Posts Tagged ‘Addis Ababa’

My journey to Mai Ayni had begun a year earlier, after Dr. Rodney Hammer and I had managed to visit the Eritrean refugee camp in Northern Ethiopia. We were burdened for the needs of the 1300 unaccompanied minors living in the camp. Because of repressive conditions and little hope for education, children aged 6-16 are leaving the Eritrea to seek hope elsewhere. In Ethiopia, most are sent to Mai Ayni. This time I was armed with the generous donations of the BR-KC Baptist Association and was teamed with some Eritreans from the United States. I joined my Eritrean friends at the airport. Tomas Solomon and Efrem Kahsai have formed a 501(c)3 in the U.S. called URER or Urgent Relief of Eritrean Refugees ( We had connected and had talked several times before meeting at the airport. Along with them was Senait Tecle, an Eritrean who wanted to see firsthand the conditions and needs of the refugees so she could report back to the organization she was an integral part of, SACS. SACS is a Christian charitable organization dedicated to advocating on behalf of all those who are in chains for their faith, as well as all other prisoners of conscience in Eritrea; advancing the cause of religious freedom in Eritrea; assisting those who are suffering hardships as a result of their persecution. SACS aspires to fulfill a command to help those in need according to James 2:15-16 – “Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him ‘Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it?” It also serves as a voice of the persecuted church in Eritrea through its website and to “speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute; speak up and defend the rights of the poor and needy” (Prov. 31:8-9).

Tomas had conversed several times with Eritreans in the camp to see what the substantive needs were. We formed a shopping list which we decided to buy in Addis. We had flights to Shire on Friday, so my arrival on Wednesday meant we had to hurry up. We also had to arrange transportation of the goods. All this proved too much to handle in 48 hours, especially since we decided to interview some young Eritrean women who had just arrived in Addis and were going to be sent to the refugee camps. These women had endured seven months of horrors in an Egyptian prison, living on one small loaf of bread a day. Their original group of 107 trying to cross the Sinai into Israel was now only 45 due to being shot by Egyptian soldiers, dying of thirst in the Sinai, or dying in prison. These girls were only 16-25 and had already experienced such sorrow. Yet they were fortunate, for my friends (staying in Addis to buy goods) interviewed another young Eritrean refugee (named Rehal) who had been with a group in the Sinai and had been captured by Bedouins. They were tortured to plead with family and friends to raise money for their release. If they could not, they were killed and body parts removed and sold on the black market. She told my friends the body parts are worth $30,000. Rehal was only 19, and her hand was black from having been burnt with liquid plastics. Muscle was exposed. She had extreme pain from nerve damage. The Bedouins had abused her so badly that they didn’t think her parts were usable  They wrapped her in a blanket and through her out like trash in an area where wild dogs roamed. Soldiers just happened to be passing by as the dogs were attacking her unconscious body. Sent to Addis, she needs medical and psychological attention that we believe is not available in Addis Ababa.

Our concern for the children in Mai Ayni is that they receive good education and decide to stay in the camp, rather than try to make it to a European Country as these women did. The dangers are too great, and the odds of them making it are too small. This is why we returned to Mai Ayni. Through contacts in the camp, and an earlier visit in July by Yonas, a member of URER, we determined to buy the following items.

  • 8 32″ LCD TV’s
  • 8 DVD Players
  • 2 Satellite Dishes and receivers (with this there is no monthly fee)
  • Medical Supplies – Diabetes testing kits and strips, bandages and analgesics.
  • Sanitary Napkins (these are in short supply and needed for teenage girls)
  • Library reference and education books
  • Art supplies
  • 6 Electric sewing machines
  • 2 Large Self-contained stereo systems
  • 3 Desktop Computers (Dell)

I also gave the women who had been in prison (and were interviewed) $100 to share among themselves to aid in paying their way to the refugee camp. ARRA (Administration of Refugee and Returnee Affairs was only giving each of them about $25 when the bus fare alone $17). We also handed out $25 scholarships to the top 5 students in each of the grades 5th – 8th as a way to encourage the children to stay in school and excel in their studies.

My Eritrean friends stayed in Addis until Monday, buying the goods and arranging for the two day transport to Mai Ayni. We had to hold the title to the truck in order to make sure all the goods got to Mai Ayni. So I set out on my own to the Camp. I had lost my interpreters, but was amazed how God provided them every step of the way. Arriving in Shire, I discovered that ARRA had no transportation to the camp that Friday, so I decided to travel by public transportation. The three hour bus ride was a thrill, especially with the odors (hygiene is not a priority) and constant strange looks as if I was the only white man who had ever ridden the bus to Mai Ayni.

For the next four days I enjoyed no running water, rats foraging in my $3/night hotel room, and so many flies I almost got used to them. Nights were sleepless because of constant noise and calls to prayer and who knows what that was crawling across my feet. But I loved every second of being in the camp! God connected me in a miraculous way with the Elders of the Evangelistic Church. He gave me multiple opportunities to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with the children in Mai Ayni and even in the town I stayed (May Sembry). I believe I witnessed to a total of 450-500 children. Many times I would hear them say He is MY God! Many others had this expression as if they had never heard of Jesus Christ. What saddens me is that the Evangelical Church has been told by the more powerful Orthodox Church NOT to evangelize the unaccompanied children of Mai Ayni. If they come to their church of their own accord, that is OK. Jo Ann Ruble and her friends had assembled 1300 “goodie” bags that I had handed out to the children at a couple times. They were quite the “draw”. So I left about 650 with the Elders of the Evangelistic Church and told the children to go to the Evangelical Church if they wanted more.

My friends arrived in the camp Monday at 5pm, and we all stayed at the guest house of the Evangelistic Church. They even cooked dinner and breakfast for us. Ermias and Efrem were two of the Elders, and want me to return and help them put on a VBS for the children. That means returning in the summer (when it is 100 degrees and humid). They would also appreciate an overhead projector and laptop so they could show Evangelistic films like the Jesus Story. They told me that many are coming to Jesus Christ in the camp. I even met one young man (Mohammed Ali) who had converted from Islam to Jesus Christ. His new name is Stephen. His wife and son are still Muslim, so he needs our prayers.

We had a big meeting with ARRA and the camp parliament (council of all the associations). They were so excited over what we had brought. They made the comment that many people visit the camp and promise to return, but never do. They really appreciated what we had done. We had so much that they decided to send some of it to Adi Harush and Shimelba.

Since the goods were displayed in public, I know they will be used in the appropriate places. In Mai Ayni, most went to the Elementary and Intermediate Schools, as well as a Youth Center in the Camp. The women’s association was going to manage the sewing machines. I was able to go to Adi Harush and meet with their Parliament. I heard a young boy shouting and running to me. It was Eben, son of Jordan, one of the women imprisoned in Egypt. They had just arrived in Adi Harush along with 60 other refugees. This camp is only 2 years old and already 22,000 Eritreans are living there.

My friends went on to Shimelba while I returned to the hot running water of the United States. With a long layover before my flight at 10PM, I decided to go into Addis and walk around. I had two dolls left which the ladies of Hickory Grove Baptist had made. I gave 5 away to young teenage girls in Mai Ayni. They lived together in one house (they were unaccompanied minors). But there were so many girls it was hard to pick a couple without causing pain to the others. In Addis, God led me to a hospital, and then to the Head Nurse. I told her what I wanted to do. The last girl she led me to was Asma, nine years old. She looked so sad until I explained the doll was hers. Then her face lit up with a beautiful smile. Then the Head Nurse explained she was dying of AIDS. My heart nearly jumped out of my chest. I could hardly hold back the tears.

Great are the needs but great is our God. Sparrows are 2 for a dollar or 5 for two dollars according to Jesus. Yet His Father knows when one of them falls to the earth. How much more valuable are these little ones to Him! Will you join me in praying for God’s Justice to reign in Eritrea, so these children and families can be united again? Will you pray with me that our State Department will put pressure on the Egyptian Government to stop the abuses of the Bedouins and their own prison system?


When I owned an Asphalt Paving company we decided to get into concrete, and so we did in a big way. We even did footings, slabs and walls for new construction. I learned a great deal about foundations for commercial buildings. You don’t just dig a trench and pour concrete. You must consider where the main support beams are placed, what the weight load of the walls will be, what type of soil the foundation is on, and many other factors. The foundation is a really big deal that I had taken for granted. Good concrete alone is not enough for a solid foundation. You must use steel re-bar, and the amount and configuration of the re-bar depends upon the load at that point. Even concrete slabs have to consider the weight of the objects they will support. As part of our foundation work we did some banks which had bank vaults. Most vaults nowadays are actually pre-fab concrete units that are shipped in and moved in place. The vault door is added later. But the slab of the vault is poured 12″ to 24″ thick, with 2 to 3 layers of 3/4″ re-bar tied on 12″ centers. (We did one with 6″ centers). They do not want the vault going anywhere! It also indicates the weight (and importance) of the bank vault. Before concrete, I never thought about foundations. Now I consider them wherever I go. I even took this picture of some awesome re-bar for a building going up in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Judging by the re-bar pile, they still had a lot of tying to do!

The church of today is so often about programs. We need programs to keep drawing crowds and making people ‘feel’ like they are Christians. So often ministry programs for children, seniors, life groups, special events, and whatever must pass the “feel good” test. Will it “minister to a felt need” and make everyone “feel good”. Modern ministry must have an emotional draw or it usually dies.

The church that Jesus began and the Apostles modeled was centered around discipleship, making disciples. Emotional feelings quickly fade in the face of persecution. There must be something more about being a church than “feel good” programs. That more is true discipleship. We tried to get a “discipleship program” going within a year after coming to my present church, Pleasant Prairie. But we were only 3 years removed from a tragic ‘split’ that nearly destroyed a church that had been there for 36 years at the time. The people were not ready for a discipleship program that did not meet the need to rebuild their emotional being. There were emotional scars of bitterness and unforgiveness that needed attention before discipleship could begin. Inward hurts hinder the ability to look upward and outward!

God has recently burdened me that it is time to more clearly define the mission of our church. God has been sending some great men and families our way, but we need to have a clearly defined discipleship path. Our church is ready to stand and embrace discipleship as our core value, but I do not want it to be a “program”. Discipleship does not automatically have a “feel good” component that builds excitement. Most Christians seem to view discipleship as something for Paul’s and Timothy’s, people who serve in a major capacity. Even leaders in the church seem to shy away from intentional discipleship. Too often Christians are ‘comfortable’ where they are at. Convenience and comfort are often core values of most American Christians.

The Holy Spirit was leading me to preach on the Life of King David. He is a great example of a man of God. There is no more transparent life in the Bible than King David. But the Holy Spirit was also burdening me with the need for a clearly defined discipleship path in our church. For some reason He led me to the ‘last saying’ of King David in 2 Samuel 23:5. I won’t get it to it in this writing, but through this, the Holy Spirit is revealing some awesome revelations about discipleship and how the church can embrace it, accomplish it and even have a “feel good”  component at the same time. 

So the next few posts will be the “Laying of the Foundation” of what I am calling “David Discipleship”. We don’t often associate King David with discipleship, but I believe his life is the very definition of discipleship, beginning with the revelation of His last words.

Now to bend and tie the “re-bar” of David Discipleship:

If the church is not to be about “programs” but about making disciples, what is a disciple? 

Disciple: One who embraces and assists in spreading the teachings of another. In the New Testament, the word is Mathētés. Here it means more than a mere pupil or learner. It is an adherent who accepts the instruction given to him and makes it his rule of conduct[1]. The general designation of mathētés was given to those who believed on Christ. Jesus clearly defines disciple in John 8:31: (ESV) So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples”.

What is Discipleship?

If a disciple is an adherent of another person’s teachings, what is discipleship?

A consensus of definitions produces this: Discipleship is the process of learning about the teachings of another, internalizing them and then acting upon them. Most discipleship programs focus on the learning process, with the emphasis on knowledge.

Peters Perspective on the Discipleship Process

Peter turned out to be the most dynamic of the early disciples of Christ. He had learned a great deal after spending three years at the feet of the Master Teacher. Yet when it was time for the rubber to meet the road, Mighty Peter failed, and denied his Master in a dramatic fire. Where was that knowledge then? What good did his earlier confession do at the moment when it mattered most? Peter sheds a glaring light upon what a discipleship program should be about.

2 Peter 1:1 (ESV) Simeon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ…

2 Peter 1:3-5 (ESV) 3 His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge (epignosis)[2] of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, 4 by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. 5 For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge(gnosis) …

Peter’s Insights into Discipleship:

1. Equal Faith <–> Righteousness of Christ

  • Discipleship grows from Faith that is provided by the righteousness of our Savior Jesus Christ. That faith makes each believer equal in the sight of God. That equality is not based upon knowledge, but upon the righteousness provided us by our God and Savior Jesus Christ!

2. Growth <–> Relational Knowledge

  • Our growth in life and godliness is by His divine power and only through knowing Him in His glory and excellence.

3. Growth <–> Precious Promises

  • Our growth is only by His divine nature becoming our nature through the power of the Word and His precious promises.

4. Growth <–> Focus on His Virtue becoming our Virtue

  • Discipleship must focus on His Virtue becoming our Virtue. We first add virtue to our faith, and knowledge to virtue.

VIRTUE is the Greek “areté” which denotes in a moral sense what gives man his worth[3]

Why is Virtue Important to Discipleship?

There are four synonyms to Areté in the Greek according to Zodhiates…

  • dóxa – glory;
  • dúnamis – power;
  • chárisma – gift;
  • ōphéleia – usefulness[4]

Virtue is a quality that is difficult to define, but definite in its impact. From the synonyms we glimpse the power of this little word. Here is my humble attempt at a definition.

Virtue is the strength of the character of Christ internalized into my life as I follow Him. Virtue brings worth and value to my life. Without His virtue I am weak and ineffective.

Virtue grows from an obedient relationship!

Discipleship programs are not effective if their focus is primarily upon knowledge (ginosis). It must be knowledge that grows from a personal on-going relationship with Jesus Christ Himself! (epiginosko). I know far too many graduates of Christian Schools and Colleges that display little if any of the life of Jesus Christ. A surprising number no longer go to church. Knowledge is not enough to become a disciple of Jesus Christ. Look at Judas. He had three years of instruction from Jesus Christ, and yet there was no changed life!

Discipleship is Life-Changing only if it is Life-Giving!

Discipleship must lead believers into a life that is above the natural, a life that is empowered by the Righteous Life of Jesus Christ. His virtue of LIFE becomes our virtue by our dying.

We Have No Virtue worth Propping up

Discipleship is not a self-improvement course. It is not a way of “improving” your Christian walk! We are ugly before we are saved, we are ugly after we are saved. The only beauty we can ever have is the beauty of Jesus Christ.


God told Ezekiel to dig a hole in the King’s wall. He was startled by the abominations being committed by the ‘supposed’ righteous leaders of Israel.

Ezekiel 8:8-13 (ESV) 8 Then he said to me, “Son of man, dig in the wall.” So I dug in the wall, and behold, there was an entrance. 9 And he said to me, “Go in, and see the vile abominations that they are committing here.” 10 So I went in and saw. And there, engraved on the wall all around, was every form of creeping things and loathsome beasts, and all the idols of the house of Israel. 11 And before them stood seventy men of the elders of the house of Israel, with Jaazaniah the son of Shaphan standing among them. Each had his censer in his hand, and the smoke of the cloud of incense went up. 12 Then he said to me, “Son of man, have you seen what the elders of the house of Israel are doing in the dark, each in his room of pictures? For they say, ‘The Lord does not see us, the Lord has forsaken the land.’ ” 13 He said also to me, “You will see still greater abominations that they commit.”

No matter how ‘spiritual’ we pretend to be, or how much ‘Bible knowledge’ we possess, no one can pass the “Hole in the Wall” test. Our hearts are full of abominations through sin. The harder we try to be a good disciple, the further we alienate ourselves from the heart of God! The heart of God is centered around the virtue of His Son, Jesus Christ! The only virtue worth having is not man-centered but Christ-centered!

Discipleship finds all that we need in Jesus Christ

1 Corinthians 1:30-31 (NIV) 30 It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God–that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. 31 Therefore, as it is written: “Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.”

Discipleship which focuses on knowledge will always lead to pride and self-effort. Discipleship which focuses on virtue will always lead to humility and dependence.

Therefore I define Discipleship as:

Discipleship – “the intentional process of making the virtue of Christ my own, through submitting to His Lordship and Direction, and the daily Hope of Gaining Christ”

Discipleship is simply gaining by trading (diapragmateúomai)[5];

The King will demand an accounting of what you have GAINED by trading

Luke 19:15 (ESV) When he returned, having received the kingdom, he ordered these servants to whom he had given the money to be called to him, that he might know what they had gained by doing business.

I believe we will be judged at the ‘bema seat’ and our judgment will simply be an accounting of what we traded to gain for the sake of becoming like Jesus Christ! We will be judged for how we ‘gained’ Jesus Christ! Christians are to be about the business of trading their lives to gain Jesus Christ!

Paul said it best in Philippians 3:8: Philippians 3:8 (ESV) Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ

So the ‘re-bar’ of discipleship is the Virtue of Jesus Christ! Any substitution or absence of His virtue will result in a foundation that is weak and doomed to fail.

Our Hope of Glory is Christ IN me

Colossians 1:27 (ESV) To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.

[1] Spiros Zodhiates, The Complete Word Study Dictionary – New Testament, (Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 1993), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, 936.

[2] Epígnōsis: In the NT, it often refers to knowledge which very powerfully influences the form of religious life, a knowledge laying claim to personal involvement. When used as an obj. (Eph. 1:17; 4:13; Col. 1:9, 10; 2:2; 1 Tim. 2:4; 2 Tim. 2:25; 3:7; Titus 1:1; Heb. 10:26; 2 Pet. 1:2, 3), it shows the relationship of the learner to the object of his knowledge (2 Pet. 1:8). Spiros Zodhiates, The Complete Word Study Dictionary – New Testament, (Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 1993), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, 624.

[3] Spiros Zodhiates, The Complete Word Study Dictionary – New Testament, (Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 1993), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, 252-251.

[4] Spiros Zodhiates, The Complete Word Study Dictionary – New Testament, (Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 1993), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, 252.

[5] Spiros Zodhiates, The Complete Word Study Dictionary – New Testament, (Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 1993), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, Under: “megauploaddiapragmateúomai”.