Tuesday-Wednesday, September 20-21, 2011
Selamab Assefa and I were eager to head back together to Ethiopia (We took our first trip together last year.). We flew from Kansas City to Washington, D.C, then to Frankfort, Germany, and then on to Addis Ababa, the capital city. We arrived at night and were happy to see our luggage riding down the conveyor belt. Selamab’s brother and a friend greeted us warmly once we passed through all of the security checks. The scene at the airport for arrivals is similar to when a soldier comes home in the states. People are extremely excited to see their family members or friends who have flown in, and they fill a section of the airport and jostle for position to get a first glimpse of their loved ones.
After Selamab’s brother asked about my family and informed me that I looked like I had gained weight (his way of telling me I look healthy!), we all piled in to a cab and headed to the missionary guesthouse that we enjoy while staying in Addis.
Thursday, September 22, 2011
A cold shower greeted me on this morning (because I wasn’t smart enough to figure out how to make it warm), but a hot breakfast quickly followed. One of the joys of staying at the missionary guesthouse, which is somewhat like a dormitory, is meeting missionaries and others who are in Africa for ministry. Over breakfast we conversed with an orthopedic surgeon who just arrived to the country, plus a missionary to Muslims in Egypt who knew Selamab when he was just a baby.
After exchanging our money (at the time of our trip, one US dollar equaled 17.07 birr [Ethiopian currency]), Selamab and I headed out for the SIM printing shop in order to see Pursuing God in Amharic (the main language in Ethiopia ) for the first time. Selamab put in many hours translating this book that has been instrumental in many conversions, so it was a joy to see it ready for distribution in Ethiopia.
We then headed over to Selamab’s brother’s and sister-in-law’s house for our first opportunity to share in some authentic Ethiopian food. One of the joys of our time in Ethiopia is fellowship with Selamab’s wonderfully hospitable family.
Friday, September 23, 2011
Today we left very early for a weekend of ministry north of Addis up in the mountains in a fairly primitive town called Dangla. We picked up Feru, an Ethiopian pastor who is also a coordinator for 100 churches in the mountains north of Addis Ababa. He arranged for us to speak to church leaders in Dangla.
We left at 6:30 am, and after a stop for breakfast, another for lunch, and then a traffic jam that lasted over an hour, we arrived in Dangla at 6 pm. We drove off of the paved main street to streets of mud (which is why we have to rent a driver with a 4-wheel drive vehicle) and we walked through mud to get to the church building made of sticks and… mud! The building was full of church leaders from various churches and denominations around town. After introductions, Selamab taught First Timothy 1.
Saturday, September 24, 2011
At breakfast I discussed with Feru about his church work in his hometown. He explained how his church used to have a large gathering every Sunday for the church members, but it was becoming difficult for some of the people to have to pay two taxis in order to make it. Many of these people out in the countryside are very poor and most do not own a vehicle. Feru then asked these church members about the possibility of instead meeting in some of their homes each week. They now have 5 different home meetings that constitute the main meetings of the church (plus a more typical meeting for the rest of the church in their building on Sunday mornings). Feru commented, “They are growing in that setting more than they ever did in a once a week large gathering.” I encouraged him to consider training men and asking God for more elders who would be able to lead each home group.
In the first session today, Selamab taught 1 Timothy 2 to the Dangla church leaders. After lunch, we had coffee in the home of the host pastor of the conference. He shared his story of conversion and how God led him to become a pastor. To close out our gathering in his home, Selamab prayed for this pastor and his family, plus the other believers who had gathered there. He prayed in Amharic, so I did not understand what he said, but he later told me that the emphasis of his prayer was to ask God to give these people grace to persevere for Christ.
I taught the first part of a message on Acts 14:21-28 in the afternoon session. Feru translated as I preached. We spent perhaps an hour before the message talking through what I would preach and clarifying terms and illustrations so that he would be able to smoothly translate into Amharic.
Sunday, September 25, 2011
Selamab preached this morning at the church hosting us for the weekend. He preached the entire chapter of First Timothy 4. In the afternoon, I concluded our time in Dangla by teaching the church leaders the second part of a message through Acts 14:21-28. In the evening, we drove partway back to Addis before stopping at a hotel. Selamab and I rejoiced together as we discussed the events of the weekend. We both sensed God’s grace on our ministry in Dangla.
Monday, September 26, 2011
We drove the final 6 hours today back to Addis Ababa. The sites were stunning, especially driving through the Blue Nile Gorge.
Tuesday, September 27, 2011
This morning we drove to Tulu Bolo, a town in central Ethiopia, for several hours of teaching church planters and pastors. Before I taught, Selamab showed the pastors Pursuing God in Amharic. Every pastor went home with a copy at the end of the day, and they were extremely glad to have this.
The morning session was about two hours. I again taught Acts 14:21-28, this time with Selamab translating. After 1.5 hours of teaching (I stopped after an hour and they told me to keep going!), we then answered questions from the church leaders. Most of their questions concerned what I had said about the phrase “And when they had appointed elders for them in every church” (Acts 14:23). There is significant confusion in Ethiopian churches about church leadership, so this was an opportunity to look together at what the scriptures say.
After lunch, I finished teaching Acts 14:21-28. Again, questions were asked. Selamab and I both answered, always seeking to direct the men to what the Head of the church says. Late in the afternoon, we returned to Addis Ababa.
Wednesday, September 28, 2011
As I mentioned previously, breakfast at the missionary guesthouse is very enjoyable. Today we conversed with believers from Switzerland, England, Australia, and America. Selamab and I enjoyed hearing about their ministries, plus conversing about the negative aspects of what many have called “the seeker sensitive church.”
After breakfast, Selamab shared some surprising news. We were expecting to preach 4 times with one question and answer session over the next few days in a local church in Addis Ababa where we had previously ministered, but these meetings were unexpectedly canceled. We gathered together, thanked God for all that He was doing, and asked Him for further opportunities. During that prayer meeting, we discussed how God had used conversations and even small gatherings in homes or churches in our lives to grow us up in Christ. So we asked God to give us opportunities over the next three days that, though they may not be larger gatherings, would be significantly helpful in the lives of some believers here in Addis.
We gathered together for a big lunch at Selamab’s brothers house (today was a national holiday), and Selamab’s best friend from theological school, Getachew Hagos, was there. Getachew has a ministry of going out into the countryside and training pastors. For several hours Selamab and I enjoyed both encouraging and receiving encouragement from him. God was already answering our prayer from the morning. Furthermore, Getachew has stated that Selamab and whoever else comes with him when he visits is welcome to come out to the countryside and train pastors as a guest of his ministry.
Thursday-Friday, September 29-30, 2011
The Lord continued to answer our prayers for impromptu, but significant, meetings with people. For example, the leaders of Selamab’s church when he lived in Addis Ababa (in Akaki) asked Selamab and I to teach them for one hour both Thursday and Friday morning. We decided that it would be best for Selamab to teach the first session while I stayed back at the guesthouse and dialogued around the breakfast table with various missionaries and people in ministry. Not only did Selamab teach these church leaders through First Timothy 1, but he also firmly warned them of the dangers of certain Nigerian church leaders who are negatively influencing Ethiopians through the television. On Friday morning, I taught the church leaders from John 10.
Saturday-Sunday, October 1-2, 2011
Selamab’s father started a church in a town called Ambo a few decades ago. We traveled to this church to preach two services on Sunday. Selamab preached to about 500 people in the morning meeting. Since the primary language in this town is Oromo, Selamab needed a translator for the first time on this trip. In the afternoon meeting, I preached to about 250 people. My English words were translated first into Amharic, then Oromo. The fellowship with the leadership of this church was warm and encouraging, and the people seemed to receive the teaching well. We were also delighted to see more than 90 copies of Pursuing God in Amharic purchased by the church members.
Monday-Tuesday, October 3-4, 2011
After buying gifts for family back in the States, Selamab and I began packing our things together and getting ready for the long trip home. After saying our final goodbyes to his family, we loaded down a tiny taxi with our luggage and squeezed in for a short ride to the airport.
The time in Ethiopia went quickly, but we sensed God’s blessing throughout. We were especially encouraged on this trip with the distribution of Pursuing God in Amharic, and also the positive impact our ministry seemed to have on the countryside pastors.