It was hour five on the muddy, rut-stricken road. None of us were complaining; our sixteen-hour commute had been cut by two-thirds since the inauguration of the Jinka airport just three days prior and we were finally approaching our destination.
Ethiopia is a wild country, the type of wild that reminds you that humans are smaller than we think we are. Sunny skies give way to lightning storms in a matter of minutes and pour forth rain in droplets the size of water balloons. It remembers the Great Flood and isn’t afraid to reminisce. This was the tempest that had turned our dirt road to sludge the night before, so we bounced and skidded along the “highway,” avoiding the herds of Brahman cattle dotting the path to Omorate. We were going to meet with several Daasanach leaders - a tribe which resides in southern Ethiopia and northern Kenya - then premier the 1,500th translation of the Jesus Film, the story of Christ in their heart language. Such a message is worth any style of travel, so we kept our slow and steady pace, safely inching along the plain.
Then we slid. And kept sliding. Mud too deep, tires too worn, or payload too well-fed, our trusty ten-seater bus rotated perpendicular to the road. Ten audible gasps were accompanied by ten silent prayers that sideways would not soon become upside down. We finally stopped partially off the road and jutting into a field, mere feet from a woman walking behind the brush. She seemed unsurprised, perhaps from the shock of nearly being struck by a bus, but more likely because the visitors who venture this far south often have vehicular struggles. She was shoeless, shirtless (this is common in the tribal areas), a bundle of foliage precisely balanced on her head, baby in one hand and a smartphone in the other.
It was the sort of juxtaposition Banksy* might paint on Underground wall in London. This woman who did not yet subscribe to the convention of the tee-shirt had the power of youtube in her palm!
The Ethiopian government has adopted the slogan, “no shirt, no shoes, cell service,” and traditional highway maintenance plays second fiddle to progression of the information super highway. Cell towers grid the rugged landscape and, in villages where no electricity is available, some brave soul will travel to the nearest city and fetch car batteries to charge the local devices.
It was at this moment, looking into the face of this era-bridging woman, that I realized our opportunity.
“The Word of God is living and active,” and everywhere it goes, it bears fruit. There are tremendous evangelism efforts at work all over the globe, but the Lord did not commission us only to make converts, He told us to make disciples. Jesus said, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few,” and it is just as true today as it was 2,000 years ago. There are simply not enough laborers to properly disciple every person from every city, town and village where the Word of God goes out. In a quiet moment, brother Kibru, an Ethiopian saint laboring for the gospel from the capitol, lamented to me, “The muslims from North Africa often come and disciple our converts before we can properly train them in the gospel. They come with large families when we must move on to other villages. Our workers need more tools.”
This is why we must go therefore and use every weapon in our arsenal to train people in the gospel! We may not be able to leave workers in every village on the planet, but if Facebook can reach the Daasanach tribe in southern Ethiopia, then so can we.
The Jesus Film Project, The Bema Live and many other ministries are dedicated to breaking down language and resource barriers around the globe, but “the uttermost” is not the only place in need. Your office building, your classroom, your commute, favorite lunch spot, spin class, or game night, that is your mission field.
A dear friend of mine does something he calls “Uber Evangelism.” He lives in a large city and frequently prefers a ride service to his own automobile, so whenever he orders a car, he sits in the front seat and has the JESUS FILM APP at the ready. He quickly discovers the driver’s heart language - there are many international residents in his city - and announces that he has a film, often several films, made just for them in their mother tongue. This gives him a simple way to talk about the gospel and several tools to leave behind should the driver have more questions. In this way he turns an ordinary cab ride into a Kingdom-influencing experience.
Not all of you will find yourselves bouncing along a south Ethiopian road (though, if you do, I recommend one of those small travel pillows for the journey; it may save your spine), but certainly most of you have conversations with non-believers on a daily basis. While international organizations work to save the lost around the world, you can do the same in your next Uber ride! You don’t need a degree in Theology or debate team experience, you don’t even need to be an accomplished orator, all you need is a willing and obedient heart.
“Go, therefore,” Christ said, so we must go. And with such simple tech-tools within reach, we have no excuse! Social status, time restraints, physical proximity, even language barriers have been eliminated, and you, yes YOU, armed with nothing but your phone and the Holy Spirit, can help change the world.
Scriptures Referenced: Hebrews 4:12; Matthew 28:19-20; Luke 10:2; Luke 8:5-8.
*Banksy is an anonymous English graffiti artist and political activist of unverified identity.