ETHIOPIA

The Light In Ethiopia

Will the future Church shine in the darkness?

By Sarah Kreitzer

May 20, 2022

What does the bride of Christ look like? 

I found myself asking that question on many dusty bus rides during our time in Ethiopia earlier this year. As the months unfolded, I began to get a glimpse of how Jesus sees us as he longs and awaits for his bride. We had the incredible privilege to travel with a small, grassroots organization called Ethiopian Youth Missions Movement (EYMM), led by a young local named Yonas Demeke, to tribal locations in the country as they hosted training sessions for remote church bodies.  EYMM’s goal is not only to see their nation reached, but also to equip the local church, from the sprawling capital of Addis Ababa to the most rural villages, to be sent out as missionaries. 

Although there are more than 25 million evangelical Christians in the nation, millions have still never heard the name of Jesus, while others do not have access to a Bible in their native language. In addition, the nations directly surrounding Ethiopia are some of the most hostile places to the gospel on earth, such as Somalia—infamous for its extreme persecution of believers. Both Djibouti and Eritrea are almost entirely Muslim and have very few known believers. The other bordering nations are Sudan and South Sudan, which have been caught up in war and tribal conflicts for decades. As one of the last strongholds of Christianity in a sea of Islam, within Ethiopia itself there are over 90 different ethnic groups, as well as a vast diversity of faiths: Protestants, Orthodox and Muslims all live together side by side in uneasy compromise. Between Orthodox and Protestant Christians an increasing rift is growing, fueled by violent persecution from both Muslims and, sadly, many culturally Orthodox Ethiopians.  

It is a nation at war with itself; made of so many different people groups, the once-peaceful government has now been assaulting the Tigray people in the North for months, isolating one of the oldest, most historical ethnic groups in the nation. The hatred, violence and famine that was concentrated in the northern region only months ago has now rapidly spread across the entire country, threatening even the most peaceful areas as we watch in grief at the growing list of atrocities.

It is a nation at war with itself; made of so many different people groups, the once-peaceful government has now been assaulting the Tigray people in the North for months, isolating one of the oldest, most historical ethnic groups in the nation. The hatred, violence and famine that was concentrated in the northern region only months ago has now rapidly spread across the entire country, threatening even the most peaceful areas as we watch in grief at the growing list of atrocities.

And yet, in the midst of this undeniable chaos, what I saw in Ethiopia was a glimpse of the glory of God’s bride, and it is enough to convince me that his work is not over but only just beginning. I saw a church, built by millions of wild testimonies, rising up out of the fire of persecution with an unmatched determination to usher in the kingdom of God. I watched young believers walk days just to hear the Word of God – a generation of stubborn faithful, set on believing promises proclaimed over their nation. Many of them do not have the Bible in their language and may not receive one for years. These may have little to call their own except their very families and homes, and yet are willing to give up even those to see their Muslim brothers and sisters saved. I saw a church full of the grit and grace of Jesus that stood singing their anthems of hope deep into the humid evenings, filled with a determination and exuberant joy—“If everything is empty, Jesus is my treasure,” and, “We’ll stand in unity and preach Christ crucified.”

I believe that Ethiopia will be one of the largest sending nations in all of Africa—with access to so many hostile, unreached places, they can reach corners of the earth many of us Western missionaries may never be able to step foot in. There is a day coming soon where our Ethiopian brothers and sisters will flood the nations of Northern and Eastern Africa with their testimonies in their hands and a gospel of liberation on their lips. They are those that have truly met this man named Jesus, whose lives have been so transformed by him that they have chosen to take up their cross, lay down their rights, and come after him no matter the cost. I have found that this is what the bride looks like: tender, yet determined, persecuted yet overflowing with wild hope, colorful, full of laughter, yet weathered and humble, laboring with lovesick hearts for the return of king Jesus. These are their faces and fragments of their stories: may this small glimpse at his Ethiopian bride stir your heart as we run together.