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Ethiopia: The words that would not let Berhane go

Like the rest of her Ethiopian family, Berhane* followed ‘Waaqefannaa’ – a traditional religion practised among mostly Oromo people. She spent all the time she could serving their kalicha, or messengers. But she was often ill, with constant headaches and terrifying nightmares and none of the kalicha could heal her.

During one of these attacks she was at her Uncle’s house. The headache was bad enough, but what really annoyed her was the constant singing from the Christians in the house next door. She stuffed her ears, pulled the bedclothes over her head, even tried playing alternative music. But the words filtered through:

What you have done for me! …Oh what you have done for me!

What can I do in return for the goodness that you have done for me… oh what can I give back to you…

The words stayed with her. So much so that one day during worship, instead of the usual words of adoration for the kalicha, she started singing

…What you have done for me! …Oh what you have done for me!

…What can I do in return for the goodness that you have done for me… oh what can I give back to you…

The phrase would not leave her alone. In the end she went to a Christian girl at school – a girl she had always mocked – and told her that she wanted to follow Christ.

’I go to places where no-one else dares to go’

When her parents found out, they threw her out of the house. For six years she was exiled from her family who regarded her as unclean.

“Every time I was chased out by the community, I would wait four or five months before trying again to make contact. On the odd occasion that I made it into my parents’ compound, they would wail and shout for me to leave. I was crying because I missed them, but they kept themselves far from me.”

Today, she is an evangelist. Ethiopia is number 28 on the Open Doors World Watch List and it is dangerous for a Christian - especially a Christian woman - to openly evangelise. But that doesn’t put Berhane off.

“I go places where no one else dares to go. Even church ministers do not dare to go there and start up work… But God is my shepherd. He is the one walking with me.”

Her courage has been rewarded. Berhane has helped plant nine churches. One of them in an extremely hostile area. “God has performed a miracle, and there is a big church now.”

’Many people wanted to kill her’

Although her father has died, her mother has become a Christian. What convinced her mother was the way in which the Lord protected Berhane.

“I always expected to someday receive news of my daughter’s death,” she says. “Many people all over the place wanted to kill her. I was waiting for that news, but her God protected her. My child is totally fine. It astounded me and caused me to believe in Him. He is indeed the Lord! There is none like Him!”

Amazingly, along with her mother, some 100 members of Berhane’s extended family have become Christians.

“Those family members that once chased me away, who shamed me publicly and asked my parents, ‘Why do you allow her to enter your house?’, have all received Jesus.”

Still active, still courageous

Berhane is still active, and still facing danger. Recently, Waqafeta followers destroyed her home church and several times Berhane’s life has been threatened.

She earnestly prays for more workers to join her in this important work. “The gospel cannot be delivered by one person only. The work is too much for me alone…Pray that God will provide in all our needs for fulfilling this ministry.”

You can help Berhane and people like her. Open Doors works through local partners and churches to strengthen persecuted believers in Africa through Bible distribution, leadership and trauma care training, emergency relief, community development and advocacy support.

Find out how you can support persecuted Christians in Africa.

*Name changed for security reasons