We might think we love a bit of coffee here in the UK. But we’ve got nothing on Ethiopia. Ethiopia is the birthplace of coffee. If an Ethiopian wants to welcome anyone to their community, they prepare a coffee ceremony. This involves roasting, grinding and brewing coffee from scratch in front of the guest. Then, of course, comes the chance to taste the coffee. It’s a drawn-out affair – as the coffee is drunk more water is added to the ground beans several times. The visit carries on until the coffee is too weak to drink.
Imagine if you had that experience every time you walked into your local Starbucks! But for Belen, an Ethiopian mother of three, the national love of coffee has given her a way of getting her life back on track.
Belen comes from a very traditional area in northern Ethiopia where the Protestant Church has been facing increasing pressure from extremists who expect Ethiopians to place their historical traditions above faith. In this area, some Christians have faced isolation, denial of inheritance rights, physical attacks, divorce, false charges, and destruction of their churches.
It was no different for Belen. Because of her decision to follow Christ, her husband left her and her three boys, her family rejected her, and her elder brother punished her by placing great financial pressure on her.
First, he got the government to disavow her of land she inherited from her father (in accordance with Ethiopian customary law). Then, he accused Belen of stealing money he sent to provide for the care of their elderly parents. Although not guilty of stealing it, the court ordered Belen to repay it (her father has since passed away and her mother is too frail to vouch for her).
Who would believe that a ten minute prayer would break my heavy yoke?!”
“You are losing in all directions,” her brother told her. “I suggest you repent and return to your original faith. You should have agreed to do so long ago,” her brother told her.
Though the cost of choosing Jesus has been very high for Belen, she won’t change her mind. Before Jesus saved Belen, her life was a mess. “My life was in ruins. I struggled with bad dreams and many other things tormented me.”
When a Christian friend visiting Belen heard about her suffering, he immediately prayed for her. “That night I slept for the first time in seven months. Who would believe that a ten minute prayer would break my heavy yoke?!”
This healing drove Belen to follow Jesus. “My lifestyle changed completely,” she said. So her response to her critics is: “Jesus may appear slow in responding to my plight, but He is working quietly but surely.” And so He is. Open Doors has been able to help provide legal counsel for the situation related to the land and the repayments of the money to her brother.
We’ve also helped her provide for her family by starting a small business – a coffee shop! The support has helped her to start the business, furnishing the coffee shop and providing all stock and equipment. In order to draw more customers she has also bought a television on which her customers can watch the news.
The coffee shop is often so full that there is a wait for seats seat. Belen is thankful that she can provide for her children.
“Through your support, I was able to pay my debt which I borrowed for medication. I would have been in prison and my children would have wandered in the streets if you haven’t reached out to me. Not to mention the fact that if I did not have my own business, we would have had nothing to eat.”
She is happy that her children have not had to beg, like she feared, but are instead going to school.
But, if He uses my suffering for His glory and for my spiritual wellbeing, let it be so.”
“God has changed my story!” Belen says. “The hands of God are with me. I am tested, and people hate me and tell me to leave Jesus, but that will not happen because I have seen His mercy. Sometimes, I wonder why I did not come to know Jesus a little earlier so that I could have avoided some suffering. But, if He uses my suffering for His glory and for my spiritual wellbeing, let it be so.”
We support people who are beaten, tortured,
imprisoned, falsely accused, and hated simply for following Jesus.