In the land of khat, young believers ready to die for the sake of the gospel


By Mark Ellis —

A city in Ethiopia

In one of the small wars in Africa that receives no coverage by the news media, Somali Ethiopians have been battling the Hararghe Oromo Ethiopians. Tragically many have died and the conflict has produced one million refugees – mostly Somalis being sheltered inside Ethiopia.

“This situation is making it extremely difficult for our team to do the work God called them to, but it certainly hasn’t stopped them,” says Erik Laursen, executive director of New Covenant Missions. He recently returned from a trip to the region.

“I wish I could share all the stories with you, but there is just too much risk as Somali people are under Sharia Law even in Ethiopia,” he notes.

growing khat

Laursen recounted the story of one Somali who traveled regularly to a city in Ethiopia east of Addis Ababa to trade khat. Khat is a plant native to the Horn of Africa that contains an amphetamine-like stimulant. Chewing the leaves of the plant is a custom going back thousands of years, similar to the use of coca leaves in South America.

The khat dealer visited several churches during his visits, but he didn’t speak enough of the Amharic language to understand what was being taught.

“One day, he met one of our team who is Somali and speaks his language and you can guess what happened! He gave his life to Jesus!”

A team member stayed with the new convert for three months of training and the man is now ministering in one of the refugee camps.

On Laursen’s recent trip, he preached at a church in one of Islam’s holiest cities. He met with a pastor who has been targeting an Islamic city of 30,000 people that had no Christian churches and is considered the khat dealing hub of Africa.

“When they first started doing evangelism campaigns they would go early in the mornings before people were high on khat or drunk on the local alcohol,” the pastor told Laursen.

“One morning they were arrested by the local police and imprisoned for two hours, but there was no charge that could hold them there.” They were released after the authorities realized they meant no harm.

Since then, they planted the only church in the area, and have been holding two services every week. Ten new believers that will be baptized soon.

“What is your vision for this area?”Laursen asked the pastor.

pastor describes boldness of the believers

“We have many young adults that are ready to go (spread the Good News), and we are all ready to die for the sake of the Gospel!” he said.

Laursen was amazed by the believers boldness and courage.

From there, Laursen drove 45 minutes to meet with the Somali team and visit a house church. “For the first time ever in Africa, I was asked to take off my shoes as I walked into a small Somali house church. We listened to beautiful music together, drank amazing coffee, shared the Word of God, and finished in prayer for the Somali people and our team.”

Encouraged by the visit, Laursen became even more determined to plant God’s love in the hard-to-reach places of Africa.

gathering for prayer and worship

One team member noted the challenges of reaching the Somali with the Gospel. As Laursen talked with the man, he discovered he spoke Oromiffa.

“Are you from the Garre Somali Tribe?” Laursen asked.

“I am shocked that you know the name of my tribe…”

“I have been praying about how to reach your people,” Laursen said.

Touched by Laursen’s concern, he went on to share that his tribe are very radicalized and strong in their Islamic beliefs. “Many of them are Al Shaabab terrorists,” he said.

This shook Laursen’s hope for a moment.

“Then I realized, what are the odds that one of our team is actually a believer from this very tribe? It is safe to say that God is up to something and the Garre will soon have more opportunity than ever to hear about the love of Jesus!”


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