Have you ever noticed that God seems to delight in doing the unthinkable, the unimaginable? His miracles are often quite unusual.
It says in Isaiah that his ways are not our ways. Which might explain why, instead of keeping Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego out of the fiery furnace, he kept them safe in the fiery furnace; why he saved the Israelite spies from capture in Jericho by hiding them in the home of a prostitute; why He chose a mere boy to slay a giant, enemy warrior named Goliath; and perhaps most surprisingly, why He sent His one and only Son to rescue mankind from sin, allowing Jesus to be born in a stable, grow up in obscurity, and die a painful, humiliating death on a Roman cross.
Our God works in unusual ways and in unexpected places; places like Ethiopia.
Thanks to Band Aid, the mention of Ethiopia tends to conjures up visions of famine, poverty and disease. While these continue to be threats (80% of the population is made up of subsistence farmers who are vulnerable to crop failure), there is much more to this nation.
Landlocked on the Horn of Africa, surrounded by five other countries, Ethiopia has long played a pivotal role in the spiritual condition and development of the entire region. In the book of Acts, we read about Philip meeting and baptizing a eunuch who was an important official in the Ethiopian government. It is assumed that the eunuch took the Good News of Christ back home and shared it with the royal court.
Historians credit the apostle Matthew with the formal introduction of the gospel to Ethiopia. It is believed to have been the first Christian nation in the world. By 330 AD, the king had declared Christianity the state religion.
In the 7th century, Islam arrived. Over the course of the next 1300 years, it put down roots, grew, and eventually became an entrenched part of Ethiopian culture. Today, entire sections of the country are predominately Muslim, with nearly 34% of the population following Islam.
Neima was raised in one of these areas. She encountered Christ after she was married. When she chose to follow Him, it came at a heavy price – her Muslim husband divorced her.
Despite this, Neima remained faithful in her walk with God and soon became a leader in her church. Like many other pastors and church leaders in Ethiopia, she had never been taught the basics of studying and teaching God’s Word.
Which is how she came to find herself at a Biblica Equipping Leaders seminar held in a small Muslim town just north of Addis Ababa – a place where persecution against Christians has been persistent and deadly.
During the training, she and 27 other pastors (all of them males) gathered in a burnt out church building (the result of an attack on Christians) to be taught basic hermeneutics (Bible interpretation) and homiletics (sermon writing). They were also given Amharic Study Bibles to help them lead their congregations.
A female church leader in a male-dominated society… a woman who escaped from Islam to diligently follow Christ… receiving Bible training in a Muslim town, at the site of a fire bombing in Ethiopia…
Our God excels at performing unlikely miracles.