June 27, 2023. During this morning we had an incredible treat: the opportunity to hear from two men who have devoted their lives to sharing the gospel via the Jesus film! These full-time missionaries have some stories to tell, to say the least! It was so incredibly inspiring and humbling to listen to their accounts of how they started out in ministry and some of the highlights (and danger) they have experienced over the years. I believe both of them have been doing this work for over 2 decades, and they have personally seen millions of people accept Christ. (Not that they would tell you that...their humility and desire for God alone to be glorified prevents them from focusing on numbers.)
One thing that was impressed on us during their presentations: they adamantly affirmed that the Jesus film is THE BEST "return on investment" as far as sharing the gospel. In other words, it has proven time and time again to be the most effective breakthrough strategy, the most effective means of opening the conversations and starting people on the journey toward a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. For Christians who want to invest in God's kingdom, this organization would be a wonderful place to send your dollars and prayer support. Not only do they introduce the idea of eternal salvation from sin through the showing of the film, but they also have long-term strategies for cultivating knowledge and making disciples who then make more disciples! This is not about an evangelistic campaign that is a "flash in the pan," then disappears and leaves people to figure things out on their own. It's a holistic approach to the Great Commission, showing care and concern in practical, physical ways as well as spiritual.
Above you can see both of the missionaries...one became emotional when I asked how we could pray for them specifically. It took some time for them to admit personal needs. I was moved to tears when the first words out of their mouths were that God would provide resources and strategies for more people to hear the gospel. These men are so tenderhearted for their countrymen and women to know Jesus. Other ways we can pray: through a translator, we heard these requests:
1. "We don't always understand the suffering we must go through." (My heart goes out to them--this is an understatement after hearing about just a few instances of persecution they have experienced.)
2. It is difficult to consistently provide for their own wives and children. Stability in the living situations in Ethiopia is hard to come by; home ownership is rare, and rent is expense and can be jacked up at any time. One of the men shared that his family had to move because the landlord found another tenant who would pay a higher price for rent.
We had the privilege to gather around and lay hands on the men, praying for these specific needs as well as their work in sharing the gospel. Again...if your heart is so moved, I encourage you to pray about a one-time or a recurring financial donation to the Jesus Film Project! It is an eternal investment!
A few of our teammates had to slip out or miss this day's activities altogether...let's just say the unfamiliar food was doing a number on some bellies, and one family was fighting a respiratory illness. The rest of us left the hotel where we had been gathered all morning and drove to the GCM Ethiopia national office to see those facilities and learn more about the work they do there.
Valerie and I pose by an old projector used to show the Jesus film!
I should mention that GCM Ethiopia owns this entire building! That is such a huge blessing in and of itself, since it's so rare to be able to own property. Their bank actually rents space from THEM on the ground level!
A peek at this floor of the building, with offices/cubicles behind these partial walls (including the AWANA office!)
Leadership training also takes place in this building.
Here we are in the soundproofed recording studio. In the fall of 2023, this team is set to provide 24/7 news & other content on the local (and I believe national) TV stations plus internet! The facilities will be made available to other ministries as well for producing more content that glorifies Christ and tells people about Him.
Also in the recording studio; another background. These members of the Digital Strategies team shared more information about their personal involvement plus their dreams and visions for the future.
So, funny fact...by this point, it was WELL past lunch time (though 3pm lunches seemed to be typical there, lol), and yet none of us were really up for an actual meal. Nate and Loree brought peanut butter and crackers, so we stood around at the office and dipped crackers into peanut butter and called it good! It was helpful for our tummies for sure!
Then it was time to do some shopping! Aside from our first day in Addis Ababa (when we walked around the city in an effort to overcome jet lag), we had not had any opportunities to buy gifts or souvenirs. So in the late afternoon, we had a grand total of ONE HOUR to navigate a little mall area, shown below, while utilizing our Ethiopian friends to help with bartering! (We Americans aren't usually very good at that, lol.) After a quick walk up all the levels to peek at the merchandise, I determined what I wanted to get for my husband and kiddos and had to chuckle listening to the exchanges between the merchants and Senay and Mistre, both of whom helped me negotiate reasonable prices.
We placed orders for bags of coffee from a local place, so we didn't physically have to go shop for that. I got Ted an "espresso" set (well, after living in Italia that's what I would call it) with a pattern of artwork showing the Queen of Sheba since that is ancient Ethiopian history/legend. Kenna got two pairs of earrings; Rhema got a bracelet; the younger boys got cut and painted stone animals; and Arden got a bottle of Ethiopian ketchup. (If you know Arden, you know this was entirely appropriate, lol.) Tobin was feeling yucky all day, and he's not a shopper anyway...but I got a patterned mug for him since he enjoys hot tea. For myself, I found this beautiful shawl, which I purchased after seeing the one Valerie got. Aren't they beautiful? And so warm!
After all of this, you'd think our day would be finished...but we still had a treat in store! Sami and Senay hosted us (two groups, two homes) for dinner! I was with the group that went to Senay's apartment, which meant I got to meet his wife and new baby boy Caleb (only about 7 weeks old). What a privilege to get to see his home and enjoy their hospitality. One of my favorite parts of our experience was not only the food and fellowship, but also we ended up going around the room and sharing how we came to know Jesus. I just love hearing people's testimonies! It was a little piece of heaven, truly.
Salam, Senay's wife, brought out the delicious food. I loved everything! But I was too full for French fries, lol. (Senay is seated all the way to the right.)
Such a wonderful way to end this day: breaking bread with our brothers & sisters in Christ!