We arrived in Nazareet, Ethiopia late last night. The trip from Entebee, Uganda was uneventful and we even arrived ahead of schedule. Addis Ababa (the capital city of Ethiopia) is a city of drastic differences. High rises and beautiful hotels shadow crumbling streets and slums. After passing through customs we headed south to Nazareet (aka Adama) for the 1.5 hour trip.
Along the way we nearly hit a hyena as it crossed the road. They are very large, much larger than I pictured. This just reminded me of the constant dangers that the village evangelists face as the trek through the dessert with the message of the Gospel. Misiker remembered how he and his father had been chased by a hyena…thankfully his father owned a hand gun and was able to defend he and his son.
The dust here is almost overwhelming and you immediately feel the affects of it in your breathing. It’s windy (even now the wind is howling strong outside the window) and a bit chilly at night, though quite warm during the day. But more than anything else you notice how dry it is. Dust is just blowing everywhere and it gets into and onto everything. Most things are brown or grey around here. However, every so often you will notice lush green vegetation. That’s because there’s a water source nearby.
Spiritually, the country is under the Coptic Orthodox church and Islam is increasing greatly. But every so often you see the evidence of the grace of God at work. The church in Wonji (WMKC) is such evidence.
The brothers had gathered early…even though we didn’t make it there for nearly two hours after they had gathered. They were ready and eager to begin the study. Their eagerness is fueled by questions regarding God’s Word. They’ve asked that we study the book of Romans and are particularly interested in the issues of election and the purpose of Israel.
This morning we slowly worked our way through an introduction to Romans and then a verse-by-verse study of chapter one. At points I’m sure it was rather painstaking for them to spend so much time on what I called the foundation. I told them that by gaining a good understanding of chapter one (and adding to that chapters two and three) we would be rewarded with the framework to answer all of our questions.
We carefully noted how God forcefully presents the reality and extent of man’s sinfulness. None righteous…not even one! No one seeking God…no one! We are sinful to the core. You can’t imagine how amazed I was to see the truth sinking into them as they sat back on their bench and you could see them taking it all in. The wrath of God is revealed against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men. And all are under sin. Controlled by sin, corrupted by sin, and the consequences are devastating. Spiritual death, the wrath of God, and an inability to do, say, or think anything that is pleasing to God.
Then somebody raised the question: “Then how does anybody choose God?”
They began to realize that the answer to this question was not as they had been believing. One of the brothers said, “You’ve lit a match and the fire is taking off!” He referred to the burning of the chaff. He said that for so long they were believing “chaff” and now the fire is beginning to consume the chaff. He said, “There’s nothing we can say. There’s no argument we can make that will stand against what we know from the foundation of this book now!”
Well, tomorrow it’s on to chapters 4-8…and perhaps even shading into chapters 9-11 as we’re able. I’ve left them tonight with some questions to consider and we’ll see their conclusions. After every session and every break they are all talking about the teaching. It’s wonderful to see them taking this so seriously. The cool water of grace is touching some dry spots and you can already see the sprouts beginning to flourish!