BSP: When and how did you initially become connected with the people of Ethiopia?
BeckyLynn: Very shortly after my birth 🙂 Before I was walking, my parents loaded me and some large metal barrels with our stuff onto a freighter in New York, bound for Yemen, and then from there to Ethiopia by airplane. Until I was almost 11 years old, Ethiopia was the only home I knew. Half of that time was spent in boarding school far from my parents “down-country”; the other half was spent on the mission station, squatting in the huts eating roasted corn called “kolo”, helping the Ethiopian children herd their goats, etc. It was a very special upbringing, full of unique challenges, but also wonderful blessing.
We left Ethiopia on an emergent basis, with only 3 days’ notice. We thought my mother was dying of a brain cancer. Parting with Ethiopia was very traumatic for me. I planned to return as a nurse, so got my bachelor’s degree in nursing. But then God appointed me to be a wife to Dave….so all those preparations were abandoned, and for the next 28 years Ethiopia remained only in my heart.
In 2004 I took Dave back to Ethiopia to visit my home sites, “so that he’d understand me” 🙂 The second night we were there he plopped his head on the pillow & said, “I love these people so much it hurts!” It was then we knew that God had a work for us to do there. Since then we’ve spent on average 3 months of the year in Ethiopia.
BSP: What is the vision God has given you for His mission in Ethiopia?
BeckyLynn: The work He’s appointed us in this section of His vineyard is simple: help the local Ethiopian churches in Burji, Alaba & Gondar. Burji consists of 33 local churches in the Burji District, far to the south, almost to the Kenya border. No one wants to go to Burji because it is so isolated & it is surrounded by an aggressive warring tribe. It was one of my childhood mission stations, but since 1975 no one has helped these churches. When we visited in 2004, the church elders were pleading with us, “Don’t forget us.” Alaba is an area of Ethiopia that is easily accessible, but it has an almost 100% aggressive Muslim population; persecution of Christians is active. Hence, many are afraid to venture into the Alaba area. In both Burji & Alaba, God has removed all fear from us. We are the only “faranjis” (white-faced foreigners) you will find there. And I cannot tell you how much it means to these dear brothers & sisters in the Lord that we have come to share their burdens! The fellowship we have with them is extremely sweet. The plea from the Gondar churches was for financial assistance in funding evangelists intoareas of Ethiopia completely devoid of any believers. This area of Ethiopia is almost exclusively Ethiopian Orthodox; the people are bound up in a religion that is a mixture of superstition, traditions, OT Law and NT Gospel. They are so strongly bound to this religion that they will actively persecute (on order of their priests) anyone who presents the pure, simple Gospel of Jesus’ faith alone. In fact, there is an organization within the church that targets any who forsake the traditions of the church; persecution is far worse than any Muslim’s persecution in Alaba. Because of cultural issues & Ethiopia’s history, only people from the Gondar region can gain a hearing of the Gospel from the people of Gondar. So our evangelists are largely “under cover”; God has blessed this work, and now 3 new local churches have been planted in this spiritually-hard area!
How do we help these Ethiopia churches? We listen to the church leaders and then pray about what they have said. As the Spirit impresses us, we present to the church leaders a plan of action. They then pray about it..and the Spirit gives us unity in the work. Because each area is different, the help given has been different. For example, in Burji we’ve distributed thousands of Bibles, hundreds of reading glasses, established a medical clinic, established solar-powered loudspeakers & lights in rural churches, helped with buildings for Bible school & church, etc. In Alaba, the great need has been for rural church buildings, charity for the persecuted believers, and Bible teaching. In Gondar, the great need has been salary supplement & assistance with evangelists.
The Work is fairly fluid. Once an engineer asked me, “What is your 5- and 10-year ministry plan?” “Simple, ” I replied…”It’s the same as our 1-year and 1-day plan: to be obedient.” God knows what He is doing in His Work. He knows the future. And when it is time, He will show us our role in His plan. It is too easy to organize the Spirit right out of the Work. We guard ourselves against that.
BSP: How do you raise money?
BeckyLynn: We don’t! (Gotcha, didn’t I :)) Seriously though, we don’t. We do not set targets or goals. We don’t have a budget. We don’t look under every bush or behind every church door for what might be there for the work in Ethiopia. Charity/Church/Mission fund raising has become a huge professional enterprise; whole organizations exist solely to raise funds for other organizations! And they are always doing studies to try to figure out how to be more successful at transferring funds from someone’s pocket to theirs! We don’t participate in any of that.
God has promised to care for His own. He has clearly said “don’t worry about it!” So we don’t. And when the Evil One starts insinuating that our Lord is not going to be faithful, the Spirit quietly asks “Has there ever been a time when the money you needed for the Work I’ve appointed was not there?”
When we started this appointment in 2004, it was only Dave & me; we set aside all of my income as a nurse for the Lord’s church in Ethiopia. Someone heard what we were doing, and accused us of being selfish by not letting others know about it. So we began to share the work appointed to us, and God began to bring partners. We simply tell the story of His glory in Ethiopia, and the Spirit appoints laborers, just like He did with us.
The work changes each year; it is dynamic. We don’t have a “program” that we try to sell the Ethiopian churches. We listen to them, we pray about what they have said, we seek His appointment, we plan with the Ethiopia leaders under His guidance….then we communicate that plan/vision/issue to whoever wants to listen…and somehow God creatively sends the things needed for the Work.
One thing we feel strongly about….that is, to try to replicate the ministry of Paul and Jesus. As it pertains to administrative expenses and personal expenses in the work, the Apostle Paul discusses this very plainly in I Corinthians 8-9. In short, he says that as a minister of the Gospel, he has the right to take from the kitty for his personal needs. But in exercising that right, he exposes the Work to the Evil One. He names specifically 4 areas of vulnerability resulting from the exercise of that right: 1) He is tempted to become a servant of those who pay him; their wishes might supersede the Spirit’s prompting; 2) People might accuse him, rightly or wrongly, of doing Gospel work for financial reward; 3) His own motive can become muddied; how does he know for sure that he is not doing the work for its salary or other perks; and 4) receiving support from the kitty tends to blur his vision of the ministry; he will always be thinking of whether the kitty is large enough for his needs, plus that work. Paul’s own testimony was that he “worked day & night” to supply the needs of himself & those with him. It was a costly decision he made is forgoing his right to support.
So, for ourselves, because of these dangers, we have covenanted before the Lord not to take one penny from donations for our own personal needs (our airfare, our in-country expenses, our clothes, immunizations, etc.). Furthermore, we willingly & joyfully pay all administrative expenses (wire fees, speaking costs, printing, phone charges, etc). In this manner, the Evil One has less “ammunition” against us and the Gospel Work, and 100% of the funds sent by partners goes to the Ethiopian churches. (This has always been our policy; it continued in this way even when I retired from my nursing job 3 years ago.)
BSP: How do you bring together team members?
BeckyLynn: It’s funny that you ask this question. We’re getting ready to take the largest group to Ethiopia we’ve taken, and I’ve been asking myself for the past 6 months at least “Lord, how do You bring the Team together?” In the book of Acts, we find such phrases as “it seemed good to us” or “the Spirit led us”….God is certainly a God of order, but He is not a God that is rigid, lifeless, predictable. Part of His glory is creativity. And He delights to do things in a way that floors us!
“The Team” spans the whole continent. Some of the Team goes physically to Ethiopia; our next batch of people is going for the month of July…23 people from the Roxboro/Durham/Wake Forest region of North Carolina. The team after that will probably be from churches in Texas. (Those going are always sent as representatives of churches who have partnered with the Ethiopian churches.) Some of the Team contributes their skills to the work…technical advice in solar power, making recordings, computer expertise, financial management expertise, sewing skills, etc. Some of the Team contributes Prayer…on their knees daily, faithfully struggling for our evangelists, or the clinic staff, or any number of issues that arise; this is probably the hardest & most necessary work of all! Without prayer, there is no power; without power, there is no Kingdom. And finally, some of the Team contributes financial resources…money. Many members of the Team are doing more than one job. The point is that none is more important than the other, no contribution is too small, and all contributions are God-appointed for that individual or church, for that time period, and for that purpose.