[To view photos from this trip click here.]
As you undoubtedly know we arrived safely in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on the morning of Wednesday, September 22 from Freetown, Sierra Leone after an all night flight on Kenya Air that took us through Nairobi. I might say that Rita and I were unexpectedly blessed by being assigned seats in Business Class where the seats were extra roomy and the reclinability was very comfortable. Burt was in Economy, but he had three empty seats all to himself. It wasn’t exactly a picnic but we do appreciate the favor the Lord gave us as we did rest more comfortably. We were met at the airport by Sister Nigest (who had been organizing the conference for us), her husband Henok (Enoch) and Brother Jemal, who transported us in two cars to the SIM Guest House where we will sleep and can take meals for the duration of our stay here. SIM is an international missionary organization and it is here that we meet a variety of evangelical missionaries, some of whom are ministering to the Ethiopian people in remote and distant stations.
We did not have any meetings the first day but we rested up and were oriented to our quarters. Here we seem to have fairly reliable electricity from a municipal source but a backup generator is available (our host’s house in Sierra Leone was totally powered by a private generator). However, there is no internet service available to us in this small “compound”; that will be available to us by walking about a mile to the Ras Hotel where we stayed the last time we were here three years ago. The bathrooms and showers (there are 8 cubicle/stalls together) are a walk down the hall. Thank God there is running water, both hot and cold. The good news is that there seem to be no mosquitoes here as the climate is drier and considerably cooler. A long sleeve shirt and sweater are sometimes welcome, quite a contrast from Sierra Leone’s heat and humidity. The locals say that this is the beginning of their “winter” season. We are also reminded that this is the beginning of their new year of 2003, which started at Rosh Hashanah, September 9th, the day we left home.
We were also given our meeting schedules. Our meetings will be held in a chapel in the same building in which we are staying. So from Thursday the 23rd through Monday the 27th we will hold the meetings all morning from 8:30 AM through noon, except that Sunday’s meeting will be in a church elsewhere. I had forgotten how they count the hours of the day until Brother Jemal told me that he would pick us up at 3 in the morning for a meeting at 4 in the morning (that’s 9 AM and 10 AM in our understanding).
So the first meeting commenced on Thursday morning. There were about 30+ who attended the meeting, only about 2 or 3 of whom we had met previously. Most of the attendees were mature adults and a goodly number were evangelical pastors (the leading man (Girma) of the organization affiliated with the place we are staying said that he was a Baptist and that his wife had been miraculously healed by God). The meetings were divided into two sessions with a 15 minute break between. I opened the first session by introducing the principles of the Kingdom of God. Burt took the next meeting and spoke on how God is fulfilling His purpose for mankind in this time. Both sessions generated a lot of questions and we could see that there seemed to be a genuine interest among the people. Because the questions seemed to be taking so much time, the people agreed that the final meeting on Monday would be reserved for questions exclusively. At this point we are quite encouraged by the reception of the word that we are bringing. We believe that God is working in this situation and that God will indeed have end time overcomer sons of God in Ethiopia.
So likewise the second meeting on Friday morning, I spoke on Growing into Sonship and Burt spoke on Progressing in God, using the Tabernacle as explaining new birth and moving on from there. On Saturday morning I spoke on God’s Order for Church Leadership and Burt went on from where he left off yesterday in a message we will call Personal Relationship with God. As this is the last of the teaching ministry until Monday we can make a few observations. The listening audience has gone from about 30 to about 20. There are some who seem very interested in the word but we cannot see every man’s motives. One man said that he has already done some translation of one of the Revelation books and would like to do more. He looks real promising. When we went to lunch at Nigest and Henok’s home after the Saturday meeting we were informed that all copies of the Amharic language translation of the Pattern are gone and another printing will be necessary (I consider that good news). Those who are attending the teaching sessions are also clamoring for more audio recording and printed literature. We are recording the sessions and when edited we can send them back to these brethren. The brethren in Sierra Leone recorded the meetings on MP3 discs which we will also be able to return to the hearers. The 50 # box of media that I brought to be divided between here and Sierra Leone all disappeared in a matter of minutes.
Rita and I have been eating breakfast in the dining room at the center here. We have met an interesting variety of “missionaries” and other believers and have learned some very interesting things about what God is doing in parts of the world that we may never visit. For example we met and fellowshipped with a Spirit filled Christian man from Cairo, Egypt. He reported that God is very much alive in this country and he explained the difficulty of converting from Islam to Christianity. He said that the official government issued ID of most Islamic countries includes one’s religion. If one of a married couple is listed as Islamic, the children born to them are required to take Islamic religious classes at school. In order to get this religious designation changed one has to go before an Islamic judge – almost impossible. So what do they do?
If they stay they try to instruct their children in the ways of Christ at home. Many try to flee, their only hope to really be free. There is much persecution and death. Leaving Islam is considered one of the worst of their sins. So some are officially listed as Islamic, but are really born again Christians.
He also told us that in what I best remember to be Iran or Iraq, that the government decided to allow the showing of Mel Gibson’s Passion of Christ in the theaters, apparently because they believed it would show the Israelis in a very bad light (as they had killed the Christian’s God). He was in the theater when it was shown. Until the intermission there was not much reaction. But when the film finished it got very quiet and there was much weeping– many began to believe in Jesus Christ “if He suffered this much for me”. God has apparently used this film for His divine purpose.
We also met a medical missionary couple who have spent 38 years in the Dominican Republic. The man has traveled extensively into Islamic countries with the “blindness assistance and prevention program” that they are involved with. He said the Koran encourages belief in Jesus. He said you can more easily call yourself a follower of Jesus, than to say you are a “Christian”, which is taken by them to represent a political position. They have reported that entire mosques have taken to belief in Jesus including the imam. It has also brought much persecution and death from their fellow countrymen.
So now it is Sunday. We have been invited by Jamel to attend a Pentecostal church and also an opportunity to speak. Since I have been dealing with an intestinal upset, I decided at the last minute that it would be more prudent to stay here at the guest house. I believe now I am the only soul in the building; it should be good for rest. However Burt brought a good word and at 1 PM they picked me up and we were taken to Fickary’s house for an excellent meal and fellowship with friends and the extended family. It was here that they introduced us to a man (Brother “Rain”) whom they called an “evangelist”. He said that he drives a large truck into the neighboring countries such as Somalia and Sudan, where he preaches and witnesses to people as he has opportunity. He has come out of all church systems and teaches a small Bible study in his home. He was able to attend our meeting the next day.
So on Monday the 27th we had our final meeting. Burt and I both shared again and we poured our hearts out to the faithful brethren (about 20) who are still coming. They said that they believe the word and we challenged them to put it into practice. We are encouraged by their response but it will all be judged by the fruit. We have sown the seed; God will be the one to send the water and it will not return unto Him void.
One of the men, Tilahun Habtemariam is a white haired man about 65 years old. He is a pastor in a local Pentecostal church. He attended all of the meetings faithfully. He has already begun to translate the first volume of the Revelation books into Amharic and said he is interested in doing more. While talking with him during the break he revealed that he was a Christian during the communist years. He said he was put in prison for one year for preaching the gospel. He said they took him outside the prison house to execute him. Two guards each had guns with bullets but both the guards began to tremble with fear and were unable to carry out their task. Here is a man who knows the meaning of laying down one’s life.
So tomorrow will be no more meetings. Our flight back to Prague leaves here at about 10:50 PM, so we should have plenty of time to pack. This will be another of those all night flights but God will be gracious to us. After a few days in Prague Burt will go on to the Philippines and Rita and I will go on to Germany where we will spend nearly 3 weeks ministering and visiting with families and individuals. Hopefully internet service will be more available to us there so we should be able to keep everyone informed of our whereabouts.
Our love, thanks and blessing to all,
Mark and Rita Jantzi