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Is Jesus Really Worth It?

By Kevin Mayer, SEND Ministries director

In January, I had the opportunity to go to Ethiopia to attend the Annual Equipping Event with Global Disciples. This is a time where leaders of other discipleship programs similar to REACH spend a week praying, worshiping, encouraging and connecting with each other. I highly treasure these times where we can talk about the challenges and issues we face as leaders and to glean from the wisdom and experiences of others. I can quickly think of many highlights of our time together, such as witnessing the daring and determined faith of our Ethiopian brothers and sisters, their desperate hearts and utter dedication to the gospel, and their deep love for Jesus. Particularly moving for me, was hearing about the amount of persecution that many of our Ethiopian brothers and sisters have experienced over the past century. However, in spite of this intense persecution, the church has grown exponentially.

Taking a brief look at the history of the church in Ethiopia over the past few decades, we see that in the 1940’s and 50’s, there were many Mennonite missionaries who came to Ethiopia focusing on service, medical clinics, and church planting. By 1982, the Mennonite church had grown to around 5,000 people and was experiencing revival in many of the churches. Unfortunately, this was also around the same time that the Communists took over the government, expelled the missionaries, confiscated all properties, and forbade public worship. The church went underground.

When the church re-surfaced, after the present government pushed out the Communists in 1992, it had grown to 50,000. In the 23 years since, the church now numbers almost 500,000 and they are fervently praying in faith that their numbers double to one million within three years.

We had the privilege to hear many stories of how God is working and drawing the people of Ethiopia to him. One leader described how a few years ago he began to sense that God was asking him to begin having Bible studies with different Muslim men right in the local mosque of his town. One day, as he was in his Bible study circle, an extremely militant group of Al-Qaeda members came into the mosque to do their prayers. When they realized that there was a group studying the scriptures, several extremists pulled him aside and told him that although they could not kill him inside the mosque, they would be waiting outside to do so when he left after the Bible study was finished. After much time had passed that afternoon and after he was informed that the group had given up and had gone back up into the mountains, was he was able to leave and go back home.

“Why are you doing this? We have told you five times we will kill you when you leave, yet you continue to have Bible studies... Why is this so important to you?”A few weeks later, the same thing happened once again. In fact, this happened five times. However, on the fifth time, several young members hung back after the group left the mosque and when given the opportunity, they came to him and asked, “Why are you doing this? We have told you five times we will kill you when you leave, yet you continue to have Bible studies here in the mosque. Why is this so important to you?” When he began to explain his desire for them to truly understand the good news of Jesus and walked them through the scriptures, these two young men dropped to their knees and became followers of Jesus right there in the mosque. They are now on the run and in hiding because their former Al-Qaeda friends are trying to hunt them down and kill them because of their commitment to follow Jesus.

So the question is, was it worth it? Is Jesus worthy of all that devotion and praise? Should they be willing to give up everything and suffer for the cause of Christ? Their lives have changed immensely because of the simple, yet life-changing decision to become a disciple of Jesus.

What about us? If things in our nation changed so much in the next months that we would lose everything to be a Christ follower—our land, our jobs, our possessions, our families, our dreams, even our lives—would it be worth it? There are many places where our brothers and sisters in Christ have been tortured, burned, tongues cut out, lands, homes, even children taken away, all because of their commitment to follow Christ. Are we willing to abandon everything—our needs, our desires, our families, our comforts, our careers, our possessions, our lives—everything to follow Jesus? Is he worthy?