As a 20-year-old, I entered the teaching profession as a pit stop on my way to bigger and better things. Nine years later I’m still here. In that time, I’ve learned the best thing a teacher can do for the kingdom is to keep teaching. The following story shows the value of faithfulness even if faithfulness to the teaching profession is not possible because of extenuating circumstances.
My great-grandparents were asked by Eastern Mennonite Missions to answer the plea of Ethiopia’s emperor, Haile Selassie, for the Mennonites to start a blind school for boys. They had a very receptive audience with great support from the government. Although they hadn’t been asked specifically to evangelize, a church soon sprang up and grew. After only a few years my grandfather was ordained a bishop at their congregation in Lancaster. His glorious teaching opportunity was done. They went home to Lancaster and never returned to Ethiopia.
A few years later, the Communists took over and all foreigners were forced to leave. Those who had stayed to keep the school and clinic open left. The church with a few hundred members went underground. It looked like the Mennonite story in Ethiopia had come to an end.
With Christianity outlawed, the Mennonite congregation was forced to meet in groups of twos and threes. They were able to illegally print small pamphlets which they distributed among themselves. In this way, the groups continued to multiply. When Communism fell years later, the congregation had grown to 80,000 strong.
This is the part of the story I have known for as long as I can remember. Just recently, I met two people who updated me on the rest of the story. One was an Ethiopian, Zenebe Abebe,Ph.D., a retired professor who is currently an author and speaker. He said my great grandparents taught his high school teacher. He also said all his classmates went on to lead successful lives of service as doctors, teachers, etc. The other person I met was a church leader who visited Ethiopia last year. He reported that they have 1,050 congregations and 1,021 church planting centers. They are growing by leaps and bounds with no end in sight!
I don’t share this story to lift up my ancestors, but rather to show how God worked in spite of their limited time in Ethiopia. God doesn’t require much from us except faithfulness. The teaching profession draws people with big hearts but also loses them because their big heart is drawn elsewhere. In my great-grandparent’s case they were called by God elsewhere. But until you receive such a clear call, stay faithful where you are!
- Thank 10 faithful people in your life.
- Be faithful today on the lesson plan, delivery, or divine distraction.
- Find one or two people you can meet with weekly or bi-monthly who will encourage you to be faithful.
CONTRIBUTOR: Austin Shenk