My jaw truly dropped!
Flying to the heart of the Africa was not my first leap across the big pond. Australia, Thailand, Malaysia and Israel are just a few of the exciting places I had been able to visit before my first trip to the Dark Continent. My stomach turned several times from both nerves and also just physical issues. Six weeks before our flight, I had undergone surgery due to a gastrointestinal illness, and probably should not have even been crammed in my tiny Ethiopian Airlines seat. Nonetheless, God had called me to go, and I had in front of me a life changing experience that would alter my ministry forever.
The trip had several purposes, and each could fill its own blog post. They are remarkable God stories on their own. This one in particular started on our third morning while in the very remote impoverished city of Soddo, Ethiopia. Some of my dearest friends were missionaries at the hospital there, and we were visiting them to encourage them and see the ministry first hand. To this day, the beauty contrasted by poverty lives vividly in my heart and mind. The night before, Dr. Duane Anderson, our missionary partner, informed me that I would be teaching the next morning at the local Bible college. Excuse me? I am doing WHAT?
Yes, Duane had pre-arranged for me to teach the entire Bible college all day on discipleship. He would pick me up at 7am on his motorcycle because that was the only way to the school if you didn’t want to walk.
“Rest up, Brandon, you have a long day ahead tomorrow, and the students are excited to meet you.”
Blank stare, fake smile and a simple nod were all I could muster up. Immediately, the protests in my mind began. God, what are you doing? I cannot teach these people! I have no idea what to even say! I have not prepared lessons! I don’t even speak the language…whine, whine, whine.
At 6:59am, Duane was at my little bungalow door, and off we went. Twenty minutes and two near donkey crashes later, we arrived at a remote (greatest understatement I have ever written) brick building that housed a small Bible college.
The sights, smells, and sounds were so different than any experience in my life to that point. Beyond my senses being challenged, my mind was grappling with the fact that a Bible college even existed on the outlying edges of this remote town, surrounded by jungle. How is this possible?
It was by God’s power alone I did not jump off the bike and run back to my room from fear. Yet I pressed on, faking my excitement the whole way. Arriving at the front gate, a young Ethiopian man greeted me. Duane stopped the bike, and hollered over the revving engine, “This is Kebeda. He will walk you back to the hospital when you are done. Have fun!” In the blink of an eye, Duane was a faint hum of an engine motoring back down the small dirt trail that eventually ended at the hospital…I guessed, anyway.
Kebeda and I looked at each other, and he gave me the biggest smile. In perfect English, he said, “Hello Brandon, we are so glad you are here to teach us. I am your interpreter.” At that moment, as if God reached into my heart and mind, He calmed my spirit, and I knew He was at work in me. He was teaching me something about faith, trust and His provision for His plans.
To this day, I have very little recollection of what I taught that day, but I know it was on Jesus’ method of making disciples. The students were very gracious. They sang songs in a language I did not understand. They read Scripture, often in that same language. But we were of one body. All day I fought off the urge to just weep. Seeing their simple love for Jesus and their humility to learn, I was forever changed. God kept reminding me of the story of the Roman Centurion in Matthew 8. The Centurion knew that Jesus could heal his friend. His trust in Jesus was so great that the Word says his faith even AMAZED Jesus. Think about it. A human demonstrated such great faith that he shocked God!
I don’t think I have ever done anything that shocked God. I am just not that interesting. But that day, in a hot, cinderblock room, in the middle of nowhere Ethiopia, God was teaching one of life’s most beautiful things. If I will press on, and trust Him, faith will lead me to experience things that are nothing short of jaw dropping.