For 17 days I along with 20 other dedicated souls went to the end of the earth in Ethiopia, Africa to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
What an experience. To say that it was “life-changing” almost seems to be an understatement. However, that is what I’ll go with at this point. There is so much I learned about myself, the Lord and humanity that it would take a month of posts to begin to tell the stories.
What I’d like to do is summarize a few things I learned. I will seek to expound on these in the days ahead.
First, I was astounded at the love and commitment of the Christians in Halame, Ethiopia. This is a mountain village about 4,000 above sea level. A place that is shrouded in fog for many days of the year because of its altitude. It never got out of the 50’s while the little team of four (of which I was a part) were there.
Hard to believe…but, true…50 degree weather in Africa! Check out the beauty…
But, here is something that struck me and that I feel is nonetheless wise. There are no altar calls in Ethiopia like we have them in many of our churches here in America. There are no decision cards, no “bow your heads, close your eyes, repeat this prayer after me” kind of evangelism. It’s simple and I believe Biblical. The Elders say, “Great! Go home…pray…receive Christ and then we’ll watch your life.” Wow!! Are you serious? Yep!! They are VERY serious! They want no wolves in their sheep pen. They are looking for fruit. Jesus said, “You will know them by the fruit they bear.” Wow! This seems so simple and clear. But, in America…we’re looking for converts…not disciples. Jesus said, “Go and make DISCIPLES of all nations…” That’s right…”Disciples” not “Converts.” I don’t mean to be playing semantics here…but, the truth is…we have “Americanized” Christianity by making it mostly about the numbers and not the disciples. More on this in the days ahead.
In the meantime…just read the book of Acts to see what the first church was all about. No altar calls…no massive crusades…just people “daily” leading people to Christ by meeting together (showing hospitality) in each other’s homes and fellowshipping together. Don’t believe me? Take a look:
42They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. 44All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. 46Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
Did you catch it… They added to their number daily? What were they doing? Making converts? Nope… They were making disciples and they were bringing people into their homes. That’s what they do in Africa…they show hospitality. What do we do in America. Run!! Wide open!! 24/7. We don’t have time to slow down and lead someone to Jesus. We don’t even have time to eat together as a family in our homes…much less invite someone over and tell them about Jesus and disciple them. What’s wrong with this picture? We’re just too busy!
You know busy…B-U-S-Y…Buried Under Satan’s Yoke. We’ve got to slow down and really think about what is important in this life. What we do for Jesus is all that is going to matter in heaven. The rest is going to burn. Amen? Being in Halame and Shule and Soyama taught me this lesson very clearly. Here is a lady showing us hospitality by serving us some tea.
Is the life simple in Africa? Yes. And hard! Yet…the unencumbered way in which the Christians live there is so enamoring to me. Look at the children’s faces. They have “nothing,” yet they have everything if they have Jesus! Right? Me too!
Look at how the people celebrated our arrival in the mountains!
I choose not to put the Ethiopians on a pedestal, because no one should be placed there for the certainty of failing. However, I look at how we live. Running…running…running. Where???? I’ll let you decide. But here is a lady (a momma with her baby in tow) that memorized 9 passages of Scripture just to earn a Bible. That’s 9 “passages” of Scripture…not 9 verses. When’s the last time you or someone you know set it in your mind to memorize a verse of Scripture. We wouldn’t do that for a Bible. Maybe a cruise…but, not a Bible.
For me…I see that as I have come back “from the end of the earth” back to America, I see more clearly than ever that the priority in the life of the Christian must be Jesus and His kingdom. It’s that simple.
And you know what? If we’ll seek His kingdom first…everything else we need will be taken care of for us!! (Matthew 6:33)