“In the past five years, we’ve worked together [as denominations] to fulfil God’s purpose. In this region more than 2,000 churches have been planted.”
God’s Spirit is moving mightily in Ethiopia. Since the fall of communism in 1991, the church has grown significantly. Emerging from persecution and the restrictions on ministry activities, they have embraced their freedom to proclaim Christ. This zeal and passion continues as the church engages to fulfil the Great Commission. This is happening in many areas of the nation where the church has not yet been planted. I want to share a few stories about how God’s Spirit is working and encourage you to celebrate. Jesus is building His church!
The Spirit reveals direction
In the central region of Ethiopia, a fellowship of multiple denominations shared their vision to plant churches in each small community. We saw the Spirit of God birthing the vision for the region. In the past five years, we’ve worked together to fulfil God’s purpose. In this region more than 2,000 churches have been planted. Periodically, we visit some of these small communities to see and encourage them. There were formerly no churches, but now many have churches that are planting even more churches.
In one community we took New Testaments for the believers of a new remote church. They shared with us the story of how the church was planted. A church planter travelled to this nearby community and began sharing Christ. Little by little, people began giving their lives to Christ. Now the church has more than 140 members. Additionally, they have raised seven young men who are working to plant churches in the neighbouring communities. The church has embraced the work of planting and raising up planters.
We drove into a remote community, across fields and rocks, where we eventually arrived at a large tree with about 40 people gathered in worship and prayer. This is a unique area that has been resistant to any perceived external influence. By force they have repelled those who tried to govern or change them for more than half a century. All the men and many women own machine guns and used them to resist outsiders. Many criminals in the area engaged in robbery and murder and were beyond anyone’s control. Witchcraft dominated the area and was the strongest influence. When the gospel was presented, the darkness began to be pushed back. The planter started preaching two years ago and has planted two churches. There are 75 people in the first church. The second location has 145 believers. Travelling between the two is a three-hour walk.
The same person is also planting a new church that is located a 30-minute walk away. The first church currently worships under a large tree. When the gospel came, the people were transformed from darkness to light! The guns are gone, crime is down, and lives are transformed! In the last year, more than 700 people have come to Christ due to the work of the church planters serving in this area. So far, 29 churches have been planted in farming communities in this area over these past two years.
Another church planter has been serving in a different area for the past four years. He planted a church that now has 560 members. A challenge for these remote believers is their lack of Bibles. In the entire congregation, only 17 have Bibles. In spite of this obstacle, they have planted eight other churches. We asked them what they would like to do now. They pointed to a close village where no churches exist and where witchcraft dominates. They want to share the truth of Christ with those people and plant a church in their village.
The Spirit opens new communities
Another church has been experiencing a move of God. In 2015 one church baptized 60 new believers, primarily people from Islamic backgrounds. As new believers were being discipled, they were sent on mission trips into neighbouring communities. They have planted four new churches and began ministering to two unreached Islamic tribes which border their own. This past summer we trained their church planters and leaders. The result has been more planting. We trained 12 of these new believers from unreached tribes to help them understand Christ and reach back into their communities. In only four weeks, 17 new believers have come to Christ. Additionally, six families remain in their own culture and have chosen to follow Christ and begin a new church fellowship within their cultural context.
The Spirit leads through the Scriptures
One particular Islamic community was celebrating an annual religious festival. During these celebrations they focused on the sick among them, employing some strange traditional practices in the hope of healing them. In this community one new believer was reading through the Old Testament. He began to read Isaiah 53. He came to verse 5: “But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed” (ESV). He quickly presented Christ as the alternative to their practices. Through prayer many were healed. The result was close to 500 new followers of Christ who are engaged in ongoing discipleship. The man who learned from the Scriptures began to share with many other communities across the nation. The result has been more than 1,500 new believers.
I want to ask you to celebrate what God is doing. During days of challenge and global concern, let’s remember that the Lord is the King of kings. Working for Christ is the greatest privilege.
Please continue to pray for the work God is doing here in Ethiopia. Here’s how you can pray:
- For the unreached people groups in Ethiopia that need the gospel.
- For God’s Spirit to lead us as we engage other nations in this part of the world.
- For the resources to effectively share the gospel.
Jeremy Feller is a PAOC global worker to Ethiopia. Visit https://paoc.org/donate/JeremyFeller.