Elfata is an insignificant village in Eastern Ethiopia. People live from agriculture as they did in the old days, grow coffee and millet, but also Kath, a drug against hunger. For a long time they didn’t want to know anything about the gospel …
“But let’s do good and don’t get tired; because in its time we will also harvest without stopping. ”- Gal. 6.9
Almost exactly twenty years ago we started church planting work in Elfata. At first it seemed like a farming village like any other, and we were already working in similar villages and communities in the area. But different in Elfata!
Resistance in Elfata
Many villages in the area are more Islamic or at least half belong to this religion. In Elfata, however, most Orthodox (name) Christians are estimated to be 90 percent. The cohesion is correspondingly high here, you feel belonging and secure in the strong community. So the evangelists we deployed here had serious difficulties. They weren’t attacked, but it was almost worse not to be taken seriously. The message, the gospel, literally bounced off people.
There were individual conversions, but the door to people’s hearts remained closed. The few believers gathered in a small mud house. The crowd was too small to replace the protection of the village community that everyone had left during the conversion. Several gave up and moved away hoping to live better elsewhere. The number of members in Elfata showed a constant up and down; mostly they leveled themselves out among 20 people.
A peasant woman is converted
The turning point in Elfata began completely inconspicuously with the conversion of Genet, a simple peasant woman. She came from an Orthodox family and was initially very disapproving when addressed by our evangelist. But her heart was visibly touched, she kept coming back until she decided to live with Jesus.
Genet was used to hard work as a farmer. It was completely clear to her that this should now also apply to her life of faith. There were very few Christians in church planting at the time, so there was always work to be done in all areas – and Genet was ready. It belonged to a prayer group and became the support of our evangelist. The latter fell ill and could not stay in the country. A new brother from outside was unthinkable. That was when Genet was called, by elders from the mother community who had been watching Genet for a long time.
The doors open in Elfata!
As a farmer, Genet knew everyone in Elfata and had access to every house. She tirelessly visited the families, talked to them and made time for everyone. She knew their reservations about change in general, against leaving the Orthodox Church, against the step into the unknown that one dares to convert. The amazing thing happened: what capable and gifted evangelists could not do – people listen to Genet. The number of conversions has been increasing for two years and new hope has come in church planting. Forty-one baptized Christians are now in Elfata, and the joy is great about this unexpected growth that began when the Lord called a simple peasant woman…