I'm going to post some anecdotes from Dave and Becky Black's experiences in Ethiopia. I take these with a grain of salt. I think they could well be true, but I make allowance for the unreliability of their witnesses:
I grew up in the midst of those who practiced "African religion." I know first-hand the horror of such a religion. I've watched as twins are set out for the hyenas to eat because of the bad omen that they represented. I've seen persons possessed of evil spirits, as they turn mad and live as animals.
Let me tell you one story that we witnessed while we were there in November. A young lady had declared Jesus as her Savior, but her brother had not. Someone cast a curse upon her brother, saying “If your sister does not reject Jesus, then you will die soon.” Imagine the strain on this young lady! Surrendering to the pressure of her parents and family, she renounced Jesus. Within days she herself became very, very sick. She was brought to the clinic with a high fever and active seizing. Her oxygenation level was only 67 percent. Immediately our nurses started IV fluids and gave her seizure medicines and antibiotics. Simultaneously, all the staff gathered to pray over her. But the matter was clear – apart from Jesus she would die! As the staff pled with her and her parents, they decided to come back to Jesus, surrendering their souls to Him and trusting Him to care for them. Over the next 2 days they continued prayer and medical care. She slept in the clinic observation room with her parents. And on the third day, she was discharged home; everyone was rejoicing that the Lord Jesus had shown mercy once again, and had taken back another of His wayward children. On the fourth day, Gezaheen (our senior nurse) and Solomon (our chaplain) visited her in her home. She was walking around, serving her visitors, and rejoicing in the Lord Jesus! And already the leaders of the local church had been to pray with her.
The second church to be built is called Bedene. I met with one of the leaders of this church for about an hour over breakfast, as he quickly told me the story of his conversion. His name is Kadir. He had been a strong fundamentalist Muslim, highly dedicated to the beliefs of Islam. Coming out of Koran school one day he spotted a young lady. He went to talk with her and then declared, “By the name of Allah, you will be my wife.” She promptly retorted, “By the name of Jesus, NEVER!” To make a long story short, he kidnapped her, forcing the marriage. She refused to leave Jesus, despite his beatings. After about 2 years, he was lifting his face from the earth during his prayer ritual, and a person in shining light said to him, “To whom are you praying? I am the One who made you.” He knew immediately that this person was Jesus. But he resisted the claim of Jesus on his life. The story of his eventual conversion is amazing! I wish you could have been with me as he was telling me. Such animation! Such drama! What a wondrous story of grace and redemption! Let me tell you, NO ONE is beyond the grace of our Lord Jesus!!! Absolutely no one! (My father and several others have told me that I need to write a book with some of these stories; please pray for me as I consider this.)
How do these leaders come to our Lord? Most of these Muslim leaders give testimony that Jesus came to them in a vision. Their visions are very clear; there is no doubt that it is Jesus. His message is the same: it is a call to follow Him, and the call is given with love and authority. The converts know the price of obedience to Christ; it may cost them everything!
MN was a wealthy man from a powerful family in the area of Alaba. Four years ago he had a vision. He related his vision to me. “I was lying on the ground, and Jesus was standing over me, with His foot on my chest. Jesus was a shining light, so bright that I could not see His face. He told me that I was living in a cave, and I should come out of the cave, follow Him, and bring others out also.” I asked MN, what did you do after the vision? He replied “Nothing. I just told my mother.” I asked, what did your mother say? “She told me that it was Mohammed in my vision. But I knew it was Jesus.”
A full year later, exactly to the day, MN had another vision. Again, Jesus was standing over him, but this time Jesus was angry. His eyes were like flames of fire. MN said, “Jesus was angry, and He said to me, ‘I told you to come out. But you have not come out. Now you will come out with trouble.’ Immediately I got very sick and all my cattle died. I told my mother about this dream also, and she told me to depart from the family because trouble was my destiny.” So MN called an evangelist from the town church and made a decision to follow Christ.
Here’s one story. About 4-5 years ago, a man came from Saudi Arabia and built a nice, large home in Alaba town. The day that he held an Open House for all his friends was the same day that the church next door held a conference. The sound of singing in the church floated over to his house, and he became very angry. “This is a Muslim town!” he told the town leaders. “What are Christians doing here?” He told the leaders, “I will bring lots of money into this town and make it very beautiful if you will remove all the Christians.” He then left the town to wait for the Christians to be removed. However, en route back to Addis, his car overturned and he was severely injured in the accident. As is so often the case in third world countries, he drew a direct line of cause-and-effect between his threat against the Christians and his car accident. He quickly retracted his offer to the leaders, sold his home, and returned to Saudi Arabia.
Similar stories have been repeated over and over in the past 10 years, so that now the Muslim leaders have a “hands off” attitude toward the Christians. They have a measure of fear that something bad will happen to them if they hurt the Christians. (Unfortunately, this is not the case in the rural churches, as we will report next time.) So, today the town churches have a good measure of religious freedom.
Soon after his release from prison, he was walking down the street, and he came to visit the witchdoctor. Immediately the evil spirit in the witchdoctor recognized a son of the Most Holy One. So the witchdoctor called down a swarm of bees to attack MU. In the street this show-down of power played out before all the townsfolk. Men, women, and children stopped their errands and watched as hundreds of bees came out of nowhere and began to descend upon MU. Without batting an eye, MU raised his hand toward the bees and commanded, "In the Name of Jesus, stop!"
To the amazement of all the townspeople, the bees stopped in mid-air and dispersed! There was no doubt as to the winner of this showdown of power. The Lord Jesus Himself trumped the spirit of evil in the witchdoctor. And as His representative, MU now commanded a respect in the community. Immediately he preached the Gospel. "You are spiritually dead in your sins. You cannot help yourself. No one can help you except the Lord Jesus Christ! He came from Heaven. He willingly laid Himself down as a sacrifice for you; He paid the price before God for your sins. He was buried in the earth for 3 days, but God raised Him up. He was seen by hundreds of witnesses in His resurrected body. And today He lives by the Throne of God. Unless you forsake this witchdoctor and your wicked ways, unless you come and yield yourself to the Lord Jesus Christ, you cannot have spiritual life. You cannot have power."
Within a few months many came to MU and WO to declare their commitment to the Lord Jesus Christ. Word of the show-down spread through us to the American believers. We all began to pray for the salvation of the witchdoctor. God heard our prayer, and 4 months from the show-down this witchdoctor destroyed his witchcraft paraphernalia and change allegiances. We had the joy of visiting their congregation....about 40-50 people of all ages, and on the right side against the wall was the ex-witchdoctor sitting beside the ex-Muslim leader.
In our interview, we asked them for specific praise and prayer items. As a praise mention, FA told me this story. Last June, when they were constructing their home, they were collecting tall grass for the roof. FA was barefoot and a poisonous snake bit him.
He became VERY sick; there was no medical facility...only a witchdoctor was used for issues of sickness. When this option was offered to him, he replied, "I will not go to a witchdoctor, even if I die!" (To have gone to a witchdoctor is the equivalent of denying Christ and His power.) He lay unconscious for many days, but God healed him completely! We did not know anything about this story until we interviewed him; this is always the challenge of communication with Ethiopia...they are way out in the boonies...I doubt that even their sending church knew in a timely fashion of the situation. But God clearly had people praying for him, and God chose to heal him in response to those prayers! So we don't need to know the situations....we just need to follow the Spirit in faithful praying!