A powerful shaman living in rural Ethiopia inspired dread in local villagers and government officials alike. Trapped by their fear, the villagers paid the shaman to perform rituals to protect them from witchcraft.

Surrounded by spiritual darkness, young Hailu had a secret desire to become a Christian but there were no other Christians in his village and he feared his parents’ reaction. Hailu’s parents sacrificed cattle to ward off witchcraft. Sometimes a demonic spirit possessed his mother and she would threaten him with a knife.

In his last year of high school, a friend told Hailu about Jesus. His parents were furious when they found out he accepted Christ. They threw 20-year-old Hailu out of the house, saying witchcraft would make him go insane and kill him.

Hailu moved into the town where he went to school to be part of a church. To his great relief, he did not go insane or die. Jesus really was more powerful than the forces of evil! “I learned that witchcraft has no power over the Word of God,” says Hailu.

Passionate about his Saviour, today Hailu is a local champion trained to start new churches. Just two years after he accepted Christ, Hailu began sharing the gospel from village to village.

In the past eight years, God has used Hailu to start five new churches and to lead more than 180 people to Jesus.

In each community, Hailu patiently builds relationships and assists practically. He gained credibility with villagers and government officials when he offered to teach people how to build sanitary latrines (outdoor toilets) and how to make compost to fertilize their crops.

One day, Tadesa heard Hailu preaching in the market. Tadesa sensed God’s power as he listened. He had heard about Jesus before and wanted to follow Him, but feared the people in his village would ostracize him. Wanting Jesus more than he feared rejection, Tadesa chose to become a believer. Hailu discipled Tadesa and together they started reaching Tadesa’s village.

It started with one widow who came to faith in Christ. Hailu turned over leadership to Tadesa and he began leading a Bible study in the village. When there were six believers, they started worshipping openly as a church. This drew the abuse of angry villagers. But as they persisted, loving the people and telling them about Christ, soon the community was transformed. There are now 110 believers in the village! Tadesa has gone on to start four more worshipping groups.

The church has been growing rapidly in Ethiopia over the past 20 years. There are not enough trained pastors to shepherd existing congregations, never mind to reach and disciple new believers.

Will you help to equip local champions in Ethiopia to reach the thousands who have never heard about Jesus?