Church Under the Acacia Tree | Ethiopia Update

Enjoy this update from Ethiopia directors, Gary and Peggy Ifft, with Misgana Ministries

Greetings from very hot Ziway. This time of the year is usually warmer, but nothing like what it is this year. The officials are blaming it on El Niño. The high temperatures each day range from 90 to 104 degrees F (32 to 40 Celsius). This area seems to be turning back into the desert they say it once was.  
A few weeks ago one of our teachers sent me a text message asking if we could help the small church he had founded outside the town of Adami Tulu where we have one of our large school campuses. Since we receive requests for help in some way or other every day, I was inclined to simply delete the message and move on. However, something stopped me from doing so. I asked the school director to have him to come to my office at his next free period. We had a good talk and I was impressed with his enthusiasm and sincerity.
He told me of his sincere burden to tell the Good News to everyone in his village. They had just recently built a small mud chapel and the congregation was growing rapidly. His request was for Bibles in the Oromo language. He said his congregation was quite young and it was a struggle to even build the small church building. I was intrigued enough to ask if we could visit his church the next Sunday.
A carload of us (including members of the staff) went to visit that little church. We got to Adami Tulu and basically turned off the main road and simply followed cow trails to his church for about four miles. We are thankful for a 4WD vehicle. We saw the acacia tree under which they met while the church was being built (see photo below). We then went to the church and sat on very uncomfortable benches for about three hours, but for some reason it didn’t seem so bad.


In the picture below you see the inside of the church with our School Director, Solomon, speaking to the congregation.  In the foreground is our wonderful American volunteer, Seble. In the previous 30 days prior to our visit, the leaders of the church had visited 23 families and had spoken to 56 men and 34 women. Fifteen people gave their lives to Jesus during that time. The morning of our visit they were scheduled to baptize 25 people in Lake Ziway, but because of a city-wide church conference in Ziway, they had to postpone the baptisms.
As we drove away, Peggy and I turned simultaneously to each other and said, “Isn’t this why we came to Ethiopia? Not so much for the project proposals and budgets, etc., but for this simple spreading of God’s wonderful Word?”
Just a couple of days ago Peggy and I were asked to present awards to our top students in our Primary School’s “Question and Answer” competition at their morning flagpole ceremony. We were glad to do that. While standing there during the ceremony we were just impressed with our students who are doing so well academically.  They continue to win city-wide competitions and excel on national examinations.
For the past three years, April has meant “Spelling Bee” in our town.  Peggy and I like to go and cheer on our students.  This year we have one student going on to Addis Ababa for the national spelling bee, but what a student he is!  In the picture below he is the little kid in the middle—one of our fourth graders competing with students from other schools up through eighth grade.  We were told in advance that he is very bright and we were amazed as he stepped to the microphone and with confidence and without hesitation spelled his words.  The spelling bee is conducted in English and all words are English words.  The Amharic “alphabet” does not lend itself to spelling because of the way the “letters” are made up.
spelling bee
Another Sunday we headed to the countryside in our three-wheeled Bajaj as far as we could and then hiked a kilometer or so to the spot where one of our school guards, named Doshi, felt led to start a church. On the way we learned of a woman who wanted to confess her lost condition and give her life to Jesus, so we made a little detour and had a special service for her.  She is the lady sitting next to Peggy on the makeshift bench in the picture below.  Her husband in the background is already a believer.
We then continued our trek to the meeting place.  There is no building there yet.  The small but rapidly growing “congregation” is meeting under an acacia tree. When asked to say a few words, my comment to them was that the church is not the building, but rather the fellowship of believers. They may have a building someday, but for now for sure they already have a “church.” The final picture shows Solomon preaching the sermon.

Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” 

–Matthew 9:37-38