Deep in the highlands of Ethiopia is a town called Injibara where long-term missionaries Mark and Debbie live.
Their new home, built to resemble a local structure - and thus more welcoming to local visitors - overlooks a mountain. The mountain can be seen for miles around and has religious significance in the mainly orthodox Awi community that is steeped in tradition as well as forms of witchcraft.
A few months ago the mountain was razed by fire – an event that according to the locals has only occurred one other time in recent memory. The fire was blamed on the 'pentes', as the evangelical Christians are called.
The blame highlights the distrust that the Awi have for people who want to change their way of life - and their beliefs.
For more than 20 years Mark and Debbie, have been working to improve local farming productivity through experimenting with different crops, seeds and practices. This is done at a test site in the town.
Farmers are often brought to the site where local workers offer training and advice. The expertise also allows Christian workers to visit farming communities. The ministry and the missionaries are well-known in the area, but despite being seen as a help to the community, the work has not resulted in mass conversions of Awi to Christianity. Changing long held traditions, and building trusting relationships takes time. There are no quick fixes.
The hope is that a recent addition to the ministry - marketing solar lights as well as the seedlings - will open up more remote Awi communities to the gospel as well as provide some local Christians with meaningful business opportunities.
Whereas Mark and Debbie's ministry has primarily focused on the farming community, they also realise that new missionaries coming to the area may need to focus on the youth who are more open tochange, often more educated and can be found in the towns rather than on remote farms.
Mark says: "There are small evangelical churches in the towns but few know how to reach the youth. We urgently need missionaries to help the local church in youth ministry and youth outreach."
Debbie adds: "We also need people who will teach English - particularly but not exclusively to women. There is a huge opportunity to build relationships using Biblical material as the foundation for their teaching. You don't need to be TESL trained (though preferred), just be willing to sit on a porch or under a tree and build relationships using your English as the bridge to sharing your faith."
Recent civil unrest has resulted in loss of life and, for a short time, the evacuation of workers. While the situation is calm at present, the unrest is a concern to those living and working there
As the ministries diversify, pray that there will be increasing opportunities for a spiritual breakthrough and more Awi will accept the gospel
Pray that the new missional business - marketing solar lamps and seeds – will open doors to the gospel in remote farming communities
If you are interested in serving among the Awi of Ethiopia please email firstname.lastname@example.org.