Me, Nigusse, and a New Work
(A Letter to Our Prayer Partners)
Hello, everyone! I greet you in the name of our Lord Jesus, the One we serve together.
Many of you have written asking how I’m doing, so I felt I should write an update. First, let me give praise to the Lord for restoring my physical and spiritual strength and for healing me so well from the “event” (stomach rupture and emergency surgery) on Oct. 24, 2012. Really, I cannot tell any deficit of strength or endurance or pain or anything. He has restored me fully, and I praise Him for that. He did this because of your prayers and according to His sovereign choice.
In the past weeks, God has reminded me much of Caleb in the Old Testament. Caleb himself tells his story to Joshua in Joshua 14:
“You know what the Lord said to Moses the man of God at Kadesh Barnea about you and me. I was forty years old when Moses the servant of the Lord sent me from Kadesh Barnea to explore the land. And I brought him back a report according to my convictions, but my brothers who went up with me made the hearts of the people melt with fear. I, however, followed the Lord my God wholeheartedly. So on that day Moses swore to me, ‘The land on which your feet have walked will be your inheritance and that of your children forever, because you have followed the Lord my God wholeheartedly.’
“Now then, just as the Lord promised, he has kept me alive for forty-five years since the time he said this to Moses, while Israel moved about in the desert. So here I am today, eighty-five years old! I am still as strong today as the day Moses sent me out; I’m just as vigorous to go out to battle now as I was then. Now give me this hill country that the Lord promised me that day. You yourself heard then that the Anakites were there and their cities were large and fortified, but, the Lord helping me, I will drive them out just as he said.”
Then Joshua blessed Caleb son of Jephunneh and gave him Hebron as his inheritance. So Hebron has belonged to Caleb son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite ever since, because he followed the Lord, the God of Israel, wholeheartedly. ….”
There are several things about Caleb that impress me.
1) He followed the Lord whole-heartedly, even if it meant that he stood alone. He was single-minded as to who His Lord is, and who he would serve.
2) God sustained his strength; God over-ruled the laws of nature in order to empower Caleb for His purposes.
3) Caleb asked to conquer the difficult terrain, the mountainous region, the fortified cities. He was not afraid of difficulties. He was willing to push himself to conquer what others declined to conquer.
4) He sought this difficult work when all his fellow citizens were saying “enough is enough. We have earned the right to settle down in comfort. We’re tired for fighting to take possession of what God has promised” (Joshua 18:3-6 and Judges 1:27-36).
At this time in my life, I feel that God has miraculously restored my life, He has strengthened my body (contrary to the laws of nature), He has more “conquering” for me to do, and by His grace, I’m asking Him to give me the difficult terrain! I want to be a Caleb! Will you go with me to fight for the difficult areas? Will you join me to keep on fighting when others give out? Time is so short…it is a little flicker compared with Eternity. Time is the stuff Eternity is made of. Let us use whatever time He gives to us, not to hoard our resources, not to squander the minutes on recreation and indulgence, not to worry about the future, not to wallow in concern over our health, not to cling to our family….but to serve Him wholeheartedly!! God grant that it be so!!
In other news, Nigusse has had a wonderful 3 weeks studying in Israel. In a few hours, he boards the plane to come home. We just Skyped to him. He looks good…but very tired. He’ll have one day of rest to recover from jet lag and refocus before he starts the spring semester. Please keep him in your prayers.
Finally, let me share with you that the Lord has prompted us to expand the Gospel work to include India. This does not mean a slackening of work in Ethiopia, but rather an *adding* of work in India. The country of India has a population of 1.2 billion people; only China has more people at 1.3 billion. (Compare this to USA with a population of 315 million, or Ethiopia with 85 million.) It is the 3rd largest economy in the world, after China and the USA; this has generated a growing middle-class and great social upheaval.
But the most important statistic is the spiritual statistic. Although the apostle Thomas brought the Gospel to India shortly after Christ, and although India was governed by a Christian nation (England) for hundreds of years, only a miniscule 2% of the population claims any level of allegiance to the Savior. Only 2%!!! The vast majority of that 2% resides in the southern region. Most of the rest of India is totally unreached, lost in the blind hopeless of Hinduism or Islam. The story of Jesus and His love is completely unknown to them!
As in Ethiopia, we are working with the indigenous church of India, seeking to come alongside to help them take the Gospel to their own people. God has led us to a group of 200 very small churches in the northeast section of India, known by their group name Peniel Gospel Team. This work was planted by an Indian man named Mammen Joseph; almost 40 years ago he came to Christ in south India, and immediately was led by the Spirit into the north…without support, without a plan, without funding. Like Abraham of old, he simply obeyed and went.
For the first years he and his wife Alice suffered tremendously, often without food, often lonely, often persecuted. But they remained faithful…preaching anywhere people would listen. Today, the 200 churches, the 400 evangelists, the 2 children’s homes, the Bible school, and the miscellaneous other ministries are all the blessing of God because of their faithfulness. It sounds like a big ministry, but against the backdrop of that spiritual statistic, it is only a small little work. The spiritual condition of India is SOOOO desperate! And this group of churches in northeast India need our help!
So in the weeks and months ahead we look forward to communicating on the web, or in these emails, the specifics of the partnership God has appointed us in India. Will you begin now to pray that our Lord would be glorified and have complete control of this partnership? One thing on our heart is to help the work there to become more self-supporting. Currently 75% of the income needed is coming from abroad; this creates MANY problems! God is guiding us to help them establish a K-Grade 12 private school, which will not only allow a daily ministry to 2200 non-Christian students, but will also provide funds needed to feed the evangelists, clothe the orphans, support the Bible school students, etc. Please pray for the Lord of the Harvest to send Calebs…those who will serve the Lord wholeheartedly and dare to do the difficult work of the Kingdom with us and with these Indian brethren.
Know that you are greatly loved and appreciated. May our Lord bless you with a keen awareness of Himself…of His love, of His strength, of His faithfulness, of His justice, of His sovereignty…. And may you live the in the reality of who He is!
January 19, 2013