By Terri Stipanovich Faith that Works' Founder My recent trip to the Horn of Africa was a celebration of 5 years of hard work. We commissioned our first official church in a small Muslim town. Previously all of our 5 fellowships, which met in our pastors’ homes, were underground, meeting in secret. Commissioning a CHURCH in a Muslim town is no small thing. We feel this is the time to come out of the shadows and let our work be known in the region where we work. One of the main objectives has been to obtain a license and have our work officially recognized by the Ethiopian Evangelical Church Foundation (EECF) and the Ethiopian government to provide safety for our churches. It is less likely that our churches will experience backlash from the local mosques if they have the stamp of approval from the government. Working to obtain all of this is no small thing and is unprecedented. We are receiving invitations for speaking engagements and attention from local mission organizations, all marveling at what is being accomplished through our leaders in the region. In light of all of this, my trip in August was a celebration. I traveled to our brand new church to visit and see for myself all that has been accomplished through the Lord’s grace. As we arrived at the building I could sense our leaders’ nervousness to show me the compound they chose. We walked down a narrow pathway, overgrown with trees and my first impression was that it felt like a little hideaway. The path ended at a beautiful gate and we entered into a fenced courtyard. The courtyard was lined with small buildings that faced one another. There was quietness as our 3 women and 2 men’s leaders waited to hear what our lead Somali pastor and I had to say about the place they had chosen. We walked the perimeter, through a garden of corn in the back, and ended up at the large door that brought us into the SANCTUARY. This sanctuary was like no other. It had beautiful Somali cushions on the floor and cement walls. One lone light bulb hung from the ceiling. The door was painted a bright color and the walls were yellow. There was one small window that was just an opening in the wall, no glass, with a metal-hinged shutter. There was also an adjacent room with another door, and one of our women’s leaders who has been shunned by her family and experiences daily persecution said, “I can come and sleep here when I need a safe place.” Her eyes showed her joy, and there was a hint of gratitude in her expression. This was the most beautiful sanctuary I have ever seen. It will be a safe haven for these precious people where they will pray for their Muslim town and sing and worship the Lord together. They finally had a place large enough for all of them to gather together! They asked me to sit and pray for this place and discuss our plans for the future. As I sat, I asked them how they felt and one of our leaders said to me, “Remember almost one year ago when we met in this town at our sisters’ house and we discussed our need and talked about a place of our own?” “Yes, I remember.” “Well, you never forget us, and you are always working to tell our story and gain the support that we need. This is an answer to prayer for us, and thank you for everything you do on our behalf, this is no small thing.” We prayed and celebrated together, and then it was time for me to leave. I was sad to go, wanting to stay in that sanctuary and celebrate longer, but we had to get on the road before dark. There could be danger on the road at night. We couldn’t take the risk, so we said our goodbyes, took some photos and promised to pray for one another each day. I walked away overwhelmed at what God has done. I thought about it on the drive back, knowing this church would experience many hardships ahead. People will come into this church with life issues we cant even imagine here in the US. As our leaders continue to share the Gospel, many more will convert from Islam to Christianity, causing them to lose everything: family, financial support, and community. The church needs us as they care for widows, HIV afflicted, and the persecuted. They need bibles, training materials, medicine, and funds to help women start businesses so they can support themselves. I thought about all of this and knew my work is far from over. Although we celebrated today, we still need to keep standing for this church as they continue in this holistic ministry. We need to let them know through our love and our actions that they are not alone, have not lost everything, and that we SEE their pain for the sake of the Gospel - and it’s a beautiful thing in our sight. They tell me every time I go to see them, “It is everything to us that you are here with us.” It is everything to me, too. They give me a Somali name, Hapon, which means good, perfect and right person. I smile as we drive. God is a God of miracles. I am far from good or perfect, but I suppose I can accept that I am the right person for this work. It is my joy, and an honor to use what God has put in my hand to help a person in need. Please help Faith that Works as we support this church and our 4 others in the Horn of Africa. You will be a part of our work in the 10/40 window, doing outreach, rescuing vulnerable women and children, and planting churches in unreached areas. Join us by donating today! Donate online through our secure giving page or send a check to the Faith that Works office: 4740 McPherson Ave., St. Louis, MO 63108
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