While driving back from a weekend of ministry in a town called Goha Tsion, we learned from a church planter with us that just yesterday (Sunday) a mini-bus crashed into another vehicle on the same route we were taking. 13 people died and 4 are in critical condition. I was able to get a picture of the vehicles as we drove by, although the picture doesn’t illustrate just how devastating the crash really was. It was a reminder to us all of just how quickly life can change. These people were headed to the big city of Addis Ababa, but God had a different destination for those 13 people yesterday—I hope they all went to Jesus. Please pray for the 4 in critical condition.
Hearing about those deaths and seeing the wreckage gave impetus to the ministry Selamab and I are doing here. Death is coming, and Christ is our only hope. Church leaders sit before us, and heaven or hell is at stake. Some of the men who came this past weekend walked 5 to 6 hours just to get to a spot where we picked them up for the final part of the journey to the mud church building where we met (with a mud floor covered with grass and eucalyptus tree branches which provided a nice aroma). They are now returning to their churches and probably re-teaching some of our messages. So you can see why I say heaven or hell is at stake when we teach these leaders. If we get things wrong, so will they, and precious souls could be harmed greatly. May God help us to teach sound doctrine.
We were grateful to the main leader (named Sema) who arranged the meetings in Goha Tsion because we had about as much teaching time as we could physically handle. Including 2 sessions Sunday morning, we taught 8 times total (Friday to Sunday). For most of the sessions Friday and Saturday, either Selamab or I would teach, and then there would be a Q & A time. So each session was anywhere from 1 and a half hours to 2 hours and 45 minutes (one of Selamab’s sessions!). What a joy to just teach and teach and these men really didn’t get antsy. At one point, Selamab had about a 2 hour session, and they encouraged us not to take a break but to keep going. So, I got up and had about a 1 and a half hour session.
Though Selamab and I didn’t work things out beforehand, what we are each teaching is going together quite nicely because we are addressing fairly different subjects. He has been teaching through the opening chapters of Mark essentially answering the question, “Who is Jesus?” You can imagine just how important this teaching is for these leaders to hear. For two of my sessions, I addressed the issues of elders in church life (1 Thessalonians 5:12-13 and Acts 20:28), and then for one session I taught about sexual immorality and the need to deal with that sin radically in order to avoid going to hell (Matthew 5:27-30). I wasn’t expecting to teach that message on sexual immorality, but a couple of the main leaders communicated to us about how lenient even some of the church leaders are in this area. Well, I sensed the Spirit’s help in that message especially. One man told Selamab yesterday that our 3 days of teaching was like a year’s worth to him. What an encouraging testimony that is to us!
I forgot to mention that Selamab was preaching with a translator (from his Amharic into Aromo), so guess what that meant for me? Two translators! I have preached with two translators twice before (two messages, I think), but never for a whole conference. I learned quickly that I had to really simplify my messages, and that it is incredibly straining mentally. However, we really believed God was at work in all of the messages because the questions that came during each of the Q & A times revealed to us that these leaders were hearing from the Lord. Nevertheless, I’m looking forward to teaching with only one translator this coming weekend.
Perhaps you may be interested to see some of the questions I received during the Q & A times:
“What do you think about elders who won’t read the Bible with believers who can’t read?”
“What should we do for church members who can’t read?”
“What should be done about women in the church who are immodest and make it difficult for men not to lust?”
“Do you think women can serve as elders or evangelists? What ministry can women do in the church?”
We will rest tomorrow and then Wednesday we are looking forward to sharing a meal with Jeremy Fruechting and his family. They have recently moved to Ethiopia from St. Joseph so that Jeremy can teach in a theological school. On Thursday afternoon, we travel to Selamab’s hometown—Hosanna. We will teach there all day Friday and Saturday, and then I think the plan is for each of us to preach in two different churches on Sunday.
Right now I hear a local imam chanting a ridiculous prayer through a loud speaker, and I’m sure hundreds are listening approvingly. Satan is at work. They are enslaved to sin. This story is playing out in people’s lives all over this globe, whether they are worshipping Allah or money or a false Christ. But God’s kingdom is advancing. Jesus is building His church. We sat in a very primitive home yesterday and listened as an old church planter (trained by Selamab’s father) shared with us the severe persecution he endured many years ago. He told us all of the gruesome, bloody details, but God gave him strength to persevere.
Selamab and I are so grateful to get to play a teeny-tiny part in God’s redemptive program, but we genuinely need your prayers.