One of my favorite things about working with Guitars For Glory, is having the opportunity and privilege to network with other great ministries. There are many organizations doing incredible work around the world that often go unnoticed. And while it is not recognition that drives us to do something greater, there is a sense of encouragement that we receive when shining some light on the positive things happening in the world when it feels like national media outlets would rather share the bad news.
After months of failed attempts, I finally was able to schedule a phone call with Erik Laursen. Erik is the Executive Director of New Covenant Foundation. I was blessed by our 30 minute phone call, and once again blown away by the gift of music and worship.
NCF who does the majority of their work in Ethiopia, provides a new model for partnership, a new way to empower people, and a new way to keep them going. It connects people together across geographical, cultural, social, and religious boundaries. This connection is centered on Jesus Christ who brings all things together under him. NCF empowers 143 Ethiopian Church Planters to establish churches in the Unreached areas of Ethiopia. Over 300 self sustaining churches have been planted among the 20 million Unreached! What an incredible accomplishment! As talked more, one story specifically stuck out surrounding the power of worship on a recent medical missions trip Erik had gone on with NCF. I asked Erik if he would be open to us sharing this story, and he obliged. I hope you are as encouraged by his testimony as I was. Read below for Erik's story, in his own words.
NCF Medical Missions Trip
When I was initially approached about doing a medical mission in Ethiopia, a few things entered my mind:
1.) I know nothing about medical missions!
2.) How does this fit with our ministry to Ethiopia?
3.) I know nothing about medical missions!
To be quite honest, I wanted to run away from the idea but God spoke into my heart with that gentle but loud whisper– GO!
At that season of my life, I found myself stuck in the parables of Matthew 25. In Matthew 24, Jesus is having some serious discussion with His disciples about the end of the world, He then goes into the parables of Matthew 25 to describe the Kingdom of God. As I prayed about the concept of doing a medical mission alongside our Ethiopian Church Planters, verses 37–40 continued to ring in my heart!
“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ Matthew 25: 37–40
Just a few days after I felt God say "GO", I found myself in Arsi, Ethiopia hearing the testimonies of our Church Planters working in some of the darkest most difficult situations I had ever imagined. My heart was deeply moved by their willingness to sacrifice their own personal safety to make sure their fellow countrymen had an opportunity to hear the Gospel. As I began to build a relationship with these men, I had no idea that God would orchestrate the MT25 Medical Mission to be done in these communities!
In fact, one of the communities they had begun work in was called "The Blood Village" by locals because it was known for human sacrifices! I truthfully did not fully realize this was the same village we would do our medical mission in until a couple of days prior to our arrival.
Part 1: The Lord's Favor
From the moment of departure God began to intervene in incredible ways! I knew during the months before that we were going to face intense spiritual battles as we set foot onto the front lines. What I didn't know is how God would intervene and overpower every attempt of Satan to destroy our mission!
As we sat on the tarmac in Denver for over an hour due to a snow storm in mid–April and faced the reality that our whole itinerary was going to be messed up because we were certainly going to miss our next flight, I felt peace knowing that all of this was out of my control and this was in fact God's mission.
To my surprise, not only did we miraculously make it right in time to connect with our next plane, but our luggage was successfully transferred to Ethiopia. When we arrived the Customs station was shut down due to a mechanical failure of their x-ray machines and we were allowed to enter with hundreds of Amharic Bibles and various gear for our mission that would have most certainly held us up for hours in Customs on a normal day. The favor of the Lord was becoming more and more evident as we took each step forward.
After months of preparation and nearly 40 hours in airplane seats we had finally arrived and the reality of the mission was staring us in the face as we drove into the gates of our first stop: Shashameme Prison. As we unpacked our bus and began to set up our clinic site, I looked around at the multitudes of Muslims with a sense of wonder mixed with fear. How did I get here? Why did God send us to this place? I could feel the nervousness in our team of six Americans and seven Ethiopians. We had initially been told that there were about 400 prisoners, but it was quite clear that there were over 2,000!
As the lines began to form and our teams began to serve, I quickly realized the spiritual severity of this mission. On the outside of the clinic rooms I witnessed the brink of chaos as prison guards attempted to keep things in order by beating prisoners with clubs and sticks. While, on the inside of the clinic, I witnessed the Glorious Love of Christ as our team sacrificially served these men with basic medical care and most importantly finished each individual session with prayer! I just couldn't believe my eyes!! This was more than I was ready to handle and I didn't know how to react!
As strange as this is going to sound, I felt God say to me "sing over them" and I argued, "my wife could if she were here, that is not my gifting", and not a moment later chaos began to erupt in the line as people were impatiently cutting and forcing their way to the front. I began to reconsider my argument with God at that point, out of fear and hopes that as David calmed King Saul with a harp perhaps the same would happen here.
Almost as if I didn't have a choice, I grabbed a guitar and I walked through the line of hundreds of Muslims and I just sang over them that God would open their hearts, and their minds and Salvation would pour out on our clinic! My heart was truly breaking over the fact that so many of these men had no idea that Jesus was God! As I continued to sing and play, many of the men who were so intimidating at first, began to clap along with me and smile with joy as the miracle of music and the mysterious power of worship prevailed over the chaos.
After each prisoner would finish their visit with the medical staff, they would have to go through our counseling room prior to receiving their prescribed medications. This was where we took the time to present the Gospel of Salvation to each and every one of them. Truthfully, by the looks of these men I did not expect any to respond well. This made me quite nervous.
At one point I was called into the room with urgency by the prison staff psychologist who was actually a Christian. As I walked into the room I found an old Shiek (pictured above with yellow hat) requesting my presence. I nervously awaited translation of what he was saying to me to find out that he just wanted me to pray over him! I was wrecked as this man, who quite honestly scared me, humbly requested that I pray to Jesus for him. While he didn't accept the Lord at that moment, I knew that God was doing something and I found myself walking hand in hand with him throughout the rest of the day.
It was shortly after this that something completely unexpected began to happen. Nearly every single prisoner that came into that room started giving their lives to Jesus! One after another lifted their hands to the Lord and said "Iyesus Getano!" (Jesus is Lord). It felt too easy, there was no convincing, no arguing, no questions, it was just as if they had been there waiting for someone to invite them into the Kingdom!
I realized that coming into that prison I really didn't have faith that any of those Muslims would accept the truth of who Jesus is. In fact I thought they might throw rocks at us! At the end of the day I realized that I did not understand how much God loves them and how much it breaks His heart that they follow Islam. Each and every one of them with their own lives, their own struggles, their own desires to know and walk in the truth, yet trapped in a life deceived by Satan.
Miraculously in one day out of the 178 prisoners we were able to serve and share the Gospel with, 117 of them gave their lives to the Lord! We ended the day with a small worship service in the Chapel and encouraged the mature Christians that God would use them in that prison to disciple these new believers and continue sharing the Gospel with the other prisoners.
For more information on Erik, and New Covenant Foundation, visit http://newcovenantfoundation.org
You can find them on social media at: