Friday, March 23, 2007
From "Warriors Of Ethiopia" by Dick McLellan
Adopted for Life
"Praise he to God who has blessed us, for He chose us in him to he adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ." Ephesians 1 :3-5
"You received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, 'Abba, Father'." romans 8:15
The little boy sat alone crying on the dusty road. The few neighbours had buried the young woman, his mother. Then they collected their tools and jackets and hurried away. They didn't want to be involved any further. They had enough troubles of their own. The young woman was hardly more than a child herself. She died of fever, an infection of some unknown disease, untreated and alone. A woman passing by saw her body on the dirt floor near the open door of the shack and alerted the nearest neighbours. No one bothered about the boy. No one wanted him. He was just abandoned. The little grass shack where he lived with his mother was about to fall down anyway. The boy and his mother were outcasts. Not accepted by the locals. There was some story about an unknown father. Rape? His mother did not give the child a name. She had no reason to. Then, quite suddenly, she died - alone.
Like all of his neighbours, Takke was a hard-working farmer with a few acres of land. When an evangelist came to their area and preached the Gospel of Christ, Takke was one of the first to respond. To him, one of the amazing aspects of the Gospel was that God had "adopted" him into His family.
The evangelist read from the Bible that God had by Jesus Christ adopted us to Himself as sons. Then he read that we were no longer in bondage but free because we received "God's Spirit of adoption" and we "belong" to His family. He also read that God redeemed us by the blood of Jesus to adopt us as His sons and gave us His Holy Spirit in our hearts to cry, "Abba Father." It was all so new, so wonderful! It gripped Takke's heart and mind. Takke rejoiced and shared this Good News with his wife and his neighbours. Some of them believed too, and they built a "Prayer House" on his land in the village.
The concept of adoption was foreign to the Wolaitta people. This animistic tribe feared "Shaitan," the devil, the many witchdoctors who demanded gifts and sacrifices, and most of all, they feared the spirits of their ancestors whom they believed never left the village and could bring had luck if they were offended. When a man died, his brother was obliged to take the wife and have children with her for his brother. The children would be called by the dead man's name. Occasionally and out of necessity, a family might take a child of a relative who died into their home and raise it for the relative. But that child always kept his father's name. It would inhabit only its share of its father's possessions. Usually there wasn't much to inherit!
One day Takke was riding his mule home from a distant market. He drove his two donkeys along ahead of him. As he passed through a small village, he heard about the sudden death of the unmarried young woman. Then he saw the little black boy on the road. He was naked and filthy and crying for food. He was only about a year old and very thin. No one came to answer his cries or seemed to care.
Takke asked, but nobody wanted the boy. "He will soon die or the hyenas will eat him," said a man who shrugged his shoulders and turned away.
Takke sat on his mule, looking at the boy. He thought of his own family of three sons and two daughters. "If no one else wants him, I'll take him," he said. He dismounted, wrapped the boy in his shawl and climbed back on the mule. Then he hurried home. The villagers were glad to see him go. Now it would not be their responsibility to bury the child when he died.
Takke's wife was somewhat surprised when her husband arrived home from the market with a baby in his arms! But she just took the baby and put him on her breast. When he was fed, she washed him and wrapped him in a cloth. She held him in her arms and sat on a small three-legged stool by the fire. Only then did she look at her husband for an explanation.
Takke told her the sad story of finding the outcast boy on a road weeping for his mother who had just died - no name - rejected - sure to die - nobody wanted him.
"I believe God sent you there at just the right time," his wife said, "Let him be our child. He is black, not brown like our other children, but he will be one of us. He will bring us happiness. Let us call him Desalegn (I have joy)." That night the other children were told that Desalegn was their new brother. They were all to love him and care for him and teach him good things. The girls carried him around on their hacks. The boys looked after him for hours.
So it was that the little boy grew up as Takke's son. He was loved and hugged, fed and washed, clothed and disciplined. He did everything the other children did. He ran and played, jumped and climbed. Every year at Christmas time, like all the others, Desalegn received new clothes. That was always a great day!
When he was old enough Desalegn was sent to school with the other children. He was enrolled as Desalegn Takke. His brothers protected him from the few bullies who called the boy "black" or
"stranger" or much worse. The oldest brother Gusho was very strong and no one dared hurt Desalegn while Gusho was around. At home Desalegn looked after the sheep with his brothers, then, as he grew bigger, he watched the cattle and donkeys too. He learned to plough with the oxen, to sow the seed and to reap the harvest. With his brothers, he picked the coffee beans and dug up the sweet potatoes, peanuts and ginger roots. He collected wood for his mother's fire and cut grass with a sickle for the animals to munch on at night. Takke sometimes took Desalegn to the market where he soon learned to trade and barter.
While still a young teenager Desalegn accepted the Lord Jesus Christ as his Saviour. The lessons taught by his parents as the family read the Bible and prayed together every night, were well learned.
The church elders who examined him for baptism said Desalegn knew all the answers about his faith and was ready to follow the Lord. With about 500 other new Christians from churches in different villages, he was baptised in a river not far from the village. Vida and I were among the thousands of people watching from the riverbank.
Soon Desalegn was involved with other young people in the life of the church. Everyone worked together to build a new, much larger Prayer House and to buy a piece of land which they called "The Lord's Harvest." The Christians all ploughed the land together. Then they sowed corn, sweet potatoes and ginger. They used the crops to feed the poor, to support their pastor and to send evangelists out to reach distant tribes with the Gospel.
So the years passed. The girls married and left home. The older boys married, built separate houses for themselves but stayed on their father's land. Takke treated them all alike. As the family grew, he purchased some more land that they worked together. Gusho became one of the leaders of the churches in their area. Desalegn came to our SIM Bible School at Bolosso for two years and became the pastor of a church. Desalegn and I became good friends and often shared ministry at church meetings and District Conventions. He married a lovely Christian girl and with the others, still farmed Takke's land. For a time there was a lot of persecution of Christians. Desalegn, Gusho and Takke spent many months in prison. The opposition and suffering seemed only to strengthen and multiply the believers.
Then Takke's wife died and Desalegn mourned for her, the only mother he knew. Takke was getting old too, and as his strength failed, he called the four boys together. He said, "I love you all. Keep following the Lord. Teach your children as I taught you. Desalegn, I adopted you as my son. I gave you my name and fed and clothed and educated you. You are mine. Now I want you and the other boys to equally share all of my property. Soon I am going to die. I am going to my Father who adopted me. Promise me that you will all equally inherit my possessions." The four boys promised to do as their father asked. They placed their right hands on Takke's knees, as is their custom, and vowed to obey.
When Takke died a few weeks later, the family called all the Christians together for his funeral. Crowds of non-believers came to show their respects too. It was a huge funeral. There were several thousand people there. At the graveside, Gusho and Desalegn preached the Gospel of God's grace and several people came to repentance and faith.
In hundreds of homes that night, the families sipped their coffee as usual, laced with rancid butter and salt and they ate the roasted corn. They also talked a lot about Takke and his boys. They discussed how Desalegn was adopted - a bit different, a stranger, with no claims or rights - but how he was given a new name, a new family, a new relationship, a new father, clothes, food and education. Most of all they talked about the new thing they had seen that day. It was unheard of in Wolaitta. It was new, strange, different. The adopted boy had been made an heir and equal with the sons! That was amazing! And it was all a free gift - grace, the preacher called it - undeserved, unearned, just to be accepted! Many people would go to the "Prayer House" in the following weeks to ask some more of the preacher. Some of them would accept Jesus Christ as Saviour and Lord too and would stay and join the believers.
Desalegn, like most of the pastors in Wolaitta's rural areas, is a "bi-vocational pastor." He still farms the land with his brothers. And with his sons! They have bought extra land for the growing families of Takke's sons. Desalegn still preaches every Sunday, visits the sick, teaches the Word of God to young people, and seeks the lost. Often he is invited to preach in other places and he regularly uses "adoption" as the topic of his message.
When Desalegn gives his testimony, he tells of dying, unwanted, unloved, alone and of Takke saving him, making him his own son, making him a member of a new family, everything provided and even given an inheritance. He loves to read Galatians, chapter 4 and verse 7 and says, "I was a slave of sin, of Satan, of death but I was saved and became a son and heir. By God's grace alone, because Jesus shed His blood for us, we can all be free from Satan and eternal death. By faith we can become God's children and inherit all His riches in Christ."
The last time I was driving through the Bolosso countryside, I met Desalegn again on the side of the road. What a reunion we had! He was on his way to visit an old believer who was sick and "hoping to go soon!" Desalegn still farms the land and he still preaches the Gospel. He and his wife have six children - and also several orphans whom they have adopted!