A letter from John and Gwen Haspels in Ethiopia
“I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy” Luke 10:19.
After almost five years we were finally able to move back into Moga to live and begin work among the Suri Baale people. You will see from some of the stories that follow that the nature of our work is not just physical but spiritual. “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against…the powers of this dark world and against spiritual forces of evil” (Eph. 6:12). We are involved in SPIRITUAL WARFARE. Our mission is to proclaim the Good News of God’s Love in Jesus Christ to the Suri Baale people. Our goal is to see them rescued from the kingdom of darkness and brought into the kingdom of light.
Trampling on serpents: About midnight on our first night back in Moga we were awakened by the shouts of a man as he banged on our door. We couldn’t understand what he was saying and felt quite insecure in a house whose windows were all broken out. We assumed that he was drunk.
By that time the whole camp was aroused. “My wife was bitten by a bohe,” he shouted. A bohe is a puff adder. The bite of a puff adder is often lethal and if the victim survives, a festering wound will last for many months. The Suri often tie a tourniquet above the bite and cut into the bite to bleed out the venom. There is an anti-coagulant in the venom of the puff adder and the victim can sometimes bleed to death.
Grabbing my cattle prod and a flashlight, I headed up the mountain with Barbillay, a leader in the choir. Halfway down into a dark valley we were met by a group of men carrying the woman in a makeshift sling. She was experiencing a lot of pain from the bite. I immediately began shocking around the bite and anywhere there was swelling. Because anti-venom is not available at times like this, missionaries for years have been using shock to treat snake and scorpion bites.
As we got ready to leave, Barbillay placed his hand on the woman’s head and prayed a simple prayer for healing in Jesus name. As I stood there listening to the prayer and all the night sounds around us, my mind was drawn to Luke 10:19, “I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy.” Jesus wasn’t just talking about physical snakes and scorpions. He was talking about a spiritual battle that is taking place even now in Moga. Pray with us as we do battle and trample on the head of the serpent.
Fire in the camp: In the afternoon after the snakebite, and after seeing more than 45 patients in the morning, Gwen and her prayer partner, Inye, were left in camp as John was off repairing roads. Suddenly and with little warning, a grass fire swept up the hill beside the house, sounding like a jet engine as it burned up the dry grass. Gwen ran out of the house and commanded the fire to stop in Jesus name. It stopped about 10 feet from the house where we had just cut the grass the day before. Behind the house was a tree where the flames leaped 30 feet into the tree, burning Suri beehives tied up in the tree. We were reminded of the fire in Numbers 11 that swept to the outskirts of the camp. “When the people cried out to Moses, he prayed to the Lord and the fire died down” (v. 2).
Broken curse: A Suri “dreamer” cursed the only clean water hand pump in Kibish town by sprinkling blood and hair around the pump. Out of fear everyone in town, including Christians and Muslims, stopped using the pump for water. The pump is about 50 meters from the church.
A month after the curse was placed on the pump, an itinerate evangelist came to town. Part of his ministry was breaking curses. His theme text was from Rev. 22:3, “No longer will there be a curse.” The Suri choir from Tulegit was invited to the conference. In the middle of the night, they began to sing a song, “From this day on the curse will not work! God is with us.” The next morning they all marched to the pump, singing the new song God had given them. As many of the town people watched, they broke the curse in Jesus' name and drank from the well. Seeing no harm came to them, people began drinking from the well again.
Married in church: Ngamizan came to the Suri Church elders and said, “I don’t want my son to marry in the traditional way. I want him to be married in the church before God and all the people.”
Several weeks later the church was packed out as Ngamizan’s son and her new daughter-in-law were married in the church. It was a sacred ceremony mixed with a lot of celebration and dancing. As God blessed the first marriage in Genesis, God was now blessing the first Suri church wedding.
222 baptized: On Saturday, the first of March, 115 new Christians and their children were baptized in Maja, where a new church is nearing completion. Clapping with shouts of joy broke out as the daughter of the most powerful witchdoctor was baptized. More than a third of those baptized were Suri Baale. The next day in Tulegit 107 new Christians were baptized. Two weeks later in a three-hour service more than 180 people took Holy Communion, many for the first time. Rejoice with us as people are being set free from the kingdom of darkness and fear. They are being brought into the Kingdom of Light, the Kingdom of God’s Dear Son.
We thank all of you who are shareholders in the harvest taking place among the Suri. PRAISE GOD!
Together in His Service,
The 2014 Presbyterian Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, p. 133
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