Photo - Kaka

Kaka

I need Jesus every day of my life. Jesus tells me in the Bible that without Him I cant do anything. I have the gift and capacity today to play soccer because God gave it to me.

Photo - Ivona Škvorcová

Ivona Škvorcová

I noticed a little lump on my neck and it changed my plans and my life. We will have to remove it, exclaimed my doctor. It is just a simple operation… I spent three days in the hospital and I waited three weeks for biopsy results. I wasn’t worried at all. I was a 22-year old university student, full of energy and vitality. I didn’t expect it could be something serious. On 22 February 2006 the doctor told me: “It is positive“. I didn’t even understand what it means. Everybody in my family was shocked – I had CANCER. I was confused. I had lots of questions and fears.

Photo - Augustín Ugróczy

Augustín Ugróczy

Hi everybody, whoever you are and wherever you are – YOU ARE DISCIPLES. That’s the way I call my boys and invite them at our regular PAJTA meetings.

Photo - James Manjackal

James Manjackal

He prayed: "Father in Heaven, send your Son Jesus now to this priest suffering from kidney T.B., kidney stones and infections and restore him complete health of body and soul". Then I thought in my mind that he might have seen the hospital chart where my sicknesses were reported!

Photo - Róbert Slamka

Róbert Slamka

I am 52 years old and I am a lawyer. I have a beautiful beloved wife, Helena, and 5 beautiful children, Róbert, Jakub, Andrej, Annamária-Rút, and Lukáš.

Photo - Mudr. Silvester Krčméry CSc.

Mudr. Silvester Krčméry CSc.

If I have to be punished for what I did – i.e. for the goodness, truth, and Christ – I wouldn’t choose the smallest punishment, but the most terrible one; I would be so happy if I could die for Christ, although I know that I am not worthy of such a great grace.

Photo - MUDr. Emília Vlčková

MUDr. Emília Vlčková

I healed my daughter who had bronchitis, after antibiotics showed no effect. I had a wart and it disappeared on the following day after I had used my homoeopathic drugs.

Photo - Vlado Žák

Vlado Žák

I knew about God, but I didn't know Him. I saw God only as a strict judge. One of the predominant feelings when I thought about God was a sort of fear. Today, I know I was completely wrong.

Photo - Dominik Dobrovodský

Dominik Dobrovodský

Yes, bones were my life issue. I was born with a fracture. Since then I had several fractures during all my childhood, every time I fell down. I spent a lot of time in hospitals. I suffered a lot. But I also saw other people suffering. It was for me great life experience, great learning experience. During this experience I understood that God is always with me and He never abandons me. This attitude of praise became (and it is continuously becoming) my expression of love towards God.

Photo - Nick Vujicic

Nick Vujicic

I am thankful to have been born 31 years ago with no arms and no legs. I won’t pretend my life is easy, but through the love of my parents, loved ones, and faith in God, I have overcome my adversity and my life is now filled with joy and purpose.

Photo - Jozef Demjan

Jozef Demjan

When I was a child I was sexually abused by an older boy. We lived in poverty. I experienced occult practices, depression, homosexuality, and suicide attempts. Only faith in Jesus Christ brought light to my life.

Photo - Marek Nikolov

Marek Nikolov

The aim of the “Jesus Heals” prayer gatherings is experiencing the fact that God is Love. He is Love that wants to give itself to other people. God wants to show us His mercy even through healing, signs, wonders, and miracles.

Photo - Rick Warren

Rick Warren

People ask me: What is the purpose of life? And I respond: In a nutshell, life is preparation for eternity. We were made to last forever, and God wants us to be with Him in Heaven.

Photo - Renáta Ocilková

Renáta Ocilková

During chemotherapy I lost my menstrual cycle. After about half-a-year I asked my gynaecologist – oncologist about that. I was afraid I was going to badly react to his answer. He told me:
“It’s normal. Your menstrual cycles will never return.”

Photo - Anton Srholec

Anton Srholec

Faith and love for Jesus and for his cause filled all my heart and I was ready to offer my life for this.

Photo - Denis Blaho

Denis Blaho

I started to do fortune-telling and I said things that resulted to be truthful. I used to predict things that really happened in near future. Sometimes I read people’s thoughts. I disdained Christian religion. I had a bad opinion about believers and acquaintances who were not profound believers.

Photo - Bohuš Živčák

Bohuš Živčák

Despite persecution during the Communist era (or actually because of Communist persecution) my search of God became a continuous adventure. Pilgrimage and travelling rather than studying. When I studied at high school God came dramatically closer to me.

Photo - Veronika Barátová

Veronika Barátová

I always have wonderful memories of my return to God; still today they are pretty important. Everything happened during my university studies at times of normalizing Communism.

Photo - Oto Mádr

Oto Mádr

This epoch is not easy at all for Christians; but for big-format Christians it is a great and marvelous epoch. “If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you.“ In such glorious moments the Church sings to the Lord a heroic song of love and faithfulness. It is a privilege and a gift: to live just now, to love, and to fight.

Photo - Lucia Tužinská

Lucia Tužinská

My core problem was – how can I trust God again?! How can I understand Him? What has happened? What we believed in before suddenly became not valid. We needed to reevaluate our faith from the foundation.

Photo - Martin Hunčár

Martin Hunčár

My conversion does not fall under the category “extraordinary”. I know you would like to hear about the miraculous conversion of a former drug-addicted or alcohol-addicted. I was neither drug-addicted nor alcohol-addicted. Maybe this is the reason why my conversion was even more miraculous.

Photo - Dan Baumann

Dan Baumann

The beatings would start and they would be slapping in the face, hitting in the stomach, sometimes kicking. “I struggled with faith, ‘Was God with me? Did He love me? If God is good why would He allow me to go through this situation?

Photo - Dária Miezgová

Dária Miezgová

But I was also interested very much in the communist ideals as in something that surpassed the ordinary life. So I became a member of a communist party – because I was convinced and I wanted it. And in spite of the fact I went to church and believed in God. I did not feel it as a contradiction

Photo - Matúš Demko

Matúš Demko

Then I directly felt that God is a living being, close to us. Back then, God, our Lord, clearly and expressly intervened into my life. He completely changed it. I became another person.

Photo - Richard Vašečka

Richard Vašečka

My grandfather from my mother’s side had a great influence on my life. Besides that he loved me very much and spent much time with me, he became my ideal and inspiration in a faith, but also in a male character.

Photo - Branislav Škripek

Branislav Škripek

I was born and brought up as an atheist and I can confirm that I had never been told me anything about God during my first 20 years of life. It was something that was an unknown concept for me.

Photo - Sasa Patalakh

Sasa Patalakh

Drugs, sex, Ukrainian mafia, and prison…
“…the story of a young man from Ukraine freed by God…”

Photo - Ondrej Tarana OFM cap.

Ondrej Tarana OFM cap.

I was indeed horrified that I don’t know God and His Love although I was ministering in the church.

Photo - Dominic McDermott

Dominic McDermott

Hearing from God through dreams. Biblical basis, Why God would use dreams, The process ...

Photo - Štefan Esztergályos

Štefan Esztergályos

I got more and more entangled in different occult practices. I applied myself to astrology, healing (reiki) and I practiced martial arts. Instead of prayer I meditated in solitude, which pulled me many times away from the life’s reality.

Photo - Geoff and Gina Poulter

Geoff and Gina Poulter

We had decided with a great sadness that we had to go where we were being fed and leave the Catholic Church. Just as we were about to make this public statement Geoff had an open vision which simultaneously was confirmed to Gina through a word from the Lord.

Photo - P. Raniero Cantalamessa, ofmcap

P. Raniero Cantalamessa, ofmcap

Something of the kind must happen once in our lives for us to be true, convinced Christians, and overjoyed to be so.

Story - Samuel Degu Kebede

small_A Man Of Ethiopia Front Cover Final.jpg

Over the years in his ministry in Ethiopiaand in other countries he produced apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers and elders.

p> I was born in Ethiopia. Satan tried to prevent my life before I was even conceived. My father was an Orthodox Christian, a Second World War veteran and a patriot. An unsung hero of the Italo-Ethiopian war against fascism of 1935-1941. An Italian bullet in his back paralysed him. The doctors gave no hope of recovery. The family prepared for his death in the Orthodox way, holding special ceremonies to have his soul released from purgatory; prayers at twelve days, forty days, six months and a year.

But Dad had wanted to live and have a son. Against the odds, after a year, his strength returned. In Ethiopia when a thing of great joy comes the people will shoot a gun. A banqueting table was spread and Dad’s rusty rifle fired. Its fading echo still ricocheting down the years reminds me that nothing is impossible with God.

Afterwards other guns were shot but rarely in joy. During World War Two, Haile Selassie fled to England and militants like Dad opposed his return. He’s a coward, they said. We don’t want this man to rule over us. Nevertheless the Emperor returned and Dad was back in the bush with the rebels and Mom was pregnant with my second sister.

Boys are highly prized in Ethiopia. In my hometown of Akaki a Seventh Day Adventist group had been visiting the locals and witnessing about Jesus. They offered Dad a portion of John’s Gospel. Dad was illiterate. Yet he took the Gospel. He said, I can’t read but I’ll make you a promise. If God blesses me with a son I’ll send him to school. Only he will read this Gospel for me. Otherwise it will never be read.

He placed the Gospel in a small wooden box and like his ancestors he waited patiently for God. A few years later his old rebel gun announced my birth. Then the fire fell! Mom and I were in bed behind a curtain in a little dark room. When Dad heard my cry he rushed in with a candle to see me.

God blessed me with a good set of lungs. Dad called me, Gurara, which means loud voice. He said I sounded more like a big man than a baby. He often boasted: One day this big loud voiced son of mine will read the Gospel to me. And on one happy day, aged eight, I finally stood before Dad and fulfilled his prayer. I read from John’s Gospel.

Monks from the nearby monastery often visited us. We’d wash their feet, feed them and let them rest on our beds. Two such monks arrived in the middle of me reading the Gospel. They sat with my father and listened.

One said, This boy has a great voice. He should be given to our monastery as a Gospel preacher. Dad flared up. He said, Why do you want my son to be a preacher? People who preach suffer too much. They have no income and are always persecuted. Do not wish that for my son. He has to be a doctor or a lawyer. Preaching is not a good job for him.

Maybe Dad was being prophetic for if you are a Third World preacher it’s unlikely your children will follow in your footsteps for all they ever see is the suffering and the persecution. Yet the monks were also prophetic for in time God called me to use my big loud voice to preach his Holy Word. God’s plans and purposes were not that I should have a happy comfortable life. His plans were the same as they have always been. That I should be conformed to the image of his son Jesus and work for the expansion of his kingdom upon the earth. We are all called to do that.

Shortly after the monks’ visit there was a cholera epidemic. I almost died. My family had already started the death wail. The people gathered to keen about my death. One day I woke up and saw an open vision in which a white man dressed in military uniform entered our house on a white horse. He dismounted and sat on my bed. He laid his hand upon me and said, Kebede don’t be afraid. This sickness in not unto death. When he said this I was so happy. I sat up in bed and shouted to all the mourners, Can't you see this white man and his white horse? He says I am going to live and not die. They thought I was hallucinating. When I recovered the people wouldn’t believe this vision was of Jesus. Some said it must have been St. George. Over time they forgot all about it but I have never forgotten it.

Our days are numbered in God’s hands. He knows how long we should live on this earth. I don't believe everything the doctor tells me. No curse, demon or sickness will take me before my time. I certainly don't believe in euthanasia. God knows the length of my days. He knows how long we need in order to finish our race.

We were not poor. We had cows. Dad always encouraged me to be creative in the midst of poverty and famine. Once during the school holidays, shortly after my vision of Jesus, Dad gave me 25 cents for a piece of candy. I thought, I don’t want to buy a candy and so quickly consume all my money. Instead I bought a small fishing hook and asked Mom for some twine which I attached to an old bamboo stick. Next morning I walked to the lake and by noon had caught a basketful of fish. I gave some to Mom. The rest I sold to rich foreigners. With this money I bought lots of candy. But instead of eating it all I went to the nearby railway station and sold some to waiting passengers.

Thereafter my daily routine became fishing, selling fish and selling candy. When school reopened I felt like a millionaire. I’d enough money to buy clothes for Dad, clothes for myself and a new exercise book and pencil. Dad was so proud. He said, Kebede you’re a good boy. You have multiplied that 25 cents many times. He blessed me. He said, You will never die young. You are a survivor. I believe in you. I can depend on you. You will live long and prosper.

HOW TO USE OUR TALENTS AND TIME

Ethiopians were not encouraged to be open to new ideas. The priests feared education would lessen their power over us. I’ve always endeavoured to improve my situation. Was always interested in better ways of thinking. I worked hard and I read books. That was my life. There is a beggar mentality in Ethiopia. People have been taught that begging is a holy thing. Some beg instead of working.

Even today many Ethiopian NGO’s (Non-Governmental Organisations) are nothing more than professional beggars. Systematically they beg for us from place to place, from nation to nation. This should not be.

As Christians we may mention our need. Then people of faith can respond appropriately. Some may become challenged by the needs of the Ethiopian church. Believers in the Third World suffer greatly from lack of finance and resources; nevertheless they must never become beggars.

Psalm 37 says:

I was young and now I am old,

Yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken

Or their children begging bread.

They are always generous and lend freely;

Their children will be blessed.

 

The Bible says we should come boldly before the throne of grace and make our requests known. We should never beg. We are children of God. In Ethiopia we believe in sustainable development. We may need help to get started but we should aim to function on our own after that. The old adage holds true, Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day, teach him to fish and you feed him for life.

Once we are up and running we must be capable of sustaining on our own. Otherwise people will become fed up with having to support us year in year out. If I’d used the 25 cents my dad gave me to buy candy I’d have had to wait until I got another hand-out. Instead I used the gift to better my own situation and the condition of others. God expects us to use our gifts and resources for the spread of his kingdom. He expects us to buy fishhooks and go fishing for men and women for his kingdom. Not just become consumers of others’ experiences.

I’m constantly amazed at the amount of money Western Christians spend on themselves. Many live in panelled houses while billions in the rest of the world are starving for natural and spiritual food. One day we will all stand before Jesus and give an account of how we used our talents and time.

There is a day fast approaching when I’ll stand before God like I stood before my earthly Dad so many years ago. I want to hear God say what Dad said, Good boy, you have multiplied that which I gave you. You did not consume it on yourself. I’m proud of you.

I pray you and I will be able to give a good account to Jesus of how we used our time and talents for the expansion of his kingdom. Making disciples of nations is costly. We’re all commanded to go or to enable the gospel to go. In the Great Commission Jesus looked beyond Judea and commanded the gospel to be offered to all nations. We are to make disciples. That’s why we were born. This is why God has blessed us. Let’s not spend all our resource on candy. Let us gladly receive all that God has for us and let us bear lasting fruit for the Kingdom of God.

EARLY ETHIOPIAN PREACHING

The judge said, If you’re caught preaching within two years you’ll be thrown into prison. This is my calling from the law.

We continued to preach after our release. Kassaye Degefu and I were invited to take a student conference in Ambo. They were all young on-fire Christians. Had we cancelled they’d have considered us cowards. We consulted with our elders. They told us not to go. I talked with my wife Hamalemale. She said, What is the Lord telling you, my husband?

I told her the Lord had given me the scripture that says, Unless it is the will of your father none of your hairs will ever drop on the ground. God was telling me not to fear the rule of man but to follow the leading of God. Hamalemale told me to obey the Lord. I prayed, Lord I want to do your will whatever the cost. We stayed in a cheap hotel. I told Kassaye, I’ll take the first session. You stay here and pray.

The conference was jam-packed with over a thousand students. They were on fire when I arrived. My own heart jumped with fear. I prayed, Lord, if fear comes in through the window then faith goes out the door. Help me to be brave. I noticed a small room. I told the worship leader, Brother I’m going into that room to pray. Send for me when it’s my time to preach. I went and prayed. After a while I looked at my watch and realised half an hour had passed. The singing had stopped. I opened the door and there was nobody there except for one old man. He said, Kebede, what are you doing here? The police came and took everybody to prison. Go through the back door for the police are still at the front of the building.

Back at the hotel, Kassaye asked, How was the meeting?

Wonderful, I said. What kind of wonderful?

I told him the full story and we rejoiced that God had kept his word to me. Not one hair of my head was touched. When Hamalemale heard the conference had been busted she thought she wouldn’t see me for two years because of the suspended sentence. But praise God, Jesus had delivered me from the devil’s hand.

Many times I escaped capture and seven times I was imprisoned. I was imprisoned four times under Haile Selassie and three times under communism. strong> The overcrowded prisons were separated into male and female. Hundreds of us were squashed into a cell. Lice, skin rashes and disease spread like wildfire. Because of this they shaved our hair off. Many Ethiopian women have very beautiful long hair. Once all our arrested female choir members had their heads shaved. They looked like different people.

Persecution and prison under Haile Selassie helped me to survive persecution and prison under communism. When the communists confiscated our churches I knew we’d survive. I’ve always known the church was more than a building and I knew Jesus had promised us blessings with persecutions. Persecutions are sure to come to us all sooner or later. So many faithful Ethiopian Christians perished during the days of Haile Selassie and communism. So many martyrs whose stories will only be fully told in Glory. Many died in prison. Most just disappeared never to be seen again, their families never knowing where they were buried. Persecution and martyrdom brings unity to Christians. It brings a sense of oneness and gives them strength.

Many Ethiopians suffered more than me. Many gave their lives for the Gospel. Many disappeared and many died in prison. God for his own purposes has kept me alive till now perhaps so that things done in darkness should be shouted from the rooftops. I never expected my Christian life to be easy. We were never taught the prosperity gospel. We were told we’d have to suffer and many of us would have to die in order to bring the Kingdom of God onto the earth.

BIBLE SCHOOL DAYS IN KENYA

At the end of 1972 the Lord told me to go to Bible School. At that time I’d been an evangelist with the indigenous Mulu Wongel group of churches for over seven years. There was no salary or official position. I had to live by faith in the world’s poorest country. It was a good training ground.

When I receive a rhema word from God I’ll have faith and nothing moves me after that. Through this scripture I believed God was saying he’d open doors for me and provide whatever finance was necessary. I told my elders, The Lord has spoken to me. So whether you support me or not, I believe God will enable me to go to Bible School. I began to openly confess God was going to give me a hidden treasure so I could go to Nairobi. People began to hear of my decision. They watched to see what would happen.

I really appreciate my wife Hamalemale. She was never a stumbling block to my calling and ministry. She always said, Go for it! At that time we had two children. Hamalemale had no money or job but she said, Don’t worry Kebede. Just go! I can sell bananas on the street if I have to. I’ll raise our two children. You just do the Lord’s will and things will work out fine. At this time God opened me up to the wider body of Christ. Most of 1973 was spent working in a leprosy rehabilitation centre. This taught me forbearance. I learned to be patient and kind with people in bad situations. In October I went to Nairobi. Bible School was a huge change from living-by-faith as an evangelist. All students had to work one and a half hours per day cleaning the toilets, digging the garden, washing the windows, etc.

My favourite teacher was Jeffrey Huxley. I really appreciate that man. He was gentle and humble. He’s had a massive influence on my life. I still remember his maxims. He’d say, The way up is the way down. Often when we students were doing manual labour he’d come and work alongside us. Although he was an older person he was not proud and standoffish like many of the faculty. No one has ever impressed my life like Jeffrey Huxley. He is the one who organised the ticket for me to visit my family in Ethiopia. He believed in me. He said he knew I’d be a good leader and that I’d serve the Lord for the rest of my life.

One day Jeffrey Huxley tapped me on the shoulder. He said, Kebede, you are too ethnocentric. Christianity is not merely national. It is international. It’s Christ for all nations. From then onwards I came out from my shell of a denominational and nationalistic spirit. I became open to the worldwide body of Christ.

MINISTRY IN ETHIOPIA UNDER COMMUNIST POWER

When the communists took over in 1974 all foreign missionaries were expelled. This was a mixed blessing. On one hand it necessitated the growth of indigenous leadership. On the other hand it left us penniless. With the missionaries gone the Baptist church in Addis Ababa was left leaderless. I was asked to be the full-time pastor working alongside a part-time pastor. There were a hundred regular members and perhaps three hundred non-attending members on the rolls.

Some of the Full Gospel people who knew me joined the church. We started to pray about revival. Soon the church was transformed. People began to be baptised in the Spirit with speaking in tongues, prophecy, scripture reading and an increased faith and prayer life. Within a few years the membership grew from a nominal three hundred to a vibrant three thousand. Students from the nearby university joined us. Now they are doctors, engineers and other professionals.

So many healings happened in that church. The power of God was often so strong the demon possessed couldn’t enter without being delivered. Sometimes when just passing the church they’d fall down and be delivered without anybody praying for them. One Sunday morning, government soldiers burst into our meeting and locked all the doors. They said they were looking for a criminal.

An officer shouted, No one is leaving until we find who we’re looking for. They took us one by one into the basement to check our ID. I was in my office while the communists were checking the people’s ID. At one point I assumed the checking was over. I went up to the policeman who was standing watch over the main door. I said, It is finished. Let the people go. He instantly obeyed. He opened the door and we all left. One man who’d been arrested later told us the captain had been furious with the soldier who’d opened the door.

Where are the people? he screamed. The pastor told me to let the people go. Who gives the orders around here? Find that bloody pastor and we’ll kill him.

ESCAPE FROM ETHIOPIAN TERROR. FREEDOM IN CANADA

A day came when I couldn't stand the pressure any longer. Living under the daily threat of imprisonment and death took its toll. I think it might be easier to be imprisoned full-time rather than suffer the constant uncertainty of being caught and killed. Outside the church the communists were constantly harassing and spying on me. Inside the church the Baptist missionaries were also constantly harassing and spying on me.

They were still causing trouble even though the church building was now officially closed. They argued over doctrine. We weren’t allowed just to be Christians. They forced us into categories. I’m a Baptist. You’re a Pentecostal. We don't believe this. You don't believe that. They caused discord. In the end the white missionaries did what the red communists couldn't do. They smashed the church.

I felt crushed between the communists and the missionaries. There was bad news daily. Friends and former colleagues disappeared. Some turned up dead. Most were never found. I regularly prayed with the Lutheran priest, Gudina Tumsa, until he was executed. They even killed the Orthodox Pope. Many of my friends like Abuna Tewophilos died in prison.

Our children were also getting older. Soon the communists would be knocking on our door to take them off for military training. We’d heard awful reports of raw recruits being put into the minefields of Eritrea. It was cheaper than losing a tank. I was risking my life and my family under communism while at the same time church leaders who could have been supportive were at loggerheads with one another. Discord and confusion reigned.

I planned my escape. When I’d been a pastor in the Mulu Wongel I’d gone to The Haggai Institute in Singapore for advanced Christian leadership training. So I applied for another course at The Haggai and was accepted. A friend in immigration arranged a visa. The stage was set for my escape. The plan was to attend The Haggai Institute and not return from Singapore.

But the plan turned not to be God’s will. After a dangerous experience in Singapore and Malaysia I ended up in Nigeria as refugee, under UN protection. After three years in Nigeria, Canada offered us asylum. God bless those who work on behalf of refugees. Hamalemale, Bareket and I were housed in a motel in Surrey, Vancouver. Our other children Sarah and Nardos were still back in Ethiopia under communism. The moment our feet touched Canadian earth the Lord gave us grace. Seemed like we’d finally entered the Promised Land.

NEW LIFE IN CANADA

I contacted the Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada and started cooperation with pastor Alan Hornby. I began to have a burden for other refugees. Alan encouraged me to start a church in Surrey. Because I’d been a refugee I was able to empathise. I worked closely with the church and the immigration board of Canada in settling exiles from Ethiopia, Sudan and Kenya. The church people befriended them, helped them integrate and find jobs. Those who got work seeded back into the church through tithes and offerings. The church people were excellent at hospitality. For a refugee to be welcomed into a host person’s home is so important. So many Ethiopians are now good established Canadian citizens because of that work. I hadn’t seen my two youngest children for four years. When they arrived in Canada we were full of joy and broken in tears. We wept and laughed for such a long time. There’d been so many years of sorrow. Now the floodgates of joy were opened. It was a wonderful time. Days of heaven upon earth. Things were great for us spiritually and practically. We were finally at peace. Hamalemale, Bareket and I were working and Sarah and Nardos were in High School.

Four good years later our joy was complete when we were granted Canadian citizenship. After many years of cruel separation and persecution our future looked rosy in our land of milk and honey. Then my faith was tested. In the gulf of a couple of years both pastor Alan and my wife Hamalemale died of cancer.

Church people tried to comfort me. Ethiopian pastors from all over North America laid hands on me at their yearly conference. I remained depressed. Everything was black and hopeless. I couldn't pray. I couldn’t read my Bible. When people talked I couldn't listen. I had conflicting emotions. Sometimes I was so angry I thought I was going to lose my faith.

Then the Lord spoke. He said, Kebede, why are you still holding on to your wife? I have taken her. She’s in my hand. Don't I have a right to take my handmaiden home? Why are you angry with me?

I said, Lord, what about me? What about my family? What about my ministry? What’s going to happen to me?

The Lord said, You are mine. Your wife is mine. Your family is mine. Your ministry is mine. You have nothing in this world that I didn’t give you.

Suddenly I saw things clearly. I said, Thank you Lord. You are God. When I said this immediately a great weight just lifted off my head and shoulders. I was able to accept the situation. I was released and my peace was restored. I began to say, Thank you Lord! Thank you Lord!

A scripture came to me, No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him. This scripture burned itself into me and blew my heart wide open. I knew the best was yet to be.

MEETING WITH RUTH

Long time after this I was invited to a prayer meeting. I decided to fast and pray. During lunch I slipped into the Prayer Chapel and was interceding with my eyes closed when I suddenly heard a woman’s voice speaking in tongues. I opened my eyes but could see no one. Perhaps she was round the corner. I kept silent. Next day I again slipped away to the Chapel during lunch. Again I heard a woman’s voice praying in tongues. I said, Lord who is this one woman amongst all these men? Why is she praying here? What kind of a woman is she?

The Lord said, This is the one I told you about. Remember I said, No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him. This woman is going to be your wife.

Her name was Ruth. Ruth was home on furlough from Uganda where she’d been working with the African Children’s Choir. Within a month she had to go back to Uganda. For three weeks of this month I was in my Toronto office working on a PAOC programme concerning Ethiopian churches joining the Pentecostal Assemblies Of Canada. We only met a few times. She came to my church. I went to her church.

Then Ruth returned to Uganda. Our courtship was carried on by telephone and letter. After six months she returned to Canada and told her parents she was going to marry me. They weren’t overjoyed.

Before she became a committed Christian Ruth had been married and divorced without children. Ruth had been many years in the mission field before she met me. Her father contacted the Broadway Church, Who is this Kebede? Is he a good man or a bad man? Is he honest or a liar? Even though Broadway Church because of theological reasons were against me marrying a divorced woman they still had positive things to say. They said I was a good and honest man of God.

PAOC made it crystal clear if I married Ruth I’d lose my credentials and my position within the church. I’d have to leave the ministry. This was to be the cost of following God’s will and marrying Ruth. Some pastors said, Kebede do whatever the Lord tells you to do. These are just man-made rules. We have been debating these divorce regulations for years in our general assembly. In cases like yours and Ruth’s where she was divorced before she became a Christian of course there should be an exception. Perhaps had Alan Hornby been alive we might have received some grace but as it was the powers that be closed ranks and wouldn’t budge.

I chose to marry Ruth and follow God’s will even though it cost me my livelihood and ministry. I was humiliated and excommunicated. No one tried to help. Alan was gone. Hamalemale was gone. My ministry was gone. My family were hurting. But God’s promise was still there.

Breaking through the dark clouds of confusion were his words, No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him. I chose to believe.

BACK TO ETHIOPIA AS MISSIONARIES

One day I saw a vision in which I was in Glad Tidings Mission Church in Vancouver. In this vision I was packing my luggage for a long journey. The Ethiopian flag covered my suitcase. The voice of the Lord said, I am sending you back to Ethiopia. Ruth was overjoyed when I shared this vision. Next Sunday we went to Church of Zion, told them our story and said, We’re going back to Ethiopia as missionaries. Immediately they pledged us one year’s missionary support. Soon another church raised funds to buy a one-year open ticket to travel. Things moved quickly.

Ruth and I were excited to be in Ethiopia. We decided to open a church near the University in order to reach the privileged and educated students. But God’s ways are not our ways. Instead it was the deprived and untutored street children who became the focus and foundation of our work.

Each time we stopped at traffic lights in Addis Ababa begging children would surround the car. Ruth was shocked at their condition. Then she discovered we could buy vouchers from a Christian charity that provided meals for the poor. So we started giving them food vouchers. Soon all the street children knew Ruth.

At one point we allowed American missionaries from a well-known denomination to come and teach in our church and Bible classes. We had about three hundred people attending church and around thirty folk at each Bible class. These missionaries told us they wanted to bless the church in Ethiopia and we offered to help them in whatever way we could.

I believe Christianity should say, Whatever is mine is yours. We will share it. We have to maintain a Christian culture, a sharing culture. Living together. Sharing together. Eating together. Dying together. Christianity is not buying and selling. It’s giving and receiving. Freely we have received. Freely we give.

Remember the story in Luke 16?

There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. At his gate lay a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table.

Ethiopia is the world’s second poorest nation. Twenty percent of our people are constantly in chronic need of food aid. We are like Lazarus, always hoping for the crumbs. Over the years especially through the efforts of Ruth some folk from the West have come to visit. I thank God for each and every single person who has helped us. There have not been many but they have been faithful and sacrificial in their giving. True friends. We couldn’t have done it without them. May God remember and reward their kindness. I always pray Hebrews: 6:10 for them:

God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them.

Jesus told us to let our light shine before men so they may see our good deeds and praise our Father in heaven. So we run the social work side by side but we don't mix it with the spiritual work. Our projects are totally humanitarian. We don’t discriminate by gender, colour, race, tribe or belief. Everyone is equal. Evaluation is based on the level of need.

We work with AIDS victims, prostitutes, street children, handicapped people and famine victims. We are involved in healthcare, training, education, and food and water projects. We always respond to the many needs.

The social development side of our ministry is called Zion Trust Community Based Integrated Sustainable Development or ZTCBISD for short. We like long names in Africa. James also says, Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

Widows and orphans are always vulnerable especially in the Third World. We soon realised we couldn’t only focus on children. Children have parents. There might also be a disabled person in the family. Wars and famines have left a tremendous number of crippled, disabled and blind people in Ethiopia.

AIDS is a growing problem affecting at least 5% of the population. We have an AIDS project aimed at providing supplementary nutrition, medicine and support to the sufferers. We educate people about AIDS. How to take prevention and how not to stigmatise the afflicted. We also have qualified social workers, going from home to home to ensure people can die with dignity and be buried with honour and respect.

In Ethiopia, disabled people are reckoned to be cursed. We counter this erroneous thinking with scriptures that tell of how precious all human life is.

We work with hundreds of disabled folk of all ages. We train them in a range of useful skills: computers, dressmaking, typing, waitressing, block making and so on.

Over the years many have gained employment and a new hope in life. Some are now self-supporting. We also run a health education clinic in various areas. Basic knowledge of personal hygiene is of enormous benefit to the people and prevents a host of diseases. We adopt a holistic approach in everything we do. We are always trying to reach the whole person, body soul and spirit.

There is always a healthy tension between the social work and the spiritual work. Yet we must always remember our purpose is to teach and care for the whole person in the hope of bringing them to a saving knowledge of Jesus. It works as long as we give them both social and spiritual input. Then we are completing our mission. Often a church comes into being out of this social work. We start meeting the people’s needs and end up with a church. . The purpose of my life is to bring people to a knowledge of and relationship with Jesus Christ. If we only do social work we may only be creating clever devils and sending them to hell on a full stomach.

In all our decision making we should look unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is now sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. The joy set before Jesus was the people, families and nations that’d come to faith and receive eternal life through his sacrifice.

REGRETS? I HAVE A FEW...

In my early days as an evangelist I made the error of giving more time to the ministry than to my family. I made the work of the Lord a more important priority than my family. This was a big mistake. The person who tells you you're wrong is not your enemy. They’re often your dearest friend. Hamalemale used to tell me to stay at home and spend more time with her and the children. I regret I didn’t listen.

When I was in Bible School a worship leader called Costa Deir came to visit. Costa told us of how he was invited to address world leaders at the United Nations on a certain day. When he checked his diary he realised that same day was his wife’s birthday. So he told the United Nations people, I'm sorry but I can't accept your invitation. That day is my wife's birthday. I’ve promised to do something special with her.

Costa told us, My wife is more important to me than the opportunity to address world leaders. Better I should minister to my own family than the nations of the world. So Costa blessed his wife on her birthday. Afterwards the United Nations people called again. They said, Now that your wife's birthday is over could you please come and speak to us on another day? Because Costa put his wife first the Lord reopened the door of opportunity for him.

Costa said, We should always stick by the principles of God when we set our priorities; God first, family second and ministry third. God will always honour this because ministry starts from the home. Marriage and family was always God’s good plan. Sometimes I feel I haven't been a good role model for my children. They think Christianity is always trouble. They’ve seen me in and out of prison and in all sorts of bother because of the church. I think they equate Christianity with endless trouble and strife.

When I had my first son Bareket, I prayed, Lord this is the first fruit of my loins. Lord I dedicate my beautiful boy to the work of your ministry. May he be mighty in the land, possess the nations and inherit the gates of his enemies.

Over the years in my own ministry I’ve produced apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers and elders. So many people come to me and say, Pastor Kebede I have learned so much sitting at your feet. Some folk say, I was converted when you preached. Many people, now in the ministry say, Pastor Kebede do you remember this day, that place, this year? When you preached the Lord healed my heart and released me into ministry. Pastor Kebede I was a university student when you were in the Baptist church. Usually they even remember the subject I was teaching on. Occasionally the Lord pulls back the veil and allows us to see some of the good fruit of our lives. These are humbling and encouraging times.

But when it comes down to my own family I always think, Did I do enough for my kids? Have I neglected them and their spiritual well-being over the years? Have I really ministered to them? Did I do things wrong? Why are they not serving the Lord full-time like me? Perhaps they have seen and experienced too much pain in our lives together, persecution, imprisonment, suffering, separation, exile and the early death of their lovely mother.

My prayer is they will serve God in the future. I hope God may have called them for the ministry. I would love that but it’s not been my intention to force them against their will. The cry of my heart is that all my children and my children’s children will serve the Lord. The cry of my heart is that God will bless them to the thousandth generation.

The word of God says if you don't love a person whom you can see how can you love God whom you cannot see. My old teacher Huxley used to say, The cross is vertical and horizontal. The vertical connects us with God. The horizontal connects us with men. When the cross is properly balanced it always brings peace. We can’t get the time back. Hebrews 11 says, Some have suffered for the Lord unto death. They had been wearing the skins of goats and wandering from place to place. This world does not belong to them. They have suffered. This world did not belong to us. And we suffered. We suffered and we wandered from place to place. I didn’t want to have a house. I didn't want to have a car.

But over time God has shown me I need all these things to be able to do the work of the ministry. I didn’t even believe that I should give a good education to my children. I was very stubborn. It was hard for people to work with me. I was the only boy in my family. My father brought me up to be a warrior and a patriot. He told me I had to be strong. He taught me how to ride a horse, how to swim and how to hunt and shoot lions. He taught me to fight and fear no one. He told me about him being a soldier in the Second World War when Haile Selassie absconded to England. He told of how he was jailed for fighting against Haile Selassie on his return to Ethiopia.

Dad’s talk engendered in me a defiant mistrust of the establishment. I was a fighter all my life until I accepted Jesus as my saviour. Even then I was still a warrior, independent and stubborn. I thought I could get everything by fighting. It took me a long time to realise we don't get all we want by arguing.

My early education was jeopardised because I was a fighter. As a young evangelist I still had this fighting spirit. When the elders and the pastors tried to correct me I wouldn’t listen. I was a strong free spirit. Nowadays I'm much better. By God’s grace I now have the patience of five elephants.

I heard a story once. A pastor was on his deathbed. His wife asked him, Husband what should I write on your tombstone? He said, If you really believe it and can say it honestly I would like you to engrave, Truly a man of God.

For a minister to honestly gain this testimony from his wife and children is not easy. Our family knows our true spirituality. If our wives believe we are spiritual men then we can win the whole world. Then people will say he is a true man of God. Our family knows our weaknesses. They know our ups and downs. They know who we really are. Other people only see the superficial. The pastor’s wife prayed hard about this request.

She remembered all the bad and foolish things he’d said and done over their many years together. But at the end of the day she remembered all the good things he had done. She remembered all he had suffered and sacrificed to follow Jesus. So when he died she had the stonemason engrave,

Truly a man of God.

Being a fighter has caused much trouble in my Christian walk. I was like a son of thunder always wanting to bring fire from heaven and consume my enemies. 1st Corinthians 13 speaks about Christian ministry,

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing. Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.

Love is the main thing. God is love. As I grow older I realise success is not measured in earthly terms, a big house, limousine, money, or a successful mega-church. We need to keep our eyes on eternity. True success will only be measured when we appear before the judgement seat of Christ.

CONCLUSION

No one had pity on Israel who like baby Ouonake was despised and rejected. But God cared. He had compassion. He saw. I often think it’s been the same for me. If God hadn’t saved me when he did I’d have lived a wasted life. I’d have died young or maybe have killed somebody and ended up dying alone in jail.

But one Sunday nearly fifty years ago I went to watch a soccer match. I was standing at a crossroads wondering which way to go when I heard some young women singing on the street. I drew closer. A passer-by asked one of the girls, Is that a Bible you are holding? She said, Yes it is. He said, Are you missionaries or Pentes or what? We are Christians. Are you going to teach me? She said, God is going to teach you.

That remark touched my heart. God is going to teach you. I followed them back to a small church. The preacher was talking about the rich young ruler who asked Jesus, Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?

Jesus said, You know the commandments: Do not commit adultery, do not murder, do not steal, do not give false testimony, honour your father and mother. The rich young man said, All these I have kept since I was a boy. Jesus looked at him and loved him. Then Jesus said, One thing you lack. Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me. But Jesus’ love was not enough for this rich young man who became sad because he was a man of great wealth. Jesus lovingly looking at him turned to his disciples and said, How hard it is for the rich to enter the Kingdom of God!

The preacher then read from Genesis 12, where God told Abraham to leave his country, his people and his father's household and go to the land that God would show him. Unlike the rich young ruler Abraham obeyed instantly and left everything to follow God not knowing where he was going. As I listened to the preacher my heart was strangely warmed. I surrendered my whole life to God. We were singing, I have decided to follow Jesus. I can still hear those words tumbling down the years,

I have decided to follow Jesus

No Turning back, No Turning back

The cross before me

The world behind me

I was working as a police journalist at the time. I never returned to that job. Not even to collect my salary. I took Jesus at his word and left all to follow him. Like St. Paul I can honestly say I have been made a spectacle to angels and men.

I have been a fool for Christ, weak and dishonoured! I have been hungry and thirsty, in rags, brutally treated, homeless, exiled, cursed, persecuted, slandered and imprisoned. I have been under great pressure beyond my ability to endure. I have often felt the sentence of death. I have worked with my own hands to support myself and others. I have often despaired of life.

But I have also seen the Kingdom come. I have seen the sick healed. I have seen demons cast out. I have seen countless people like Ouonake raised from Satan’s dunghill of death and given glorious new life in Christ. And although I have lost much including my first wife Hamalemale I have never once regretted the decision I made that day of the missed soccer match. God had a much greater goal for me.

He has also a great plan for your life and for the generations after you. If you haven’t already done so why not be like Abraham and leave all to follow God’s way. It’ll be the greatest adventure of your life and you’ll never regret it. Believe me Jesus is looking at you right now with love in his eyes awaiting your response. Will you leave all to follow Jesus?

Please say, Yes!

The grace of God has kept me alive for over forty years and I’m still going strong. I'm still as vigorous and as ready for battle as I was forty years ago. Like Caleb I can say, Lord give me this mountain you have promised and I will take it full. God is still with me. Oh praise the Lord. I have his wonderful Holy Spirit.

I don't know what the future holds but I know there’s a big harvest coming. I can see a great harvest of souls for Ethiopia. I can see remarkable things coming in keeping with the prophecies once spoken over me. I have no story of my own. I am nothing. I am nobody.

My story is a story of the mercy of Almighty God working in a poor man’s life. Oh Lord, thank you for keeping me and enabling me to survive and to pass through all these hurdles of life. I give all the glory to Jesus!


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