It was the notorious winter snowstorm of 2021, and unbeknown to Jewish Voice Outreach Partner Danita (not pictured here), it was barreling in on her rural town in southern Illinois. Typically a last-minute packer, Danita had surprised herself by having her suitcases filled and ready to go nearly a week before she needed to leave for the Fiche, Ethiopia, Outreach in February. That came in handy a few days before her trip when she needed to travel to a nearby town for her required COVID-19 test.
The snow began around 9:00 p.m., and Danita soon learned it was no mild storm like her region is used to. Forecasts warned of snow lasting through the next day with several inches of accumulation and a second storm to follow. “Leave now,” Danita heard in her spirit. She was ready.
As she drove through the blizzard, she prayed, “Lord, You parted the Red Sea. Please part the snow so I can see the yellow lines on the highway.”
It took Danita two hours to make the normally one-hour drive. She got a hotel room and, the next day, had her COVID test. The weather was so bad that she knew she couldn’t go home for the few days before her flight to Washington, D.C., where she was to join the rest of the Outreach team. She had to stay put.
After three days at the hotel, she still hadn’t received her COVID test results. On flight day, she went to the airport on faith. “Lord,” she prayed, “I know that you didn’t set me up for this trip only to have me not go. You’ve got this.”
At the airport, she checked her flight on the big screen. Staring back at her was the word “CANCELED.” She tried to get another flight – on any airline – but everything, including waiting lists, was overbooked.
Undeterred, Danita inquired about the driving time to D.C. – about 11 hours. “I can do this,” she told herself. “I can make it in time to fly to Ethiopia with everyone else.” So, she waited in a long line and rented a car. Wanting to keep JVMI informed of her situation, she contacted Celeste, the Global Outreach (GO) department’s Outreach Engagement Manager, who sprang into action even as she headed to the airport herself. Celeste and GO’s Executive assistant, Angela, found Danita a flight from Atlanta to D.C., cutting her drive time in half. She arrived at the Washington hotel at midnight.
But the enemy wasn’t through pestering Danita. The digital proof of her negative COVID test finally came through, but it wasn’t sufficient to board the international flight. Danita scrambled again, and the testing center provided acceptable documentation just in time. Finally, this woman, whose heart had been committed to this kind of work since she was 13 years old, was free to get on the plane for Ethiopia.
They landed safely in Addis Ababa, but Danita’s luggage didn’t. Thankfully, she had packed a few clothes in her carry-on and was able to supplement her minimal wardrobe with a few in-town purchases and by doing laundry every couple of days at the hotel. By the time her luggage finally arrived, the Outreach was nearly over.
Through it all, Danita exhibited a remarkable spirit. Veteran Outreach Partners noticed her positive attitude and told her how encouraging that was to them. Danita said everything the enemy threw at her only made her more determined not to let him win. “When he causes that much trouble,” she said, “I know God must be up to something big.” And He was.
Mid-week during the Outreach, the team enjoyed a barbeque and campfire on the hotel grounds. Danita warmed herself by the fire, and when she turned around to warm her back, an Ethiopian man in the circle of chairs patted the seat next to him and said, “Come, sit.” Not entirely comfortable with the invitation, Danita didn’t respond but turned again toward the fire. After a second invitation, though, she thought to pray, “Lord, are You wanting me to talk with this man?” When the gentleman beckoned her to sit down again, she did. And the first thing he said to her was, “I’m Beta Israel.”
Danita lit up. “Oh! Your people are who we’re here to help!” Then she told him, “Did you know that God sent His promised Messiah? He has come, and His name is Yeshua [Jesus]. He fulfilled over 300 prophecies in the Torah and Prophets.”
The man listened, bewildered. “The wonderful news,” Danita continued, “is that He didn’t come to die only for the Jewish people. He died for me too, and He lives in my heart.”
Despite some language barrier, they enjoyed lighthearted conversation and even shared a few chuckles as they ate among the others.
Throughout the remainder of the trip, Danita ran into the man each day at the hotel. “Do you know who that is?” Global Outreach Director Eric Pires asked Danita one day. She explained how they’d met and that she shared the Gospel with him at the barbeque. Eric revealed that the man is the hotel owner and a prominent figure in the community – a rarity given that most Jewish people are not respected and even persecuted in that region.
“You have done what none of us could,” Eric told Danita. “He was drawn to you because he wanted to know more. And God knew you would tell him.” God used a sweetly enthusiastic woman to reach an influential businessman with whom our team had little contact because almost all of our interactions were with his son, the manager.
On the last day, Danita spoke boldly to her new friend. “Do you remember what I said about Jesus being the Messiah who fulfilled all those prophecies in the Scriptures?” He remembered. “I want to challenge you. Get a New Testament. Read it and try to prove me wrong.” The man smiled.
Theo Steinhauer, GO Spiritual Affairs Manager, gave him a complete Bible in Amharic, Ethiopia’s national language. Interestingly, Theo played another role in this man’s life. Many weeks before, Theo was in Ethiopia arranging the Outreach and prayed at length for this man and his home.
Theo was part of God preparing the soil of this man’s heart, and Danita planted the Gospel seed. Who will water it? Who will reap the harvest of seeing this Beta Israel Jewish man open his heart to Jesus? It may very well be members of the Ethiopian Messianic congregation who are continuing the ministry in Fiche. They are visiting people who wanted to learn more, meeting with new Believers and building relationships in the community.
That’s why Jewish Voice is committed to long-term ministry in the areas we visit. We love meeting whatever physical needs we can, but salvation – found only in Messiah Jesus – is a matter of eternity. Our Congregational Leadership and Development department supports, disciples and trains indigenous leaders to minister to their own people and spread the Gospel farther and wider in their communities than we ever could.
When we pray for an upcoming Outreach, we always ask that God would bring us opportunities with prominent, influential leaders in the Jewish and broader communities. God had scheduled a divine appointment for Danita to meet such a man in Fiche. And He strengthened her to get through one hardship after another to be there for it.
Update: Danita, undeterred by the schemes of the enemy, joined us for our following Outreach in Ethiopia. She determined to bring glory to the Lord with what the enemy meant for evil. — Eric