This week I have been teaching on the subject of deliverance at the Ethiopia Kale Heywert School of Missions. It is located in Southern Ethiopia about six long bumpy hours from the capital Addis Ababa. In the first hour after arriving in Ethiopia I saw a picture of a tall man and enquired who he was. The lady of the house told me, “That is Yacob. He was a missionary in Sudan and died there.” The next day I met Yacob’s widow at the School of Missions studying and preparing herself to be a missionary on her own. Her name in English is “Blessing”. Let me share with you about Yacob’s missionary life as best I can:
Yacob heard God’s call from a tiny village in Southern Ethiopia to be a missionary. He was about to be married and so knew he had to talk to his fiancé about this call. They prayed and fasted together and decided that they would leave as missionaries to Sudan immediately after their wedding. Their honeymoon was spent in a tent in rural southern Sudan.
For nearly five years Yacob taught various courses with his assignment as a teacher, but he also worked to help start local churches. He started two churches while he was in Sudan and help discipled people in many others. They moved around, but wherever they were, they made it their home. Sometimes they lived in tents and other times they lived in mud huts. They never had more than a bed and a chair in their single room dwellings. They grew much of their own food they and they were happy to serve Jesus in this way.
About a year ago, things changed on the ground. Many people hated their work and Christian activities and so one night a mob formed and decided to wipe out this tiny community of Christians. With no warning they launched an attack. They shot machine guns into the air and screamed to drive fear into everyone’s hearts. Then they started lighting the homes on fire. As Yacob’s and Blessing’s house was lit, they ran out, but were confronted by armed militants. Fear griped them as the guns starred them down. They thought this would be their last moment on the earth. Soon, the fires of the Christian homes burning were causing a bigger panic. People were running about and in the confusion Yacob and Blessing ran for the brush to escape. They hid until their community was silent again.
When they returned daylight was starting to peak above the horizon. At night they watched the fires, but now in the morning light they could see the destruction. Nothing was left. Everything that Yacob and Blessing owned was gone. Their house was just a smoldering ruin. The next day, the man who instigated the attack came back into the community which he had just burnt to spew more hatred. As he came near to the believers he dropped to the ground dead. God smote him.
For this young missionary couple, this was as low as you could go emotionally. Life in Sudan was always hard, but this day was a day they would never forget. Ethiopia is a very poor country, but Sudan is still decades away from Ethiopia. The languages were different. The food was different. The people were very different and all this made for a difficult missionary life. Even the place where they were ministering was rampant with poisonous snakes. Each day they would kill snakes in their little house and the surrounding yard space. Sickness was rampant and medical care was non-existent. On top of all that, now the people were trying to kill them. How worse could it get?
Satan has been working overtime to keep Sudan in his grip. Violence is a way of life. Lawlessness has been the norm for decades. The nation has been fractured by the civil wars. Muslims kill Christians, Muslims kill Muslims, Muslims kill indigenous animists (traditional religions). The Christians fight back and kill as many as they can too. Everyone has guns and life is cheap in Sudan. Satan is having a field day and has been for decades.
Yacob and blessing hope to change that. They work for love, not money. They work as a privilege to serve God, not financial security. They work for the sake of others, with complete disregard for themselves. When they are sick, there is no doctor. The simply pray to Jesus to counter the devils schemes. One night that changed.
Late one evening Yacob showed signs of contracting malaria. Both of them has had this serious disease before and recovered. Blessing could tell that it was serious though. They called their mission office and they said they would dispatch a doctor from Nairobi, Kenya the next morning to evacuate Yacob. In the night they discovered he had Cerebral Malaria in which the malaria parasite attacks the brain. By the time the plane landed in Sudan, Yacob had already passed into eternity. His young bride, Blessing, was numb with shock and grief.
Their sending church in the mountains of Ethiopia helped them to return Yacob’s body to his hometown to be buried. After the funeral, Blessing prayed and asked God what she should do. The call to missions was unchanged. Two months after her husband died on the mission field, Blessing enrolled in the Ethiopia School of Missions. Upon graduation she wants to return to Sudan.
When I met Blessing I knew she was special. As I heard about the missionary life of Yacob, I knew this was a story that had to be told. This is a success story. This is a story which proves that Satan will not win! Yacob and Blessing lived an exemplary life of faith as they were obedient to Christ’s call. Several churches are permanent markers symbolizing the eternal significance of their task. Many were called, but few answered. Yacob and Blessing answered and their reward in heaven will be far greater than most.
“Blessing” is 27 years old. She has experience more in her short missionary career of five years than most would face in a life time, but she is not done yet. God still has a great plan to make her a blessing for Sudan and other peoples of the world.