“Remember that time we led an entire village of Jewish people in a prayer to accept Yeshua as their Messiah?!” That is a quote I never imagined saying but that is exactly what happened in Tach Gayint, Ethiopia on a trip with Jewish Voice Ministries International (JVMI). JVMI has been doing medical clinics in places like Ethiopia and Zimbabwe for many years and an important part of every medical clinic is the prayer tent. After people receive medical treatment they have the option of stopping in the prayer tent for counseling and prayer. On every trip, in every clinic, people are prayed for and many are healed. As usual, we set up a prayer tent and for the first day and half saw some amazing miracles. One young girl, who walked six hours to come to the clinic, asked for prayer because her entire right arm was paralyzed. Two years earlier she had surgery to remove a goiter and during the surgery her entire right arm became paralyzed. A group of people prayed for her and I watched as life came to her arm and she began to lift her shoulder, bend her elbow, and grip her fingers for the first time in two years. Excitement and tears of joy filled her eyes as we all worshipped God for what He had done for her. It was an amazing miracle to witness.
I have found in my walk with God that He loves to make changes when we are comfortable in the way we do things. Our first instinct is to blame the Devil and call it oppression or persecution. But, often what feels like persecution is just God changing direction for us. So, in the middle of the first full day came the news that the leaders of the town of Tach Gayint wanted the prayer tent shut down. Shutting down the prayer tent had never happened at a JVMI clinic and our team was faced with an interesting situation. As we all prayed, God had already set the stage as several clinic veterans sensed that this trip would be different. Words like “new paradigm”, “new model”, “change” and “organic” came to many even before we left the United States. With the shut down of the prayer tent looking like a reality, the question was, “what do we do now?” and part of the answer the Lord gave us became one of the great events of my life.
Tach Gaynit, Ethiopia has a population of 6,000 Jewish people in villages scattered all over the area. These villages of Jewish people are the reason that JVMI decided to host a clinic in Tach Gayint. With the prayer tent shut down, we decided to send teams to these villages to share directly with these Jewish people about Yeshua. I was a part of a team of 24 who went to a village of about 70 Jewish people. To get to this remote village, it was an hour drive from the clinic site and a 4 mile walk, which felt like it was up hill both ways. Sammy, one of our translators and a Messianic Leader from Gondor, Ethiopia gathered the people together. They brought out goat skins for all of us to sit on so we could talk together. Ezra, one of the leaders from JVMI, asked the villagers to tell their story. One of the older villagers stood and told us that he had a vision the night before. In his vision he saw a great light like the sun coming down the path of their village. He told us, “I am getting old and will die soon, but I want to live as long as the moon.”
I told them that we were not the light from the vision but we represented the light, Yeshua our Messiah. The villagers told us of all of their suffering as Jews. Houses burnt down, hard time finding work, children not able to go to school, works of art made to be sold that no one would buy because they were made by Jewish people. In Ethiopia many people believe a unique version of the old anti-Semitism of blood libel. It is believed that Jews turn into Hyena’s at night to take babies and drink peoples blood. It is also believed that Jewish people can curse you by giving you the evil eye. If bad things happen to you or family, it is probably because a Jewish person gave you the evil eye. Even in 2015, Jewish people were killed as “retaliation” for perceived curses.
We told the village that Jewish people have been suffering all over the world for thousands of years and that they were not alone in their suffering. Joshua Aaron and Liron Siegel, from Israel, both shared about their families that suffered persecution. Then I shared with them about our Messiah who suffered 2,000 years ago. That He suffered for Jewish people and was beaten, bruised, whipped, had a crown of thorns placed on His head and then crucified. As He hang on the cross He said, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.” He prayed for those who persecuted Him. He died then rose from the dead three days later and told His disciples to tell everyone about His story. We told this Jewish village, in the middle of remote Ethiopia, that they are why we had came. That we wanted to share the story of Yeshua who was not just a man but also the God of Israel. That He was with them every time they suffered, He was with them in their persecution, and that He knew persecution Himself. That He came for Jewish people and that all they had to do was ask Him to forgive them of their sins and accept Him as their Lord and Savior. I also told them that, if they believed in Yeshua, not only could they live as long as the moon but after they died they could actually live forever with Yeshua. I turned to Ezra and asked, “should we have people pray with them individually?” And Ezra replied “Just go for the whole village!” So I asked, “does anyone want to accept Yeshua as their Messiah?” and to my amazement the whole village lifted their hands. Through translation we asked them to repeat a simple prayer in the name of Yeshua and welcomed an entire village of Jewish Ethiopians into the family of God.
I chanted the Shechanyanu in Hebrew over them. The prayer says, “Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of Universe, who has brought us to this happy season.” Then Joshua Aaron taught the village Hine MaTov, from Psalm 133, “How good and pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together” and chanted the Aaronic Benediction over them. We then had the opportunity to pray for individuals and saw several people healed. One man came to myself and Alice Rivas for healing in his right ear. He could not hear so we prayed in Yeshua’s name and nothing happened. He still couldn't hear. Our translator, Yamlak Amare, noticed some necklaces that the man was wearing and said they were from witchcraft. We encouraged him to cut them off asked him to renounce witchcraft and let Yeshua heal his hear. He agreed, we cut off the necklaces. Alice prayed that he would receive hearing in his ear and immediately he gained his hearing back. Alice covered his good ear and whispered in his “bad” ear and he repeated every word!
I felt like I was in a movie. I have heard stories, read books and articles of people leading tribes to Yeshua. But me, not likely. Sitting at my desk in the Restoration office, reflecting on this amazing time, I just can’t believe that God allowed me to be apart of this. For me, this will go down as one of the great moments in my life. JMVI will continue to follow up with this village throughout the year, bringing medical supples and discipling the villagers and we plan to go back to Tach Gaynit next January. The best part is back in April of 2015, I was supposed to go to Zimbabwe with JVMI and I ended up in the hospital instead. The Lord taught me so much (read about it here) as I had to stay home and recover. The only reason I was on this trip to Tach Gayint, Ethiopia was to make up for the trip I missed in 2015. I had no idea what God was up too but man was I glad to be on board for the ride.
If you have never been on a trip like this, may I suggest that now is the time. You never know what God might use you to do and it may just become one of the greatest experiences of your life. Here’s the website for medical outreaches: JVMI Medical Outreaches.