Every week, we share stories about the amazing ways God is at work around the world. We hope that you’ll be encouraged by these stories and inspired to greater involvement in God’s Great Commission to go out to the world – near and far – and train, instruct, and baptize people in Jesus’ Name. This week, we start out by hearing from Pastor JT and Katie Brown from Bridges Church in Long Beach, CA who reflect on how e3 Partners has had a big effect on the Church:
We planted a church about 15 years ago, and I was in youth ministry at the time. At our church, as was the case in most American churches back then, the youth did missions trips and the adults paid for them. But then it dawned on me that it shouldn’t be that way. God is God of the world, and we all should be doing missions trips, not just the teenagers. God then opened up doors that led us to partnering with E3, and we’ve been working in Ethiopia with them for quite a few years now.
In Ethiopia, there is a new Muslim Mosque being built every seven kilometers. Many of them are empty, but imams are hired to fervently draw people in and fill them up in order to quickly spread Islam throughout the country. Now, currently, Ethiopia is an open democracy – the last of its kind in North Africa – so we feel like we have a window of opportunity to plant Christian churches there before it becomes an Islamic state. No matter what happens politically, if the Christian Church has a foundation there with local leadership, then the Gospel will spread. We’ve seen this in China and several other oppressed countries around the world.
One story that I love to tell was when we were up in the mountains of Southern Ethiopia. As I was listening to the translator make all the introductions in what was supposed to be a casual, open discussion, the translator stops and told me that one of the men there recognized me. Now, I had never been to that part of the country before. How could this village elder recognize me?
He said that he saw me six months earlier in a vision.
He then started describing the area I lived in and my family members who weren’t there with me. Then he told me that in his vision, he and I were talking in my backyard. He described my back porch and wall in my backyard. I was blown away.
We then sat down and began to talk about Jesus. And despite the fact that God had revealed Himself to this man and gave him a vision about me, his heart was still not ready to accept Jesus. From that day, it actually took about two-and-a-half years before he was willing to surrender to Jesus because he had so much baggage and spiritual warfare going on in his life. When he did make the decision to follow Jesus, though, his life was completely devoted to obeying God’s will!
It’s moments like this that I turn to whenever anyone asks why I so eagerly serve in overseas missions and why I steer people toward spreading God’s word across the globe.
But if a plane ticket isn’t in the cards, then there is work to be done domestically, too. We were in San Diego recently doing some outreach work and 27 people made decisions to follow Christ over a three-day period, 43 people said that they would open their homes to the Gospel, and one person, who had been sick for a long, long time, experienced God’s miraculous healing while we were there. It just goes to show that we are too often wrong in thinking that we need to be overseas in order to see God at work. He is everywhere and eager to meet His people all over the world, including our own neighborhoods.
But faith is like a muscle – the more you use it the bigger it gets. So, when you share your story of faith overseas, which is often times easier for most people, and you see God at work through your story, then it becomes so much easier to allow God to work through you in all aspects of your life, not just when you are in a foreign country.
When you walk in obedience, especially in a country such as Ethiopia, and you open your heart and eyes to see what God is doing, then it’s like walking through the Book of Acts. Instead of wondering, “Why doesn’t God do today the types of things that I read about in Acts?”, you start to see that in fact, He does! It ignites people’s faith as they realize that they can be used by God everywhere, all the time.
Sharing the Gospel doesn’t take four years of seminary and a collegiate degree. All it takes is an obedient heart that is willing to surrender to what God wants said and done.
Getting back to Ethiopia, there are 52 different people groups just in Southern Ethiopia/Northern Kenya, most of which have not heard about Jesus at all. So that’s where our church is primarily focusing. But we can’t do it alone.
My vision is that ten other churches would partner with us. We have one other church working with us currently, but I would love to see ten others come alongside, so that a dozen of us could ban together to spread the Gospel to this region of Africa all year long.
In addition to the wildfire spread of Islam throughout Ethiopia, the country is also a hotbed for human trafficking. Throughout the region, there are families with 6-12 children starving and destitute. So, when someone comes into the village and says “I can offer one of your children a better life.”, they jump at the opportunity. Yet, while they think that they are sending their children off to get an education and be saved from the path the family is on, they are actually jammed into shipping containers, and sold into prostitution, Islamic marriages, or worse. And we’re not talking strong teenagers. This begins with girls as young as three or five-years-old.
It’s a devastating reality that is difficult to face, but needs to be discussed and battled against by those who are able to stand up against it.
What’s amazing is seeing how God is empowering His people to stand up in a revolution against the human traffickers. God wants to kick this thing in the face!
Now, there are typically three main points of entry when it comes to human trafficking: A lack of education; a lack of equality; and a lack of economics. So, when a home, village, tribe or region are lacking in these areas, they are weakened and become easy prey for the evil men who swoop in and lure their children away.
What we find beautiful is when we can come in and share with them God’s plan for their lives. We can reveal to them that their valuable in God’s eyes and by accepting Jesus Christ, they can be adopted into God’s family and experience His hope.
Now, God gave us an insight into the future in the Book of Revelation. When John wrote that every tribe, tongue and nation will be reached when Christ returns (Revelation 7:9), he is talking about our neighbors as much as he is the people in these tiny villages in Africa. We have the opportunity to be a part of spreading God’s Good News to these tribes as we obey God’s callings.