at, that this could spread to other areas of Africa, the Middle East, down in the southern part? Do you think this is a launching point of what God is doing in Ethiopia today? 

LEADER: Absolutely, this is a season, and for me, I think God is stirring something from Ethiopia. To the nations and what it is, it’s not just a move of God’s Spirit. We’ve seen the move of God’s Spirit, absolutely. But when God is moving by his Spirit, he’s doing something new and the new way is bringing people specifically from the Islamic background to know Jesus Christ. And what happens is, as we respect their culture, but we present them with Jesus Christ, they are being transformed. And what we see in Ethiopia is not unique to Ethiopia. So if we look across from Ethiopia, there’s a network not a Facebook or a Twitter, but a genuine relational network of people who know people who know people and what we’re starting to see is going down the coast of Africa, coming down from Sudan through Eritrea, Djibouti, Somalia, Kenya. It’s on the Islamic coast all the way down to South Africa and there is a move of God’s Spirit, small numbers. It’s just starting. It’s not large, but it’s the seed of the Gospel going into a culture and beginning to turn their hearts not to a new culture, not to Western culture, but to Jesus Christ. 

Whenever I travel anywhere in the world, I hate to see a new Bible.

RON: And this is where we’re getting into the future, as we’ve done in the past. We’ve done the present. What God is doing there now, but from what I’m hearing from you is hope now, because we’ve always painted the Muslim world, sub-Saharan Africa, especially in the Muslim-speaking parts of that, as being impenetrable with the Gospel. But do you think God now is finding a way to get through? 

LEADER: Absolutely, and I think some of it is, we think impenetrable because we want to do it our way, yes, and God is saying, Hey, I’m doing work, come and join Me.” And what’s that He’s doing? It looks different in each culture, looks different in each context, but what’s happening is Jesus Christ is building an incarnational relationship. With those individuals, so he’s going into cities where people have said, You know Islam is our religion,” and He’s saying, But I’m the one who’s calling you,” and he’s drawing them to him. 

RON: This is a breath of fresh air because I grew up in an era when you never even thought about a group of people from this background, accepting the Lord. You grew up thinking if one does, that’s a miracle. If two does, this is super miracle. In other words, when you’re talking here about 1.2 million in one part of southern Ethiopia, from this background, all coming to Christ. I don’t even know how to put words around that because this is something that is greater than anything we’ve ever even dreamt of before in missions. 

LEADER: Yes, and what happens when we celebrate the one, the two, we usually celebrate that they’ve come in and joined us, yes, but I think Jesus doesn’t want them just to come and join us. I think he wants us to take Jesus to them and it doesn’t touch the one. It doesn’t touch the two. It touches the one community and that might be 5000. That might be 10,000 or 100,000 and as Jesus goes into that community, he touches that community and from that community the neighboring community, and so we don’t see one church. We see seven churches. We don’t see a movement of one person. We see a movement, 100 people, or 1000 people, or a million people. God is stirring. That way, and it’s us that needs to change sometimes. We get excited and pray for God to change somebody else, but it’s us changing so that we are receptive to what God wants to do among the people that he’s placed us. 

RON: Okay, let’s move on as we’re wrapping this up. I want to ask you then how can we, I am going to use this word, empower the work of God in that area? The church of Jesus Christ, what do they need right now, and how can we, those that are listening to this right now, how can we help what God is doing?

LEADER: Three things and we talked about this before, but let me tell you the three number one things. We need Scriptures and Empower has been releasing the Scriptures for us. We thank you for that partnership. That is a transformational release of the Scriptures into the work of the Lord. The second thing we need is training, yes, as we help the church to understand we are to take the Gospel out, not invite everybody in and that changes our culture, and so training those that go and we’re training the new disciples that are coming in. We need to train these Muslim leaders that have come to Jesus Christ. They need to be trained. They’re the teachers of teachers in their community. 

RON: Okay, now stop here because you’ve talked to me before about getting together. This group of 1000 teachers and they’re going to go out and touch this many communities and my mind blows up when I’m thinking you’re getting 1000 guys sitting in a field for a week. Topics, people that are listening to this podcast. What does that look like? 

<p>Ethiopia women holding up Bibles</p>
We need Scriptures and Empower has been releasing the Scripture for us.

LEADER: Well, they often gather them in smaller groups so they can have people in the same language grouping and same community and culture to work through the challenges. So 1000 people doesn’t always mean 1000 people at one time. Okay, it means that 1000 people in two weeks. Between these, you know six or eight or whatever locations. Okay, so let me give you a couple of examples. These last few years we’ve had a movement of God in the north, and there’s a number of different tribes or language groups that are coming to faith in Christ, and their leaders are coming and they’ve asked us to do some basic discipleship training and then to do some leadership training so that we can train their leaders to steward the movement of God among them, and so that’s biblical teaching. That’s theological teaching. That’s laying out how they can move forward, and they’re asking a lot of questions, but we tried to do it at training and we said, okay, we can’t. We can’t do a lot. We’re going to start with the discipleship training of 12,000. Well, more than 20,000 came and then we said, Okay, we need to 20,000,” and then we said, okay, do we want to just work with the trainers?” Because each of these different language groups needs people in their own community to be the trainers. We limited it to 800 that were going to come as trainers. And when we gathered the 800 in these five or six different locations more than 2000 total came because they said no. We also will be training in our community. And, you know, that’s beyond our resource capacity. We’re limiting it to 800 for resource reasons. They said, No, no, we’re just coming. We’ll sleep on the floor. We don’t need the material, you get the material for us another time. We need to know so that we can be training our people and into those communities, many of them we don’t have the Scriptures and so we need the Scriptures and we need training.” And the third thing we need is we need to be able to resource servants of God, church planters, as workers to take the Gospel. We have the ability with a small amount of resources to send out a church planter and this might be one of tribal background that’s going into their community, their tribal group, their family, where they’re going to plant the kingdom of God they’re going to establish a local community of disciples.

RON: You say we’re sending them in, they are effective from there after they were there for about 10 years, and they’ve learned the language and all this. Then they’re effective. That’s the usual standard. I’m saying that facetiously, simply because I know very well that when they hit the ground, their first footstep on the ground they’re witnessing, and they’re starting to reach out to their people. What can you expect in save the first year or two that we’re giving them support for $80 a month for their family? What do you expect? 

LEADER: Well, generally we expect in a year that a church will be established. We’re expecting that’s the minimum. There’s going to be a church established. That worker is going to be supported from their local church that they’ve established. Okay, that’s the expectation. Now that doesn’t always look the way we think, so that can look like a community of people meeting on Sunday under a tree. And there might be 100 or 200 and you remember some of those experiences where we’ve gone and sat under a tree with a 100 or 200, whatever amount of people, as they worship Christ and it might also look like a town with six or seven little houses in the town where people are meeting together and there are six or seven house churches that form the Church of that town, and they meet privately because the persecution is so high, but they so desperately. want to meet together to discuss Jesus Christ and that worker carries the Gospel like that. Oftentimes, as you were, you know, from Empower you’ll support somebody at it might not finish their term even of a year, and they’ve already gone off support because they’ve been able to raise up people. And now we have to say, Hey, we’re gonna support somebody else here.” That’s why we never give names except we don’t even know who’s going get it sometimes. And they’re changing because people are coming to faith in Christ and the church is being raised up. They said, We don’t need money. Yeah, we’ve planted, send someone else.” And so we’ve been able to send many hundreds, thousands, even from the partnership with Empower over the years. To start the church in places where the church does not exist. 

RON: Bibles. So it’s the big three in Ethiopia today. Yes, let me just wrap this up. I just will ask you one more question and this one I think you can answer very well. Do you have hope for the future? 

LEADER: Oh yeah, my hope, as I see it is what God is doing in Ethiopia, doesn’t end at the borders and what we see creeping up into Sudan is going to spread all across North Africa. And so we have 357 million unreached in Africa. The majority of those are North Africa. The majority of those are Islamic background people and they need the same light that is shining in Ethiopia today, and my hope, my expectation, I’m filled with faith. I’m filled with excitement because what God is doing here, he’s going do there what God has been doing in Ethiopia where he’s been touching these communities that have been resistant and opposed. God is going to do in these nations of North Africa, he’s going do through the Middle East. He’s going to work in Central Asia. I have an expectation of that because we have watched the love of God poured out for people who do not yet know him. And he’s given us, he’s entrusted us, with Jesus Christ. 

RON: Thank you so much for being with me here today and with all our friends that are listening to this. I think what the church needs to know here in America and in Canada is this, that there’s an enthusiasm, an excitement, not just in us talking about it, but in the Church of Jesus Christ. In these hot spots, these spiritual hotspots around the world, there’s a new enthusiasm that they’ve never experienced before. This is a brand-new day in missions and you personify it and you explain it so very well and I thank you for your service over there and your service to the Lord. But thank you for being our friend and thank you for being part of the Empower family. God bless you, hey man, thank you very much.

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