One of my most treasured Bible verses is Hebrews 2:14-16. I have made some sections bold for emphasis. I find that the New Living Translation has the clearest rendering of the meaning:
“Because God’s children are human beings—made of flesh and blood—
the Son also became flesh and blood.
For only as a human being could he die,
and only by dying could he break the power of the devil,
who had the power of death. Only in this way could
he set free all who have lived their lives as slaves to the fear of dying.
We also know that the Son did not come to help angels;
he came to help the descendants of Abraham.”
Personally, I hold onto Jesus and this verse tightly when I encounter dangerous situations in my travels around the world. (And I have been in quite a few.) Jesus came to help me, a spiritual child of Abraham, so that I won’t be paralyzed or consumed by the fear of dying. The Holy Spirit provides me with an incredible amount of calmness at the moment of peril. It is more than simply a momentary jolt of adrenalin. I must admit though, afterwards, when I look back on the hazardous event I just came through, I usually experience a flash of fear. But that subsides quickly as the Holy Spirit moves in to dispel Satan’s darts. The fear that I would naturally experience is not debilitating or paralyzing, because God encapsulated it in the “calmness” of the Holy Spirit.
There are billions of devout, religious people around the world who are literally “scared to death” of dying. All the great world religions and their offshoot philosophies promise peace like a river, but none of them—no not one—can satisfy the human soul when it approaches eternity. The “river of peace” that the world religions guarantee turns out to be nothing more than a dry creek bed. A monk once told me, “I’m afraid of living because I can’t obey all the religious laws I have to follow; and I’m afraid of dying because I know judgment awaits me.”
Here is where believers in Christ shine. As the Bible states in Hebrews, Jesus, the Son of God, came in flesh and blood to secure our salvation and break the devil’s power of death over us. I am no slave of Satan or death, but I am a bondservant of Christ. Therefore, I keep my eyes fixed on my Master, and He will give me the strength to overcome this present world calamity. We, as believers, will come out of this “mess” as victors in Christ, and we will walk through the darkness with the calmness that the Holy Spirit supplies. And here is another of my favorite verses, found in Zechariah 4:6 NKJV:
“Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,” says the Lord of hosts.
At the time of writing, our national church leaders informed me that their outreach and church planting efforts continue as usual, with no noticeable interruptions.
According to the government, there are presently 43 known cases of coronavirus in the country.
Though numbers of those infected are very low, in light of the pandemic, some adjustments have been made in Ethiopian society. Mostly as a reaction to international news, some businesses are slowing down, schools are closed, public gatherings are prohibited, and only 50% of the shops are open on any given day.
Fear is beginning to mount primarily in cities, rather than rural settings. Despite some tension, believers remain steadfast in their faith and are working hard to spread the Gospel throughout the land, with great success.
The Good News ‒ taken from an interview with three key national church leaders:
In all areas of the country, within every people group and from all the major religions, there is a mighty move of God, the scale and depth of which have never been experienced before in the country. An immense hunger, for God and the Truth, is spreading everywhere. This hunger has been growing for several years now, even before the coronavirus' appearance. The pandemic is only amplifying the need for people to receive Christ in the face of this life-threatening event.
The distribution of Bibles is going exceptionally well. Especially in rural settings, groups of religious leaders who haven't had a Bible up to now, study the Word of God together in small gatherings. One key leader put it this way:
"The hunger for Bibles is everywhere in the nation! The Bible distribution
around the country is having amazing results, with people's hearts
being opened to the Gospel, now more than ever before."
In many areas, training schools for the historical religions are obtaining the Bible for the first time. This means that the next generation of leaders, in these religions, is being educated in God's Word. They are captivated by the new revelations of Truth they are discovering. It is as if they have unearthed a "spiritual gold mine."
All those leaders receiving the free gift of God's Word are both thankful to those who are providing it, as well as highly motivated and energized to lead their followers down the correct path to God.
The most effective way to illustrate the enormity of this outpouring of the Holy Spirit is through recent, true and impactful stories.
In a remote region of Ethiopia, home to an unreached people group, 27 Muslim background believers (part of a small church of 60 Christians) grew bold in their Christian faith. They decided they wanted to follow Christ through water baptism, so in early February 2020, while crowds of people were on their way to the mosque to worship, these excited new believers proudly marched down to the river. A great multitude followed and gathered around to listen as the Christians gave their testimonies. Confusion and curiosity abounded when the crowds heard the Christians speaking of being baptized in the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Instead of persecuting the Christians, the onlookers only asked questions. The Holy Spirit opened their minds to the Truth, and many more that day became followers of Jesus.
Since this mass baptism, the original group of 60 believers ventured further in their outreach. In the past two months, they have planted 16 new house churches ranging in size from 55 to 130 people. The initial group has multiplied to over 1,700 believers. This incredible expansion of the Kingdom of God has all happened in the past 60 days through 60 Muslim background believers in Christ.
Empower Ministries International has been supporting and equipping national church planters in a region of Ethiopia previously untouched by the Gospel. Last week 16 Muslim women in this area, who had newly returned from a nearby country where they were involved in Islamic studies, all put their faith in Christ as Son of God and Savior! If they follow the pattern of many other such women, they will be transformed by the Lord into influential evangelists able to reach other women in the area.
In recent weeks, a prominent religious leader was brought to a key Christian pastor/evangelist’s home to discuss Christianity and the Bible. This leader had many responsibilities, overseeing dozens of communities both in Ethiopia and in several neighboring countries. He was given a copy of God’s Word in Arabic and proceeded to pour over the Scriptures night and day, for ten days. During that time, he had a dream in which God convinced him that Jesus is the Creator and that the Bible is true. This revelation radically converted him into a follower of Christ. He has now become an influential evangelist to other religious leaders, many of whom teach in the most prominent settings in Ethiopia. When he meets with other leaders in his former religion, he begins a conversation by telling them:
“We have found the true Gospel.”
This new believer in Christ quickly dispels the myth that the Christian Bible was corrupted over the years! Then, he opens the Word of God to answer the spiritual questions that have continually plagued his friends, the other religious leaders. This converted man is now being mentored in the faith by a leading Christian pastor/teacher. Recently, his mentor asked him if he was having any difficulties in either believing or understanding the teachings in the Bible. His response was swift:
“No. The Bible is very good. I accept everything!”
He has three close friends, all of whom hold incredibly high positions in the country. He shared with them what he was learning concerning Jesus being the Messiah. Two of the friends accepted the Truth about Christ immediately. The third one though, held out and refused to believe. That night he dreamt of God telling him the Bible is true, and Jesus is the Messiah. He awoke, called his friend, and said, “I believe you now. God has shown me.” Now these four top religious leaders who have all turned to Christ, travel around the country to share the Gospel and are seeing much fruit.
The religious leader who accepted Christ initially in this last story—the one who is turning his world upside down—had a message for us:
“I appreciate those who are making this Gospel available for all.”
Thank you, Empower Family, for being instrumental in leading so many former Muslims to Jesus by making the Gospel available to them. Your provision of the Word of God, and your gifts that enable evangelists to travel far and wide taking this “True Gospel” to countless thousands, are producing a large harvest of souls for eternity.
God is definitely working in Ethiopia today, even in the midst of a global pandemic.