“From one man He has made every nationality to live over the whole earth and has determined their appointed the exact times and places where they should live. God intended that they would seek Him and perhaps reach out for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us.…” Acts 17:26-27
Harvest is about to kick into full gear in Southern Minnesota. We live on the edge of town so soon we will be hearing the sound of combines and tractors as the farmers bring in this year’s harvest. So far the predictions are that it will be a fairly decent harvest.
This means that it is also time when we focus on the harvest of souls in our church. Just as surely as there is a harvest of crops there is also a harvest of souls, a harvest that goes on year round, not just one particular time of year.
Robert Scudieri, a retired missions executive, has started a ministry called, “Mission Nation Publishing.” The purpose of Mission Nation Publishing is to give a voice to a whole new category of missionaries, the missionaries to America.
For over 100 years America has been sending missionaries around the world. God has blessed many of those efforts so now Christianity has been spread to many countries. During that time Christianity peaked in the United States and now is in serious decline. Many things have been done to try to turn things around. These missionaries to America might just be what help turn things around for Christianity in America.
These missionaries to America often follow a similar pattern. They grow up in a country where Christianity is not the majority religion. In many cases Christianity is under persecution. But somehow these individuals hear about Christ and come to faith in him.
Then, for a variety of reasons, they end up here in the US, often among a group of immigrants from their own country. And then God opens doors for them to start being missionaries, usually with the help of an existing Christian ministry in the US.
When missionaries are sent from the US to other countries they are typically sent by a Christian congregation, ministry or denomination. As we shall see in this series, these missionaries to America are not sent here by any organized group or ministry but nevertheless, God is greatly blessing their ministries.
In part one of this series we will focus on a man named Temesgen Badsu, a native of Ethiopia.
Ethiopia’s Christian roots go all the way back to the New Testament. According to Acts 8, Philip, one of the first deacons of the church, shared the gospel with a government official from Ethiopia. After Philip instructed him and baptized him it says that he went on his way rejoicing, no doubt to return home and share his new-found faith with others. We never hear from the Ethiopian official again but less than 300 years later, in 330 AD, Christianity was declared the state religion of Ethiopia.
Ethiopia was one of the only countries in Africa to resist the spread of Islam throughout the African continent.
Then in the 1970’s, following the power vacuum that was created when the Ethiopian monarchy came to an end, communists came to power and started persecuting Christians.
As a boy, Temesgen Badsu remembers soldiers dragging a group of Christian pastors into the middle of his village square. The Christian leaders were beaten and shamed. Many were killed, including Temesgen’s mother and father. But this did not kill Temesgen’s desire to serve and follow Jesus.
Temesgen quit school to support his brothers and sisters. He started a small grocery store near the crossroads of the village. He took leadership positions in the small church in the village. Eventually the communist government would fall, bringing to an end the persecution of Christians.
Possessing a strong desire to learn English, Temesgen spent Sunday afternoons listening to an English speaking missionary on a portable radio conducting Bible studies from a station in Nairobi, Kenya. Eventually he saved enough money to go to a Bible College in Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia.
After graduation, he took a leadership position with the group Doctors Giving Back. That’s when a greater opportunity presented itself. He mentioned to one of the doctors that he wanted to continue his studies by going to seminary. The doctors were impressed with the young Ethiopian man, and arranged a scholarship for Temesgen at a seminary in San Francisco. Temesgen Badsu saw this as a gift from God’s Holy Spirit.
There are between ten and twenty thousand Ethiopian immigrants in the San Francisco area. A group that of them had organized a congregation and had been praying for a pastor who spoke their own language, Oromo. The Holy Spirit led Temesgen to this small congregation and he became their pastor. They couldn’t afford to pay him much so he made his living by becoming a Uber driver. Later, he completed a Clinical Pastoral Education program at the University of California Medical College, and became a hospital chaplain.
Today he is a missionary to the thousands of Ethiopian immigrants in the San Francisco Bay area. He leads an Oromo-speaking congregation on Sunday afternoons and on Sunday morning he leads worship as the pastor of two small English-speaking churches. Temesgen’s dream is to reach all ethnic groups, telling Ethiopian, Hispanic, Asian – all who will listen – how the Lord led him out of immensely difficult times. How the Spirit of Christ is ready to lead them, and all who trust Him. His dream is for them to know God’s grace is boundless, His love is endless, and every immigrant and refugee of every ethnic group has come here by God’s grace, and His plan.
So that’s the story of Temesgen Badsu. His story truly fits in with the verse that is printed at the beginning of this post, “From one man God has made every nationality to live over the whole earth and has determined the exact times and places where they should live.”
His story reminded me of a story from World War II. During one particular battle, the Germans had an American army surrounded. As the Americans pondered what to do, one private calmly told the commanding officer, “Sir, for the first time ever we can attack the enemy in any direction we want.”
We do not attack with military weapons. Our weapons are much stronger than that. We have the love, forgiveness and salvation of Jesus Christ, the only thing that will defeat the hatred and destruction of Satan, the prince of this world.
In addition, we know that, just as God directed Temesgen Madsu to serve the people of San Francisco, God has placed us where he want us to be. He has determined the exact times and places where we should live.
There is no way God would place us where he want us to work without first redeeming us, cleansing us from all sins and claiming us as his own through Holy Baptism.
The Christian faith is truly always surrounded by enemies in this world. It is attacked from all directions. This is not a time to shrink back. We need the same attitude as that army private in the war; truly we can attack the enemies of our faith in any direction we want.
The Christian faith is surrounded by hostile forces. It may well be that the people who are going to lead the charge against the foes that surround us are these missionaries to America.