Pastor Adane* and his church in rural east Ethiopia face constant persecution, and Covid-19 restrictions have led to even greater opposition from their community. But Pastor Adane is confident in the Lord – and your prayers and support have been a lifeline to him and his church.
For 20 years, Pastor Adane has been faithfully serving his church in the Muslim-dominated east of Ethiopia, but it has not been easy. Christians here suffer intense persecution. The Muslim leaders in the community have ordered shop owners not to sell their goods to believers, and have recently forbidden Christians from burying loved ones in the local area, forcing them to travel 3-4 hours away for funerals.
Despite these continued challenges, Adane’s ministry has been fruitful, and the church has even grown to support evangelists and pastors in the surrounding areas.
"The church used to have many streams of income… It has all stopped." Pastor Adane
Unfortunately, the coronavirus pandemic means that this ongoing persecution is not the only trouble that Adane and his church now face. The crisis has severely affected the church’s ministry, which is greatly dependent on tithes and offerings to support ministers like Adane, but also to aid believers from Muslim backgrounds who have lost their jobs – and, because of their choice to follow Jesus, the support of the community.
“Because of Covid-19, the church is in great trouble,” Adane says. “While churches were closed as part of government lockdown, nobody could come to church. We had no income to pay the pastors and evangelists. Before, there were people who helped support ministry workers, but now they have stopped. The church used to have many streams of income… It has all stopped.”
The crisis has also created more opportunities for persecutors to target believers where they are already vulnerable, leaving them even more exposed. Local Muslims recently persuaded Adane’s landlord to evict him with only three days’ notice. Then, when he tried to rent a new place, they threatened those landlords. He says, “They told them, ‘If you rent your house to this person, we will attack your house and cause damage.’”
Eventually, Adane was forced to rent a place in another town.
Despite registering for help, Christians have also been deliberately left out of government aid. Adane says, “There were different kinds of support in our area from the government. They gave oil, rice and dough to some people. When people register, they exclude the Christian community – especially if they are believers from a Muslim background. We asked our church members, both in the rural and urban areas, but they have not received any of the support given by the government.”
A lot of Ethiopian believers from Muslim backgrounds are pressured to recant their faith if they want to receive food – like Ebrahim, who usually provides for his wife and son through farming. Unfortunately, his crops were badly affected by the plague of locusts that swept across East Africa, which unfortunately coincided with the coronavirus pandemic. When Ebrahim went to register for relief aid, the officials chased him away saying, “You are infidels!” The only way they would allow him to register for government assistance was if he and his family returned to Islam.
Pastor Adane: "Our church members haven't received any help from the government"
The local government often excludes believers because they believe that Christians receive support from outside Ethiopia. Girma* is a father of three. “Girma does not have a farm... He has nothing,” Adane explains. “At first, they registered him for support, but removed his name from the list because they found out that he had become a Christian. He is in great trouble and the church here has nothing to give him.”
As is the case in many countries, Christians are often the last in line when official Covid-19 aid is distributed. Open Doors have identified 1,500 Christian families across sub-Saharan Africa in urgent need of help, and are in the process of delivering vital food aid, thanks to your prayers and gifts.
Outside of his ministry relating to the coronavirus crisis, a lot of Adane’s work is supporting new believers, and particularly those who have left Islam to follow Jesus – which meant that the church’s persecutors made him their new target.
At the beginning of this year, Pastor Adane was assaulted twice. The second time came after receiving threatening phone calls. He says, “On my way home, I walked past a mosque. Three men, their faces covered, approached me and started asking, ‘Why are you doing this to our religion and our people?’ I answered that I didn’t do any harm to anyone.”
The men pushed him to the ground. “One shouted, ‘Kick him, kick him!’ The other guy kicked me in my head with his shoes. They repeatedly kicked my head and struck me on the ear.” The attackers eventually fled, and Pastor Adane’s ear was badly damaged.
Sadly, the next day, Adane’s six-year-old son was also targeted – by the children of the people who had attacked Adane.
"If it were not for you, I would not be able to face my problems." Pastor Adane
He went with his son to the hospital. His son healed from the attack fairly quickly, but Adane had suffered irreparable damage to his ear and would need a hearing aid that neither he nor his church could afford. “My church has limitations on how they can help with this problem,” says Adane.
When Open Doors partners heard about Pastor Adane’s troubles, they paid for his treatment and his hearing aid – thanks to your support. Adane is very thankful. He says, “Open Doors has supported me and covered my medical expenses. If it were not for you, I would not be able to face my problems.
“I thank the Lord for intervening. He kept me alive and solved all my problems. God also brought Open Doors into my life. Thank you for helping me receive medical treatment and helping our church. May God bless you for all your help.”
Open Doors partners provided Pastor Adane with a hearing aid
Despite feeling overwhelmed by these challenges, Adane chooses to hold on to God’s Word. “In September last year, God gave me two Scriptures to meditate on. First, Revelation 3:8 that says, ‘I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut.’ And Psalm 91:1 – ‘Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.’
“God’s words are inside my heart. When I pass through all these troubles, they encourage me. I tell myself that God is the One who gives purpose and I will not go anywhere else, because He has a plan for my life. In whatever situation, He has a solution and He is my protection.”
*Name changed for security reasons