ETHIOPIAN BELIEVER, PERSECUTED FOR HIS FAITH, NOW RUNS ORPHANAGE, PRAYER MINISTRY FOR TORTURED AND IMPRISONED CHRISTIANS AROUND THE WORLD
By: Michael Ireland
MINNEAPOLIS, MINNESOTA (ANS) -- An Ethiopian Christian who faced persecution for his faith in his home country, is asking American believers not to forget those imprisoned and tortured for trusting in Jesus Christ.
Getaneh Getaneh was born and raised in Ethiopia. At age ten he tried to commit suicide, because he wasn't getting answers about life that he needed or for the many other questions he had.
He recently told college students in the Midwest: "I am asking where I'm coming from, who I am, if I am a biological son to my Mom and to my Dad, or not. My mom and my Dad are raising 16 children inside the house and I am the only biological son, and that brought a question to me. Why I am the only biological child? "
Getaneh said he attended a Coptic Orthodox Church where he heard teaching about God.
"And when we are coming home we do not practice what they teach; we have idol worship inside the house. And I say 'OK, this idol is the one, or the god which they tell me the true god in the church? I have a great aunt, who was a psychic, a wizard, a witchcraft maker, what you would call in this country a fortuneteller; and we are worshiping her like god. That brought a big question in my life. And I have a friend also at school, who is a Muslim. Always he tells me if I'm not converted to Islam, one day I'm going to die.
"One day he came with the tears, we love each other we are good buddies at school; and we play together, we grow together. He came with this, saying 'Getaneh you are going to die, my dad and my family is going to kill you. Islam is going to be the religion of the state and we are going to kill all Christians and Jews.'
Getaneh told the audience: "If you don't know, the goal of Islam is to finish killing Jews and Christians and to bring the religion of Islam to every state in every country. That is their main goal they are working toward."
Getaneh said he went home and asked his father, "Dad, my friend said this, is it true?"
"He said 'No, it is not going to happen.' He did not give me the right answer. Then I started to ask these three questions. Which one is the true god? My great aunt, or the god which they tell me at the Coptic Church, and who am I, where am I coming, is this family, my family? And I was depressed at age ten, I tried to commit suicide to kill myself. It's terrible and horrible thing to do."
When he was 13, Getaneh heard about a Mennonite missionary in his hometown.
"I went there for the first time, I heard the Word of God, I give my life to the Lord. When I go there my first imagination, my first thought, was they tell me this missionary is insulting St. Mary. I love St. Mary I was born on St. Mary day, my Christian name is named in her name, the plant of St. Mary. And I took a rock out of my pocket if they insult St. Mary to stone that missionary.
"But things changed and I became a Christian. I went home late on that day and my Mom asking me why I came home late from school. I told her I went to chapel to study the Bible; and I told her I became a Christian. They asked me not to go back to the chapel or to the church. I said 'No, I'm not quitting.' They asked me not to read the Bible; I said 'I refuse.' Then they grounded me at age 13 for two years inside the house. They tried to put me in boarding school, but all the boarding schools at that time were run by missionaries and they didn't have any way to put me in the boarding school. Then, the only choice they had was to ground me inside the house."
Getaneh said that during that time, a high priest came to baptize him.
"Early in the morning in that two years the high priest came to our house from the church and baptized me with the water, with very, very cold water to cast out the religion spirit."
Getaneh challenged his listeners that while this incident might make them laugh, they need to know and appreciate the freedoms they have here in America.
"Yeah, maybe it will make you laugh, it's not fun, I let you know. And when you compare with the freedom what you have here and with the freedom what we have back home. And some of you are not willing, for example, to come to the chapel -- you don't like it, it's boring sometimes. But I will let you know we don't have this kind of freedom. No, we have only one theology college in our country now. We don't have Christian schools, we don't have a church. Our church is under the tree. We don't have these kind of comfortable seats -- our seats are dirt. I want to let you know how you are privileged, how you are blessed, praise God for this blessing and for this freedom. We choose to go to school here but we don't have the choice to go to school back home."
Recounting how he became a Christian at age 13, Getaneh said that during the time his parents grounded him for two years, "and the Lord did a big miracle in our family.
"My Great Aunt one day asked me how to be delivered from that evil spirit. I didn't know what to do, I haven't prayed for sick people before. I didn't cast out evil spirit from people before. But I know the Word of God, which was given to me by American missionary, a small New Testament, which is given out by The Gideons. I have that New Testament, I read that New Testament more than twenty 25 in my 'freedom house.' I call it freedom house because that is true. The only time I had freedom to read by Bible or pray was when I went to the restroom, the other time is not mine. Always I have somebody to control me or to watch over me. In that two years I read my Bible and I developed that intimacy relationship with almighty God and he helped me on that day to use Mark, chapter sixteen, the last chapter. It said that signs and wonders will follow you if you follow me. Don't follow the signs and the wonders, follow Jesus and then the signs and the wonders, the miracles, will follow you. I used that word literally and I prayed for my great Aunt and she was delivered from an evil spirit."
In describing his great aunt, Getaneh said that when she was seven she ran away from home and she lived with wild animals in the forest for another eight or nine years.
"Her family gave up on her and they said she was dead, and they did what they do in the Coptic church. And after seven or eight years she came back home and she looked weird. They cleaned her up and she got married, and she give birth to six children. She killed six of her children by hanging. Human beings with clean minds and with a clean heart do not kill their children. But she was lead by an evil spirit. That evil spirit was not allowing her to live a normal life. Then she became a wizard, a psychic. Then my family started to worship her. And after many years, more than 40 years, she served evil and then she asked me one day how to be delivered from that evil spirit. And the lord gave me a victory on that day. (That's when) my ministry started. When my Mom and my Dad saw that miracle, they came to know the lord. The Lord opened the door for me."
Getaneh asked how many think the freedom we have in this country is going to last long?
"Do you think it's going to last long? (That) things have not changed throughout the years? I will tell you something -- don't think your freedom is going to last long. Prepare yourself. You don't know what's going to happen tomorrow. Maybe tomorrow we don't have any right to preach about marriage in the church. Tomorrow, maybe we don't have any right to speak against abortion. Tomorrow, maybe we don't have any right to speak against homosexuality. You need to be careful. You need to watch out what's going on. Watch the time and pray; and try to stand up for your faith."
Getaneh explained: "We lost our freedom. We are the only country from Africa which has not been colonized by any white people. We have this big pride, which is not broken from us easily. And we are different people from Africa. We have white people, black people, dark people. Ethiopia is a different country. I don't know why God made Ethiopia like that. Then Communism came and took our pride, our freedom, from us in one night. We lost everything. They put the king in jail and they killed 66 people in one night and they buried them in one hole. They put us in prison, they burned our Bibles.
"First they came to our farmhouse and the village area when we are praying and they took us and they put us in prison. They asked me if I'm working for CIA, because I accepted this Bible from an American missionary. I don't know where they buried my Dad even now. I don't know how he got killed. But what we know, we know one thing -- he's in glory. But we don't know where they buried him. I don't know where they buried my cousin. We have been in prison together. But I haven't seen her since that day. I know she's in Heaven. They killed three of my church members in front of my eyes."
Getaneh said the Communists found him baptizing people at two o'clock in the morning at the riverside.
"We don't have the freedom to baptize people openly like you do in your church, in your country. They caught me and they asked those people to deny Jesus. These people are new Christians, they haven't been in the Church a week or two week. They just came to know the Lord and they give their life to the Lord and they are asking me before leaving that area to baptize them. I brought them to the church, to the riverside, and there was somebody (present) who knows our secret, what we were doing. You know who is that? Do you think everybody who is singing 'Amen and Hallelujah' and praying is a Christian? Jesus Christ trained twelve people, he lost one.
"Always there is a Judas in the midst of us. Our church deacon is the one who brought the security people to the riverside. And they asked those three new Christians who don't know their Bible, who haven't read their Bible, who haven't played the game that we play here in the church. They said 'No, we are not denying Jesus.' They got killed in front of my eyes. Their voice still the echo is clear and new on my ear what they said, 'In our blood the church will build. We love you. We pray for you.' They died there shouting this. I know they are in glory. I know they're in Heaven. I know one day I will see them. But here I am always thinking about them.
"Here I am asking, 'Why I remain here, you know why I am here? I want to let you know there's a price to pay when you follow Jesus. Then my turn came they hung me upside down. They started to pour boiling oil over my feet. Let me ask you one question this morning. How many of you fry potatoes or chicken inside the kitchen? I know most Americans cook their own food. When the splashing oil touches your body how painful it is. It's painful; I was terrified. And I was ready to deny Jesus. But the Holy Spirit helped me to pray this prayer 'Lord God it's enough, take me home.' God said this 'I love people.' I want to let you know, God loves everybody. God loves people. I said the people who kill me, the people who kill my Dad, the people who kill me, the people who destroy the church, the people who burn the Bible, the people who mocking you, you love them? He said 'Yes, I love them. Tell them how I love them dearly how my blood is still running for them, to save them.' It's very difficult for me I ask God, 'OK, give me the strength and give me the joy.' Without joy you can't talk about Jesus. With sadness with murmuring you can't talk. And then the joy started to bubble from my belly. I start to tell them about Jesus. Two of them who persecuted me were very interested, they are asked me what drives me crazy. I started to tell them the same verse which Doctor Eshelman came to my homeland and told me: John 3:16, 'God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten son.' Then they accepted the Lord in the prison. He showed me how He's powerful to change that rock-hardened heart and soften it and to accept Jesus Christ. This is your god and this is my God.
"Why I'm telling all of these things? Most people, they don't understand what kind of blessing God almighty give them to be born in America. They don't have any clue. Please don't abuse your freedom. Please pray for the persecuted church. Please, inform yourselves. Invite persecuted Christians to your congregation, to your church. In another country we don't have this kind of freedom. We have many orphans, we have many people who don't know Jesus Christ. We have 67 million people in Ethiopia. From 67 million people, we have only five million born again Christians. Please pray for us."
In an interview with ASSIST News, Getaneh explained that he grew up under the rule of King Haile Selassie.
"Then red terror, what you call the revolution government, came and took place in Ethiopia and we lost our freedom. The church closed down and they start persecuting born again believers. My church leaders were imprisoned for four years and a half, and some of us in different areas they put us in prison. Even my Dad got killed inside prison and we don't know even today where they buried him or where he is. I know one thing he is in Heaven one day we'll meet him.
"When they closed down the church and the church is not understanding what's going on. It's very tough to have underground church, but we started a Bible study underground. We started one hundred Bible studies in my hometown; and we started to serve the Lord."
Getaneh told ANS he has been imprisoned in Ethiopia five times. "On one occasion, when we are baptizing people at the riverside. It's a village area, it's a remote area, (and) it's an Islamic-dominated area, in southern part of Ethiopia. I went down there for outreach and we brought more than 20 people got saved. Some of them asked me to baptize them before leaving that area. I tell them to stay to wait, they say no. Then we took them to the riverside and one of the church deacon, who backslid brought the security people to the riverside at 2:00 a.m. in the morning and they caught us and they killed three of them.
"First they are asking them to deny Jesus. These new born again Christians haven't been in the church for a year or for a week. The only thing what they know is they came to the church they give their life to the Lord and they know one verse, John 3:16, the verse which I heard when I first came to know the Lord by American missionary Doctor Eshelman: 'God so loved Getaneh He gave his son.' And then they are asking them to deny and convert back to the previous faith Islam and they refused. They refuse and they got killed and when they die they say this, 'In our blood the church will build and we love you and we pray for you. ' And the echo of their song is still new on my ear, still it's echoing.
"In that area we now have more than one hundred churches and we have also converted Islam evangelists, a Muslim family who came to know the lord, who are serving the Lord in that area. And we are supporting also ten evangelists in that area. And then my turn came as they are asking me why I am doing that, if I'm working for CIA. Always in communist countries or an Islamic-dominated area they think you are working for CIA."
He said the reason they were thought to be from the CIA is because they received Bibles from American missionaries.
"And then they think that all of the missionaries are working for the CIA. I worked for the American embassy as a chef cook when I was overseas in a country called Djibouti and I don't know anything about CIA. I lived in Mclean, Virginia for four years close to CIA office. But I don't know what they are doing, I don't have any clue. But I know they are doing intelligence work. I tell them I don't know anything. Then they got a Time Magazine and they showed me a picture where a priest is doing a homosexual marriage. And they are asking, 'Your religion is going to bring this culture to our society to destroy our society.' The Mennonites at that time they didn't teach me about that. They are against homosexual marriage or the same sex marriage; and it's Biblical also. And I tell them I don't know anything about this. After I came to America I found about that. And then they started to poor boiling oil over my feet and they started to persecute me, and they started to ask me questions. And when the pain is really hard, it's painful, I ask God to take me home. And then the Lord said, 'I love people, tell these people how I love them. ' "
Getaneh told ANS about his prison experience.
"We have been in a very small tiny house, more than 50 people. We are like sardines, you know the sardine in a small can? We are very tight. We don't have a place to sleep, we don't have place to sit down, or to stand in. We are getting once a day a small cup of water and dried bread. The food what's coming from our family is not reaching us, and wee haven't heard from our family, and we don't know what's going on. I tell prisoners in this country the prison what we have back home and what we have here when we compare them, 'This is the Sheraton hotel.' We donít have this kind of luxury prisons who have a restroom and you know medical attention and everything. We don't have it. It's very different and I tell to the prisoners And I know one prisoner he just kneel down and asking me to pray for him for forgiveness how he's complaining still, for what he has done been put in prison. It's very different, you know.
"And the lord asking me to tell when they persecuted me to tell people how God so loved the world He gave his only begotten son. I starting to tell them, and they think I became crazy, and they put me down where they hang me upside down. And they put me down and they are asking me 'Getaneh, what drives you crazy? Who is this Jesus? Tell us.'
"They are Muslim and they don't know anything (about the Bible, God, or Jesus Christ). In the book of Islam there is no any love or forgiveness or any assurance of Salvation. They don't have that. And it's not written in the book of Cora. As they are asking me that question, I start to tell them how God so loved the world, the word which I know, and the word which changed my life, and then they give their life to the lord."
Getaneh has been in the United States for 13 years and now runs a ministry called Watch and Pray International.
"We are doing seven, twenty-four prayer. And the Lord called us to do an awakening to this nation to other nations. And then we are doing that and we are doing street evangelism also here. Besides that we have a ministry back home, which is raising orphans. We have orphanage in Ethiopia and we have ten evangelists, seven of them they came out from Islam religion. They are ex-Muslims and now they are working in the midst of their people. We are supporting them monthly by sending $100 USD and we are supporting now 43 orphans who lost their mom and their dad by aids, by famine.
"In Ethiopia all and all we now have 4.5 million orphans, and we are helping just I think it's not even one percent we are supporting a little bit, not that much. The reason is we don't have enough money, we don't have enough budget to support more people. Now for example, last week our board chairman came from Ethiopia for our ministry and he mentioned that we have on the waiting list 52 children outside of the orphanage still sleeping outside, waiting just to come in and to get food and breakfast and. Itís too difficult I canít talk about that."
Getaneh said his ministry is open 24 hours a day for prayer requests.
"We have more than seven hundred people throughout US who are praying with us, and who is praying for another people, for church and for persecuted Christians."
He concluded: "My main message, if you ask any persecuted Christian from another country, or if you ask me, the main message is just please pray for us and be informed, and try to support the persecuted church (and) the persecuted Christians."
Published date: April 5, 2006
Provided by: Assist News service © 2006
TGIF Daily Devotional
When does God call people to long-term missionary service?
* 21% were called as a result of a missions education service in their local church
* 20% felt God calling them after listening to missionary speakers
* 19% were called because of their own family's missions vision and conversations
* 10% heard God's call through reading missionary books
-- Terry Read, missionary and missions professor