Go Back to your country!

Why are you cast down oh my soul? Is it because you know the wearisome journey of immigration, because you understand the loopholes that make it impossible for people of color to gain access to living in America? Are you cast down because the American church is self absorbed with “orthodoxy” that it has neglected to do the very thing Jesus said is the greatest commandments of all, to love thy neighbor as yourself? Is it because that silence of your supposed community impacts you and those who look like you and it is an action that speaks louder than words? And the answer is yes, yes and yes.

It has been heart wrenching to hear the news and see images of brown children in cages, little babies without their mommies to sooth and hold them being treated as animals.  And, it hurts deeply to watch smart, beautiful, strong women who look like me and my daughter being told to go back to their country because they dared to speak up and not be silenced. It hurts because he’s said it to me too, no not the president but a man like him, a man who was an authority figure in my life for a SEASON but who mistakenly thought my existence needed his permission and approval.

He was too busy climbing the leadership ladder, he was the new young CEO of a company I briefly worked for. It was a christian organization and I was the new girl right out of college he didn’t want to bother  with nuances of my immigration status and thought I was simply going to disappear if he just wished it.

I went into his office to tell him the deadline to reapply for my work permit is approaching and I needed his approval to start the process with HR. All he was needed for was to give confirmation that I was doing my job well and that I was a capable employee.  I told him about my visa situation and that I truly believed that God was calling me to stay and that I’d like for the organization to sponsor me to stay for an extended amount of time. He very nonchalantly said, why don’t you go back to your country? I wish instead he had said, tell me more or why do you want to stay. But no, he didn’t care to hear it, I don’t know why he chose careless words but they pierced through my heart.  The weight of this comment had too many memories attached to it, it brought with it shame, guilt and fear all at once and left me feeling worthless it felt fresh just like it did when my community college advisor said it to me for the first time, it was triggering.

So yes, it still hurts to hear it, even if it’s not directed to me personally because it is indirectly about me and my family. It hurts because the church is still silent and outrage is only coming from outside of the body of christ, it hurts because it reminds me that there is an us and a them and I can’t depend on the church of christ to be my family and stand for Justice. I pray that God would heal the divide and that we would truly be united; till then, telling our stories and hearing theirs with compassion is the way forward so, I tell it to those who have ears to listen and I encourage myself in the Lord because he is my hope.

It’s funny to me to hear the assumptions made about immigrants, people glorify immigration as if it’s something we pursued out of luxury. For me, I didn’t want to live so far away from my family and friends. I was too proud of an Ethiopian and African to leave the country I love behind and try to fit into one that obviously didn’t want me nor was built with people like me in mind. The narrative of immigration was not representative of me that I didn’t want to have anything to do with it.  Anything that would paint me as a poor, hungry beggar who was desperate to get to “the promised land”, I worked hard to distance myself from but God kept calling me to serve in places that struggled to understand my reality.

The last thing on my mind was being in full time ministry in America. I knew of NO ONE who served in an American church as an immigrant and has had a significant leadership or influence, so the lack of role models scared me.  I knew I was made to lead, but I was aware of how the obstacles would be many for me as a woman of color in the church. The nuances of my life and journey were too many to be understood let alone accepted in these spaces God was calling me to so I didn’t want any of it, but I loved God and I wanted to follow him and it so happened this was a path he chose for me.

Moments like these where I hear hateful words coming out of places of influence, I encourage myself by reminding my soul that my home is in heaven, that God has made the universe and it fits in the palm of his hands and I get to live where he sends me and makes a place for me. The bible is full of immigrants and refugees including Jesus Christ himself, and this temporary struggle only makes my walk with christ and suffering with him the more meaningful and tasteful so I give thanks to the Lord and pray for my enemies.

 

Suffering is an Honor!

“Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.”    1 Peter 4:12-13

Today this verse made sense, trust me I’m not comparing being sick with a terrible upper respiratory infection for the past 6 days and not getting to go outside to the suffering of Christ. No no, this made sense because I finally had 6 days to contemplate why the very thing I loved was the very cause of so much pain and it made sense, because I finally understood how Jesus must have felt when they spit in his face, dragged him across town, ridiculed him naked, whipped his back till his flesh was ripped off and his whole body was drenched in blood.  As if that wasn’t enough, they chose a murderer’s life over his sinless one because they needed to assert their power, and evil desires over his dignity!

But then He, the one who gave them the very breath they were breathing, instead of showing them who’s truly powerful by wiping them off the face of the earth, he chooses to go along with their mockery to the point of death on the cross.  BUT, giving his life wasn’t enough, he gave them the ultimate gift, his forgiveness! He understands the evil nature of their motivation and begs for the father to forgive them for they know not what they do.

Today it made sense why he said that, not only because he is good, kind, sinless but because he knew his worth to the father. He knew if he didn’t forgive them they were doomed, He knew his purpose on this earth was to redeem the spiritually blind and undeserving ones like myself so he chose them over his own life, he protected them as they put a spear in his side.

Today it made sense why he allowed me to walk some hard roads, I couldn’t possibly experience the type of deep suffering He experienced without having to lose the very thing I gave myself for. How can I share in Christ’s suffering without being ridiculed, ashamed, invisible. There are no shortcuts with Jesus, the road is narrow, lonely and long and for me that road had produced deep fear, anger and resentment until now, the lightbulb just went on, this is how I share in his suffering, this is the road less traveled and this is why I should consider it all joy because “the sufferings we have now are nothing compared to the great glory that will be shown to us.” Romans 8:18

I praise the One who never wastes my pain or any of my experiences! And I consider it an honor to get a glimpse into the life and suffering of the holy one who gave me grace I so not deserve! So I choose to forgive as well for they know not what they do.

Could the Ethio-Eritrea Peace Treaty put the Eritrean Evangelical Church in Danger?

As my family and I were celebrating the peace treaty between Ethiopia and Eritrea the other day we talked about some of our friends who are Eritrean and who have families they haven’t seen in more than 20 years and what this means for them. We’ve been rejoicing over the news that around 400 evangelical believers were released from prison and asked one another if our dear friends husband was one of them. Our friend was lucky enough to make it out of Eritrea but her husband and kids were left there, he was imprisoned for his faith in Christ Jesus and he took his sentencing as his ministry to those in prison, she on the other hand has been on a journey of rebuilding a life destroyed by war and trying to find her kids whom she was separated with in refugee camps.
Two days after finding out all this good news, I saw a video of a supposed “prophet” who traveled from Ethiopia to Eritrea on THE FIRST flight out there once the peace treaty was signed and he apparently preached on the streets (had a crusade). The video was excruciating to watch as he was yelling and crying out loud as people around him were saying yes and amen. In my head I’m thinking, wait why are you there in a country that’s been closed for missions and hasn’t been allowed to openly practice faith for decades and what is your yelling going to produce? Really, do people think those who have been paying with their lives, for the spread of the Gospel for more than 20 years need a so called prophet to make mockery out of their faith in public 2-3 days after the government signed a peace treaty? Really???? Where is the common sense in this??? What does one’s mega phone screaming of Jesus saves going to produce in the lives of those needing to hear the good news?? Please someone help me understand…..???? WHAT ARE YOU DOING!!
Let me break it down for you:
1) For those who are still in prison or recently released, their reality is that their wives/husbands & kids are scattered around the globe in refugee camps and they still need to find a way to connect with them, and figure a way out to rebuild their lives. Please don’t make their lives even more difficult by your immature and impulsive actions?
2) For those who have been quietly worshiping God in underground churches, they still have a long way to go in order to find a middle ground with the government to be allowed to gather and worship in public, LEGALLY and SAFELY. Your actions are only going to raise a flag to the government that Ethiopian prosperity gospel is going to take over Eritrea as well, there fore they should probably delay their public gathering.
3) For those who are seeking and searching for truth, they need to hear the Gospel from someone who can teach them the journey of this suffering filled life called christianity. Being a student of the life and death of Jesus Christ is not glamorous as the so called prophets would make it look. It is painful on this side of heaven, and one that costs ones life. It costed Jesus his life, and his disciples theirs, and our Eritrean brothers and sisters theirs. Don’t make a mockery of the Lord, He is not man to be mocked.
4) The Eritrean Church wrote a very polite” letter to Ethiopian Evangelicals with a message that basically says “thanks for coming and we love you but please don’t come back again, we have enough of our problems to deal with don’t add fire to the flame”.  My gosh, can we wake up and respect the wishes of the Eritrean Church, let them lead the way and ask how you can help make their lives easier. Don’t push your own agenda of prosperity and fame….please in the name of God I beg you! Let’s back off!
Ethiopia has enough of a prosperity gospel plague that has taken over the minds and souls of our people and we need to do a lot of healing, let us not spread it to the rest of the continent, especially one that is not ready to deal with outside problems yet…let our brothers and sisters breath, let them taste freedom at least for a day and pick up the pieces. Let them seek God and ask Him where he would have them go, and let us ask how we can support them and come along side of them. We have so much to learn, let us be quick to listen and slow to speak. May God give us wisdom and discernment to be involved in a way that will only glorify Christ and bless our Eritrean brothers and sisters.
With Love,
#Thekokebproject
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The Vitality of Accurate Story Telling

Just finished watching The Diaspora Journal by Nathan Araya and wow, I’m speechless. My heart is so full of joy and gratitude for such beautiful story tellers our culture has, when I write about the vitality of accurate story telling in the missions world, I mean this type of accuracy.

1) Nathan’s heart is simply to know and learn about his people thus goes with such an open heart, wanting to discover and learn.

2) He wants to experience life just like his fellow Ethiopians and does every job that is considered undesirable, but his joy shines through the whole movie as he tries everything and at times ridicules himself.

3) He dignifies each person he highlights as he tells their story by talking about their strength and what he learned from them. These people are not “other” to him thus he sees their dignity past their physical circumstances. You don’t see him feeling sorry for any one of them, he respects their reality, he doesn’t insert himself in their story and center himself and try to rescue them…he knows their story has value, meaning and a rich history.

4) He starts the documentary talking about the faith and perseverance of his grand father that was passed on to his mom and now to him…he closes by talking about the importance of serving where God has placed you and reminding us how we’re a part of each others story.

Friends, it’s important to know the stories of those we go to serve, this documentary was so accurate that I cried, laughed and forgot where I was for the 45 minutes I was watching it.  It took me back home, brought back all the memories and feelings of being in Ethiopia.  That’s why I write about accurate story telling  so strongly. https://faithfullymagazine.com/tgcs-article-africa-western…/
Our monetary status doesn’t give us the authority to speak into people’s lives. We are all made in God’s image thus need to respect each others stories and tell it with dignity.

Thank you Nathan for honoring our culture, stories, joy and strength. May the Lord continue to bless your efforts!

To watch the documentary go https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1oufx-25uqo