Life and Ministry in Ethiopia with the Polks
Thanksgiving is past, Christmas is ahead, and we have many things for which we are thanking God. It has been a challenging and also fruitful few months, and we want to share a few stories of how God has been working-- delivering people from spiritual darkness, healing bodies from disease, lifting up the heads of the poor, sustaining churches amidst persecution, and changing hearts through the beauty of Christ's gospel. We are humbled to be a part of what God is doing in Ethiopia, and we need and treasure your prayers. The physical challenges and spiritual attack for our family and church plant team have been significant these past months. In addition, various regions of Ethiopia continue to face drought, famine, riots, and extremist attacks. The challenge is real, but God is the King and the Word has become flesh and dwelt among us. God truly is good. Merry Christmas to each of you, and much love from all the Polks... Jason and Liz
In November we marked the 2nd anniversary of our Suki Church Plant and began celebrating the Lord's Supper together-- the culmination of nearly 3 months of teaching on the background, meaning, and practice of the sacrament.
Our fellowship consists of many new believers, as well as diverse religious, cultural, and ethnic backgrounds. When we began our discussions, the understandings (and misunderstandings) of the Lord's Supper were as numerous as the people filling the benches around our make-shift room of wooden poles and plastic tarps. We felt it was of great importance to teach, discuss, and answer questions for as long as it took to reach a common spirit and understanding. Many of our members lack literacy skills and formal education, but I assure you they are discerning theologians who ask penetrating and difficult questions. We prayed and wrestled well together, and after 3 months we all agreed that it was time to begin celebrating the Lord's Supper. Each Sunday morning we now gather to pray, worship, hear God's Word, and take the Lord's Supper together as a church fellowship, and it has been a beautiful and grace-filled expression of God's goodness. We have 30 adults and nearly 70 children participating in worship, and have seen God working his grace in many lives. God is faithful to build his church. Our hope is to identify a new neighborhood for future community health and church planting ministry in the next 12 months. If you would like to make a year-end gift to help us toward this goal you can find the link HERE.
From Darkness to Light
The reality of spiritual darkness and oppression has become ever more clear to us during our years in Ethiopia. Many worship other spirits and open their homes and families to demonic activity in ways that are often exposed as the light of the gospel advances in the community. Several members of our Suki fellowship were delivered powerfully from demonic oppression as part of their coming to faith in Christ in these recent months, and we rejoice for the physical, emotional, and spiritual changes that often accompany this kind of deliverance.
My heart is particularly moved when I think of R. and E., two single mothers who have come to faith and started attending Suki Church this year. In many ways their stories are similar-- both come from backgrounds of trauma and abuse, both were initiated at a young age into the worship of other spirits, both experienced dramatic demonic manifestations the first time they attended our church plant. But God has shown himself abundantly gracious and mighty to save as he has brought these women out of darkness into light. Both women have baby boys that were born as a result of sexual assault, and yet have chosen through the power of the gospel to proclaim Christ's blessing and light over them. Our spiritual community participated in choosing names for both boys to reflect the grace of Christ in their lives. One is named "Netsanet" (Freedom) and the other "Jonathan" (The Lord gives...). These women, together with our church fellowship, have declared these babies to be the gift and blessing of God. I am profoundly humbled by and incredibly proud of these women, and give God all the glory for the work he is doing in these two families. Please pray for God's ongoing work of redemption.
Last week I had the honor of traveling with church plant teammates Fikadu and Stephen to the region of North Shoa to visit two local churches with whom they have many years of relationship. Both churches are perched on the edge of sheer cliffs that tumble down into the Awash River Canyon. The views could not be more striking, and in many ways correlate with the precarious place these churches occupy in communities that are very hostile to the gospel.
In the town of Fetira, they recently had a pregnant woman who had begun talking with the pastor and attending a few services be attacked while standing in line for water. She was punched so hard in the stomach that she went into premature labor and delivered the baby on the spot. By the time the pastor of the church received word and ran to find her, both the mother and baby had died, with no other onlookers willing to help her. These pastors have endured in ministry for over 15 years in these locations, facing a level of opposition that is difficult to imagine. And yet by God's mercy and grace they continue in their calling. By God's grace the light of Christ shines through the gospel they proclaim and the love they have for their community. Our hope was to simply support and encourage these churches through our presence and by teaching through the book of Ephesians. I was humbled to be with them, and invite you to to pray for these churches, their pastors, and their communities. Pray for Pastor Getu (pictured below left) and Fetira Addis Kidan Church. Pray for Pastor Sintayehu and Degolo Addis Kidan Church.
All in the Family
The past months have been a blur of diapers, kids' activities, and growth stages. Nathan, Isaiah, and Anna continue to fill our lives with lots of laughs, lots of sleepless nights, and lots of blessing. Anna celebrated her 1st birthday last week with her friend Ellilta-- complete with matching dresses, shoes, and hair bows. Nathan enjoyed his Kindergarten Nativity Play, "The Innkeeper's Breakfast," and gave a convincing performance as the "hot and bothered" innkeeper who keeps finding pregnant Mary, random shepherds, and roving wisemen knocking on his door when he tries to sit down for breakfast. Eventually the innkeeper goes to the stable himself and encounters the baby Jesus, suddenly forgetting all about his breakfast.
Isaiah is joyful and impish as always. He has especially enjoyed his new preschool cooperative this fall, and is already talking about going back after Christmas Break. Liz and I have also decided to take on the challenge of a new puppy! Originally we had two-- "Cookies" and "Cream"-- but Cookies died after a severe reaction to his first round of vaccines. So now it is just Cream. Even though we only had Cookies for three weeks, we still miss him. A reminder that life is short-- whether dogs, or people. But we are thankful for the puppy we still have, and are growing more and more attached to the little guy.
We look forward to celebrating Christmas with a family friend and one of Liz's cousins who are coming to visit us in Addis Ababa. Likewise, we hope that each of you have a wonderful Christmas, and that you find the light of Christ ever more beautiful. Much grace and peace to you.
- For growth in number and maturity at our Suki Church Plant
- For the famine, drought, and riots affecting many parts of Ethiopia
- For the marriages, physical health, and spiritual protection of the families on our Church Plant team in the face of significant spiritual attack these past months