Their eyes widened, and backs straightened. We knew something we said surprised them. Body language often transcends cultural differences. But what was it?
At the close of every All In conference, we invite women to share testimonies of how God met them during our time together. Perhaps God spoke to them through the teaching or a part of the group discussion or at a meal talking with new friends. Either way, we want to give women a voice, so we can learn from each other. We want to celebrate God’s faithfulness and give Him glory.
One by one the women came forward at both All In conferences in Bonga and Jimma.
To share testimonies of life change. Share testimonies of encouragement. Share testimonies of learning how to make disciples.
Then we heard the shocking truth.
This was the first time these 130 leaders had been trained on how to be disciples who make disciples of Jesus Christ. All participants were hand-picked leaders – trainers – across the Southwest part of Ethiopia. Many mature, seasoned sisters in Christ who were learning for the first time of their value, purpose, and identity in Christ. They were learning for the first time how to hear from God, how to study the Bible, and how to make disciples. But that was not all.
Why was training so limited? An older woman came forward to share her God story.
“When I was a young Christian, I heard on the radio a woman teach the Word of God. At that early age, I was inspired by her example to be a woman who could serve the Lord by serving other women. This is what I’ve given my life to do. Decades later, at this women’s conference, I am equipped for this ministry.”
Why did it take so long to receive training? Her next statement would reveal why.
“One of the most surprising lessons was in the first session on God’s Story. I learned that both Adam and Eve did not trust God and through their choice to disobey, sin entered the world. My whole life I was taught that all the sin in the world – all the pain and suffering and evil – was the fault of the woman. This shame and guilt have affected my life and my ministry. To understand what the Bible says that both were responsible – Adam and Eve – was new to me. I am not weighed down by this shame anymore.”
This lesson came up again at the second conference location. Yes, in Ethiopia and in many other parts of the world, women are taught that they are to blame for the sin and suffering in the world. This is part of the reason why some women are marginalized and often not offered Bible training. She continued…
“I learned this truth, but I also learned many things for ministry. I’ve read the Bible my whole life, but I did not know how to study it or how to make disciples. I didn’t realize that my life on earth was like a spiritual race that affects eternity. This lesson from Hebrews 12 was new to me as well.”
Another woman shared…
“I learned about the Holy Spirit. Where I’m from we are taught that when you are filled by the Holy Spirit, you shake and fall to the ground. Through this conference, I learned about who He is and what He does and how we are dependent on Him to work in and through us. He will help us finish our race.”
Training women in a biblically faithful way to be disciples who make disciples of Jesus Christ was not the only wrong-made-right in Ethiopia. Through ministry partners, like you, we were able to give each leader a new Study Bible in their language.
For many leaders, this was the first time owning a complete Bible. When we gave it to them, cheers and applause erupted! (This Study Bible is a new tool in their language.)
Shhhh…it was a surprise. We did not tell them about the Study Bible gift until after the commissioning. At the end of each conference, we always invite women to stand before God to make a commitment to take all they learned and pass it on to their families, churches, and communities. They were overjoyed when a new Study Bible was placed in their hands so they could put into practice what they had learned.
We were just about to close the conference when an elderly woman came forward. She had to share her vision.
“God gave me a vision as I was traveling on the bus to get here. In the vision, I saw a plate of food placed in my hands. When I opened my eyes, I did not see any food in my hands. I didn’t understand the vision. Today, I understand. Food has now appeared in my hands. (She holds up the new Study Bible just given to her). This is better than physical food. This is spiritual food! This is bread that will feed my soul!!”
Everyone shouted! They burst out into song! Ethiopian women know how to praise God through musical worship and prayer. They did just that!
At the very end of the first conference, the Spiritual Development Director for the region came forward to close the conference. He said…
“We were asked questions:
What does the world say about us?
What does the enemy say?
And, what do we say about ourselves?
These questions made me uncover deep wounds. Then we learned God’s story. There was so much joy that came from knowing what God says about me in His word – I was brought to tears.”
He offered them a challenge…
“I think about how many places these ministers could have gone. But, they came here to bring us God’s message. Why? Because God heard you. God knows your spiritual hunger. It is a precious gift that God sent these ministers to YOU! Now, what are you going to do with this gift?
The women leaders knew what they were going to do. They already prayed through and wrote out a plan to start disciple-making Bible studies and form triads with other leaders for accountability. The women were changed and they were bringing change to Ethiopia.
For the first time in the nation’s long history, Ethiopia’s government is now under Evangelical Christian leadership. Sweeping change is taking place to eliminate Christian persecution and release Christian prisoners. Another wrong made right. The nation is ripe for a spiritual awakening. Because of ministry partners like you, the women leaders in Southwest Ethiopia are ready for revival.
Thank you for your compassion, prayers, and generosity.