Dear Friends of the Harvest,
I hope you had a great season of Christmas celebrations! To add to your joy, I’d like to share with you a report from our Crusade in Ethiopia last month.
First, a brief history of Ethiopia. Between 1974 and 1991, the Marxist regime that ruled Ethiopia persecuted Christians—especially evangelicals—with many churches destroyed and congregations scattered. Since 1991, there has been freedom for worship and witness. In 1991, only about 2% of the population identified as born-again Christians. And here’s where the excitement begins…are you ready?
Now, 26 years later, Ethiopia’s evangelical population has boomed to almost 20%!
Friends, this is truly staggering growth! In the past century, only one nation that I’m aware of has surpassed this miracle in Ethiopia: South Korea, from the 1950s to the 1980s! What the Holy Spirit has been doing in Ethiopia since 1991 is truly remarkable—and last month, we got to be a part of that.
Our Crusade was in a city that had never hosted a major, Gospel event like this before. Why? Because it is literally at the end of the road: A 13-hour drive from the capital, Addis Ababa! First we drove 9 hours out of Addis, then we drove 4 more hours on a dirt road, and finally we got to our city. Jesus told us to preach to the “ends of the Earth”. Well, at least we preached at the “end of the road”! And at the end of the road, we found a city filled to overflowing with people, hungry and eager to hear about Jesus.
Our Crusade was 5 days long. We had 7 Crusade meetings during those 5 busy days. 184,000 people attended those meetings—including 54,000 on the last night! At each service, multitudes were saved: Repenting and receiving Jesus as Savior. Also, many people were delivered from demons each night, and glorious testimonies of physical healings and miracles were also given.
In addition to the huge Crusade meetings, we had the privilege of preaching a Revival in the local prison! 900 inmates—both men and women—attended. None of them left the Revival before they had surrendered their lives to Christ!
150 Pastors and local Christian leaders attended our 2-day Leaders’ Conference. These are the men and women of God who will be discipling and baptizing the thousands of new converts from the Crusade.
One of the sermons I often preach at our Leaders’ Conferences is a message called “Passing Through the Fire”, encouraging the local leaders to remain faithful to Jesus—even unto death—in the midst of persecution. In that message, I share the oft-repeated phrase “the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church”. That phrase carried special meaning for the leaders in Ethiopia. Some of them were old enough to remember what those years of persecution were like during the ‘70s and ‘80s. At the end of one of the meetings, a grey-haired leader shared with us his story of what he endured during those years of persecution. People of God like him are true heroes of the faith to me.
What does this mean for you, my friends? Well, I want to connect the dots for you today. If you were to go to Ethiopia today and see the massive crowds, and the multitudes of decisions for Christ, and the general movement of Revival that is happening in that nation, you may be tempted to think that this has been happening all along, throughout this nation’s history. Far from it! What is happening today is a direct connection to the persecution that faithful believers endured during those terrible, terrible years of the ‘70s and ‘80s. The faithful endurance of the saints back then paved the way for what the Holy Spirit is doing today. Ethiopians today are reaping the benefits of the prayers and endurance that their fathers and mothers in the faith put forth during those lean years. For Ethiopia, the “blood of the martyrs” truly has been the “seed of the church”.
The spiritual success story that is Ethiopia reminds us of this: Revival is often birthed out of persecution. Not always, but often. For those of us reading this in the West, it is a necessary reminder. Revival typically doesn’t come without travail; I suspect it never does. As we hunger for Revival in the West, let us travail in prayer as never before, and let us too be prepared to endure opposition and persecution for the sake of Christ. The Revival that Jesus wants to send us will be far more than worth it!
For the Lost,
Dr. Kevin Wagner, D.Min.