When I received a phone call shortly before we set off for the airport, advising me that a state of emergency had been declared in Ethiopia, I wondered what to expect. Yet at the same time there seemed to be no reason to change our plans to gather, and it was clear that the Ethiopian committee, whose members had first proposed this meeting, would be keen for it to go ahead. Now, looking back, Ann, my wife, and I can see that the Holy Spirit was at work in ways which could never have been planned – and sometimes in spite of our planning! One or two folk thanked us afterwards for our vision and courage; all I can say is that there did not seem any alternative to following where the Lord was leading, and it was enough to know that we were in his hands!
Most of those present were Ethiopian nationals, Orthodox as well as Evangelical. The conversations Ann and I had with various individuals left us with a great respect for them, and we shall continue to keep up with what is happening in a country which fascinated us during the fortnight we spent there.
In a previous post, you will find the statement of intent, which summarizes what happened and the personal commitment made by participants. As the week continued to unfold in unexpected ways, we learned to do what one participant called ‘rolling with the punches’, or, to put it another way, looking to discern what God was doing and falling into line. I think there was one day which went according to the planned programme, but the others certainly didn’t, for reasons beyond our control. Yet the original aim, of seeing relationships formed, strengthened and encouraged, was more than amply fulfilled as we shared together. For some, the consultation came as an answer to years of prayer; for many, it was a time when they experienced the blessing of God. May it lead to deeper understanding and co-operation between Orthodox and Evangelical believers in a country where both traditions appear so vigorous.