Join Eagle Christian Church and Family Hope International in their mission to preserve families and prevent orphans in Ethiopia.
by FHI President, Jeff Butler
The Vision Trip of 2019
In 2019, Family Hope International took their annual Vision Trip to Ethiopia and had the opportunity to have one of ECC's pastors come along. Pastor Randy Bourn was intrigued after hearing how we work in predominantly Muslim areas. We shared stories of how several Muslim families had come to faith in Jesus simply by demonstrating the love of Christ, caring for their practical needs, and sharing the Good News!
While on the Vision Trip, we visited our project areas in the Addis Ababa area and then headed south to our other project areas in Gutumuma and Shashemene. On the way, we picked up Pastor Zerihun, leader of Watch and Pray Muslim Evangelism Ministry which was started in partnership with our In-Country Executive Director, Abebe. Pastor Zerihun sat next to Pastor Randy on the drive to Shashemene and as they conversed, they learned about each other's ministries.
Pastor Zerihun shared his amazing story about Muslim evangelism in Hanicha: About six years prior, they had sent a few Watch and Pray evangelists to Hanicha. Soon, there were 6 new believers. They began to meet at the home of one of the new believers to worship, pray, and enjoy fellowship. When the local Muslims heard about this, they became very upset and an angry mob formed outside the new believer’s home. They lit his house on fire and burned it down and the new Christian and his family barely escaped with their lives!
Pastor Zerihun soon learned about this incident and the growing hostility towards the new Christians. He immediately made plans to go to Hanicha. When he arrived, he went to the compound where the Christian brother’s house had been burned down. He gathered the new believers and evangelists, and they all began to pray. As he stood in the ashes of the burned home, Pastor Zerihun prayed fervently that God would forgive those who did this evil. As he prayed, many of the Muslims in the area began to show up. They listened as he continued to pray and the crowd continued to grow. Eventually the Muslims who had burned down the house asked Pastor Zerihun why he would pray for them when they were his enemies and had caused this destruction? He shared with them that he loved them, God loved them, and they needed Jesus to know this love and forgiveness.
The Muslims were so impacted by this example of faith and love and forgiveness that they immediately decided to rebuild the Christian’s home! They gathered all the necessary supplies and rebuilt the house. The home they built was much larger and better than what they had burned down! This incident opened the Muslims’ hearts to hearing more about the gospel of Jesus Christ. The church has grown in six years from just a handful of believers to over 500 currently. When Pastor Randy heard this story from Pastor Zerihun, he was deeply moved.
The Spirit's Leading
As I (Jeff) listened to the story, the Holy Spirit spoke to me about going to Hanicha to see the work being done there and to explore this area as a potential new project area for Family Hope International. I moved to the front of the bus and discussed this idea with Abebe. He shared that Hanicha would be an excellent area to consider as a possible new project area. Could this also be a place that we could partner with Eagle Christian Church? After hearing this story, Family Hope International decided to send Pastor Randy along with Pastor Zerihun and a few of our FHI team members to visit Hanicha.
The next day, the small group traveled about 5-6 hours to Hanicha. The Pastor and leaders of the Hanicha Church had no idea what was about to happen. All they knew was that Abebe and Pastor Zerihun were coming to visit and to gather the church leaders together. The church leaders had no knowledge of Family Hope International and the work we do. They had no idea that a Pastor from America was coming for a visit! When our team finally arrived, they gathered at the Hanicha Church compound and met with the pastor and elders. The leaders, all former Muslims, shared their testimonies of how they came to faith in Jesus and were delivered from the darkness of Islam.
"This Letter is for You!"
As the leaders were taking turns sharing their testimonies, the Pastor of the Hanicha Church handed a letter to Abebe. This was a letter that the Pastor had asked Abebe to mail for him. This letter was meant to be sent to the Ethiopian Labor and Social Affairs Office in the capital city of Addis, requesting urgent help with the overwhelming needs of his people. He shared in his letter about the specific numbers of his people who are sick with disease, disabled, orphaned, elderly, displaced, and in desperate need for help, etc.
As Abebe read this letter, he realized that this meeting was a divine appointment. God had brought the American Church, Family Hope International, Watch and Pray, and the Hanicha church together for something amazing! He believed that God had orchestrated the circumstances for a new partnership! As Abebe read the Pastor’s letter, he realized that Pastor Randy and Eagle Christian Church were the answer to the Pastor’s plea for help. He then handed the letter to Pastor Randy and said, “I think this letter is for you!”