Interview on the Works of Perkins (Part 2)

Books at a Glance

Are you interested in learning why the Works of William Perkins were more popular than the writings of John Calvin in early modern England? Part 2 of the interview of Stephen Yuille and me by Books at a Glance is available to read here.

Interview on the Works of Perkins (part 1)

Books at a Glance

Books at a Glance has interviewed Stephen Yuille and me about the publication of volume 1 of The Works of William Perkins. To read about Perkins’s life, his impact on the Synod of Dort, and whether or not he was a Puritan, go here.

True Prayer (4): Concluding Encouragements for Prayer

Over the last number of weeks, we have addressed various aspects of prayer: its characteristics, attitudes, and hindrances. Yet so often our primary need is to grow in our desire and longing for prayer. Alexander Ross once noted that a man “may pray with his lips and yet not pray with an intense desire of the soul.” This is often characteristic of the Christian. He must learn how to increase his hunger and ardor for speaking to God.

Therefore let me conclude with a number of encouragements to pray.

  1. Maintain the priority of prayer.

In the busyness of modern life, oftentimes, to our shame, prayer is the last step, or, at best, a second or third thing. We encounter a problem or difficulty at work or school, and immediately our minds race to solve it. We consider pros and cons, ifs and thens—perhaps then we pray. But the believer must realize that prayer must have the priority in his life, along with Scripture. Realize, as Bunyan said, “You can do more than prayer, after you have prayed, but you cannot do more than pray until you have prayed.” Always make prayer #1. Don’t ever abandon your stated times of prayer, and when you have an impulse to pray at any time, make it a rule to always do so immediately. Give prayer its due priority.

  1. Cultivate the spirit and habit of prayer.

Strive for grace to pray your way throughout the day. That’s what Paul means when he commands, “Pray without ceasing” (1 Thess. 5:17).

Once there was a group of ministers who gathered together to discuss the question of how one may pray without ceasing. For a whole month they pondered it, and then came together to discuss. A maid servant heard their conversation, and bluntly exclaimed, “Why, that is one of the easiest and best commands in the Bible.”

The ministers were astounded. “Let me hear how you do this,” said one.

“Well,” the girl replied, “when I open my eyes in the morning I pray, ‘Lord, open the eyes of my understanding.’ While I am dressing, I pray that I may be clothed with righteousness. When I am washing myself, I ask for the washing of regeneration. When I begin to work, I pray that I may have the strength equal to the day. When I kindle the fire, I pray that God will revive my soul. When I begin to sweep out the house, I pray that my heart may be cleansed from all impurities. When I am preparing breakfast, I desire to be fed with the manna of heaven and the sincere milk of the Word. As I am busy with the children, I look to God as my Father, and pray for the spirit of adoption that I may be His child—and so on through the day. All I do furnishes me with a thought for prayer.”

“Enough,” said the minister. “These things are revealed to babes and often hid from the wise and prudent. Go on, and pray without ceasing.”

To pray without ceasing is to improve every occasion by prayer, to pray with urgency and fire, and to keep our hearts in such a frame that we are ready at all times to pour out our soul before God. Learn to turn everything in life into a prayer to God.

  1. Stir up your soul with the value of prayer, both unanswered and answered.

Seek to realize the value first of all unanswered prayer, and secondly, of answered prayer. William Bridge wrote, “A praying man can never be very miserable, whatever his condition be, for he has the ear of God; the Spirit within to indite [direct], a Friend in heaven to present, and God himself to receive his desires. Truly, it is a mercy to pray, even though I never receive the mercy prayed for.” God uses both silence and answers in His wisdom and providence to cause the Christian to grow in love for Him. This is a blessed thing for the Christian—that he may rest in God!

Learn also though to distinguish between delays in prayer and denials of prayer. Remember what Joseph Hall wrote: “Good prayers never come weeping back, for I am sure I shall receive either what I ask or what I should ask.” And remember what Spurgeon said to his students: “All our libraries and studies are mere emptiness compared with our closets.” Prayer has far more value than often we give it.

  1. Plead with God upon His own Word and promises.

Show God His own Word. Use His Word as the foundation of your prayer, pleading His promises. William Gurnall said, “Prayer is nothing but the promise reversed, or God’s Word formed into an argument, and retorted by faith upon God again.” Be filled therefore with the Scriptures. Fill your mind and memory with the words of God, and this will stir up your soul to utter something worthwhile to God. Thomas Manton also encouraged: “One way to get comfort is to plead the promise of God in prayer; show Him His handwriting; God is tender of His Word.”

  1. Confess your weakness in prayer, and rely on His sufficiency.

Finally, confess your weakness in prayer. “Lord teach us to pray”—this was the plea of the disciples. Ask the Lord to give you a spirit of prayerfulness. Pray to pray, as it were. The Father delights in this; the Spirit groans in this; and Christ pleads for this upon the merits of His own blood! May God grant strength in our weakness: “Teach us to pray.”

Truth Is Real

Truth Is Real

The Word of God is the seed of new life for sinners. Christ calls us to sow the seed, even when we do not know what kind of soil it will reach. The Kinnelon Heritage Reformed Church is working alongside the Free Reformed Church and two local United Reformed Churches to post Bible verses to billboards in the New York metro area, such as John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” The billboards direct people to their website,, where people can find a simple gospel message, and a way to find a biblical church through It would help to raise awareness if you would “like” them on social media. You may also want to help to support this outreach financially. Most of all, pray that God’s Word, posted by the highway and on the internet, would powerfully affect many people for their eternal good.

Brakel Is Back in Print!

Brakel-set-3D__14546.1411574935.1280.1280Wilhelmus à Brakel, The Christian’s Reasonable Service, 4 vols., trans. Bartel Elshout, ed. Joel R. Beeke (Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2015), Retail $150; available from RHB for $100 plus postage (

Exciting news—Reformation Heritage Books has reprinted the 4-volume set of Wilhelmus à Brakel’s The Christian’s Reasonable Service which arrived today. This is the sixth printing of this classic set since the 1990s.

In my opinion, this is one of the most valuable set of books available in English today. I don’t say this because I had the privilege of organizing the task, raising the funds for its translation and printing, and serving as its final editor a quarter of a century ago, but I believe this is true because of the rich doctrinal, experiential, practical, pastoral, and ethical content this classic conveys. When one reads Brakel, one is not surprised to learn that for centuries this set of books was as popular in the Netherlands as John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress was in English-speaking countries. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, most Dutch farmers who were of Reformed persuasion would typically read a few pages of “Father Brakel,” as he was fondly called, every evening to his family as an important part of their family worship. When he completed the entire work, he would start over!

This massive work may be considered in three parts. The first part is found in volume 1, much of volume 2, and small portions of volumes 3 and 4. It consists of a traditional Reformed systematic theology that is packed with clarity of thought, thoroughness of presentation, and helpfulness of application. The concluding applications at the end of each chapter, applying the particular doctrines discussed to the lives of believers and unbelievers, are the highlight of this section. I believe that à Brakel’s practical casuistry in these applications supersedes any other systematic theologian, both in his day and ever since. They represent Reformed, Puritan, experiential theology at its best.

The second part expounds Christian ethics and Christian living. This part covers the concluding section of volume 2, all of volume 3, and most of volume 4. It is the largest and most fascinating section of à Brakel’s work, packed with salient applications on a variety of topics pertinent to living as a Christian in this world. In addition to a masterful treatment of the ten commandments (chs. 45–55) and the Lord’s Prayer (chs. 68–74), this part addresses topics such as living by faith out of God’s promises (ch. 42); how to exercise love toward God and His Son (chs. 56–57); how to fear, obey, and hope in God (chs. 59–61); how to profess Christ and His truth (ch. 63); and how to exercise a host of spiritual graces, such as courage, contentment, self-denial, patience, uprightness, watchfulness, neighbor love, humility, meekness, peaceableness, diligence, compassion, and prudence (chs. 62, 64–67, 76, 82–88). Other topics treated most helpfully include fasting (ch. 75), solitude (ch. 77), spiritual meditation (ch. 78), singing (ch. 79), vows (ch. 80), spiritual experience (ch. 81), spiritual growth (ch. 89), backsliding (ch. 90), spiritual desertion (ch. 91), temptations (chs. 92–95), indwelling corruption (ch. 96), and spiritual darkness and deadness (chs. 97–98).

The third part (4:373–538) is devoted to a history of God’s redemptive, covenantal work from the beginning to the end of the world. It is reminiscent of Jonathan Edwards’s History of Redemption, though it is not as detailed as Edwards; à Brakel’s work confines itself more to Scripture, and has a greater covenantal emphasis. It concludes with a detailed study of the future conversion of the Jews from six passages of Scripture (4:511–38).

The Christian’s Reasonable Service represents, perhaps more than any other work, the Puritan heartbeat and balance of the Dutch Further Reformation. Here systematic theology and vital, experiential Christianity are scripturally and practically interwoven with a covenantal framework, the whole bearing the mark of a pastor-theologian deeply taught by the Spirit. Sweeping in coverage, nearly every subject treasured by Christians is treated in an unusually helpful way, always aiming for the promotion of godliness.

In my opinion, this pastoral set of books is an essential tool for every pastor and is extremely valuable for lay people as well. Happily, you can now read it in contemporary English. Buy and read this great classic. You won’t be sorry. As publisher, we have already sold more than 20,000 sets and have never received a single complaint about it; rather, we have been inundated with encouraging comments about its merits.

Colombia, South America (February 9–13, 2015)

View of Cartagena, Colombia from Our Hotel

View of Cartagena, Colombia from Our Hotel

(The following post was written by my wife, Mary)

Monday morning we left the cold and headed for the warmth—from Grand Rapids to Atlanta to Bogota, Columbia. As we took off from Atlanta on a brand new 757, Joel said, “I always feel better when we are up in the air.” I replied, “I always feel better when we are on the ground again.” One hour later, snack service was abruptly halted. The captain came on, “We are heading back; the weather radar is not working, and we need it to navigate the thunderstorms over the Andes.” They fixed it and we were on our way again. We arrived four hours late, took a taxi to the hotel (arriving at 4:00 a.m.), slept one hour, and greeted Bill and Marlene Greendyk. Bill heads up the Trinitarian Bible Society [TBS] in Grand Rapids ( We then flew one hour to Cartagena, where the ministers’ conference was held. Noe and Mimi Acosta were the organizers and Bill assisted. Noe is director of Gospel through Columbia (

With Some Speakers, Organizers, and My Translator

With Some Speakers, Organizers, and My Translator

There is an awakening for the Reformed faith among the churches in Latin America. Ministers and their congregations are increasingly turning from Arminianism, Pentecostalism, and Roman Catholicism to embrace the doctrines of grace. There was electricity in the air as Sugel Michelen, Burk Parsons, Sergio Ruiz, Tom Woodward, Keith Maddy, Noe, Bill, and Joel spoke to 200 pastors. My husband spoke four times on topics that related to the theme, “The Church against the Gates of Hell.” He was very grateful for an excellent translator, a young pastor named Eduardo, and for a very encouraging response from the ministers in attendance. I spoke twice to a small group of pastors’ wives, with Marlene Greendyk as my able translator.

With Brethren from Bolivia

With Brethren from Bolivia

Attendees were from Columbia, Venezuela, Bolivia, Dominican Republic, and Florida. Bill and Marlene brought two suitcases of books for the Venezuelans as they are not able to obtain books, due to 70% inflation, corruption, and Communism. Donations brought the Bolivian brothers to the conference, one of whom has suffered persecution recently for having become Reformed, having his effigy burned in protest of his preaching. Again we met people whose spiritual pilgrimage was drastically altered by reading A. W. Pink’s Sovereignty of God. Several men shared how my husband’s book Puritan Reformed Spirituality and other books translated into Spanish have changed their lives, and led them in a Reformed and experiential direction in their preaching. After Joel’s address on worldliness, a minister came up to him with tears in his eyes and said, “I am a worldly minister.” Another said, “I need to go home and repent to my wife.”

Bill Greendyk Speaking on the New Spanish Bible Translation

Bill Greendyk Speaking on the New Spanish Bible Translation

TBS is nearing completion of the translation of the New Testament into Spanish. They are taking a reliable version from 1904 and modernizing it to make it easier to read. There are donors who are very interested in paying for the translating of the Reformation Heritage KJV Study Bible notes into Spanish, in order to supply many thousands of study Bibles to pastors throughout Spanish-speaking countries. Words cannot describe the joy of witnessing the light in the eyes of these men when they hear biblical truths preached with passion, and connections being made between people with means and projects that promote the gospel. The whole conference was so uplifting; the hunger of the attendees was palpable. By the Spirit’s grace, it appears that we are on the cusp of very exciting things happening in the Spanish-speaking world for the glory of God and the spread of the gospel. Praise and honor be to God!

With Pastor's Wives and Marlene Greendyk

With Pastor’s Wives and Marlene Greendyk

True Prayer (3): Eight Hindrances to Prayer

The Puritans excelled in being diligent in and devoted to prayer. Yet, even though they were well practiced in the art of praying, they recognized acutely the many infirmities and hindrances to prayer. This no doubt sheds light on their great pastoral sensitivity. Experientially, in the Christian life, they knew the believer often goes through seasons of greater or lesser difficulty in praying to God. In addition, there are what seem to be “ever present” impediments, as James Ussher notes: “Roving imaginations, inordinate affections, dullness of spirit, weakness of faith, coldness in feeling, faintness in asking, weariness in waiting, too much passion in our own matters, and too little compassion in other men’s miseries.”

Nothing must ever be allowed to remain in discouraging us from speaking to God. Calvin often noted that the Christian must ever be as a child, climbing up into the lap of his heavenly Father to speak to Him. Such is the intimacy which he may have with God in Christ.

Because of the reality of these hindrances, it is good to take careful note of the things which threaten to weigh us down in being drawn up to God in prayer. There are at least eight hindrances we may note:


  1. Little sense of sin. We need the convicting work of the Spirit to show us who we truly are. The man who sees his state may truly cry to God for mercy. Pray to God to increase your knowledge of your misery, that you may be brought more and more to seek His face.
  2. Pleading on grounds outside of Christ. Too often our hearts rest on something else than Christ, often our own self-righteousness. This no doubt explains in part why it is so hard to pray to God when struggling with sin. We must learn to seek Christ alone and pray in His name alone. The Father’s heart is opened to the sinner in Christ. To pray to God on any other grounds is to dishonor the one who died for His church. Plead to God in Christ (John 14:14).
  3. Separating prayer from the Word. The promises of God in Scripture are the substance of our prayers. This is why Jesus commanded that we pray, “Thy will be done.” It is the will of God, revealed to us in the Scriptures, which we must pray for. Robert Murray M‘Cheyne said, “Turn the Bible into prayer.” One of the ways we must do this is to memorize and meditate on Scripture. We must steep ourselves in the Word and therefore be stooped before God in prayer. Saturate yourself in the Word of God daily, praying that the Spirit may teach you to use the Word of God as you approach the living God.
  4. Unbelief. We must learn to rest in and believe that God is a rewarder of those who seek Him in faith. The Christian must ask “in faith” (James 1:6), trusting that, as Martin Luther said, “Prayer is not overcoming God’s reluctance. It is laying hold of His willingness.”
  5. Too busy. Maybe we are busy even with lawful activities. We still must make use of the means of grace diligently, making all other activities secondary. Thomas Manton said, “Why, if you have time for other things, you should have time for God…. Hast thou time to eat, drink, sleep, to follow thy [work] (how dost thou live else?), and no time to be saved—no time to be familiar with God, which is the greatest business of all? Get it from your sleep and food, rather than be without this necessary duty.”
  6. Lack of dependency on the Spirit. Ask the Spirit to groan within you and teach you to pray (Rom. 8:26). Without the Spirit, Thomas Boston said that men pray “like [deaf] people making a roar.” Too often we do not pray in the Spirit, and this is a great hindrance to us. Robert Traill wrote, “The voice of the Spirit is the best thing in our prayer; it is that God hears and regards.”
  7. Spiritual dryness. Recognize that you may often not feel like praying, but happily prayer does not depend on your feelings. The command still stands: “Be faithful in prayer” (Rom. 12:12). Know too that many times we feel spiritually dry because we have neglected prayer in the past. Speak with God, and refresh in Him your heart.
  8. Shame on account of sin. When we are ashamed of our lives and evil hearts, we often avoid coming to God in prayer. But this is precisely the time we must go to God (Gen. 3:8; Heb. 4:13). Humble yourself before Him, and plead the merits of the Son!

Against all these hindrances, listen to the answer from the Word of God. Jesus lovingly invites all those who are laboring and are heavy-laden to come unto Him. Do not cling to yourself but trust in Christ and His righteousness. Your prayers will never be satisfactory without being washed in the blood of Christ. Christ does not demand that you come with a perfect prayer, but invites sinners to put on His righteousness: “Ho every one that thirsteth, come ye to the water, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy and eat; yea, come buy wine and milk without money and without price” (Isa. 55:1). May God teach each of us to cry back to Him in prayer.

Ethiopia Trip, Part II

Ethiopia Friends

This is the second part of a post by my wife, Mary.

The ministers’ conference took place Thursday and Friday, January 8–9. Joel’s addresses were on “the work of the pastor,” “the life of the pastor,” “the leadership of Jesus Christ,” “the ethics of leadership,” and “the test of leadership.” Our friend—the PRTS alumnus—spoke on “the growth of the Ethiopian church—historically,” “the great commission,” and “how to spread the gospel throughout Ethiopia.” Joel’s interpreter was Mihret (meaning “mercy”). The language barrier is partially overcome with the interpretation and some of the men knew some English, but we still feel bad for our limited ability to converse with them. One thing that was very apparent, though, was their affection and warmth. They greet each other with a handshake, either touch shoulders or go cheek-to-cheek and kiss the air or kiss the cheek—right, left, right, and then another handshake. If they are really close and haven’t seen each other for a long time, they hug for a little while. All the while, they are laughing and talking. Even for us, they gave a reserved version of these greetings. It is common to see men walking down the street holding hands or one with his arm around the other—it is a brotherly/friendly thing, absolutely no link to homosexuality. After giving four addresses the first day, Joel was exhausted. A quick supper at an imitation Starbucks, a bit of emailing, and off to bed. At 2:00 a.m. we were rudely awakened by the off-tune droning of the Orthodox priest again. He continued the rest of the night, with only a few 15-minute breaks. Happily, our friend found us a quieter hotel for the following nights.

Pastor Bezabeh picked us up Saturday morning to take us to Debre Zeit. In the nine years he has been at his church, they have purchased land in a poor rural area and built a church, a K-12 school that has 600 students, a Bible school, and a health clinic. Their people walk to church. They receive most of their support from North Ireland. Joel preached on the Canaanitish woman and they responded warmly. They kindly put us up at a nice resort that also hosts missionaries. It was wonderful to relax and eat our meals lakeside. Even though Ethiopia is near the equator, it is a comfortable 75 degrees year around, due to the elevation. Sunday morning dawned cloudy—unusual for Ethiopia in January. Joel preached on “Running the Race” from Hebrews 12. Two young teen boys were very affected by the sermon and expressed a desire to live for Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit. Pray for lasting fruits.

Young Listener at Open-Air Preaching

Young Listener at Open-Air Preaching

Ethiopians are event- and people-oriented whereas Americans are more time-oriented. So as we relaxed over lunch, time ticked away, and the event of open-air preaching 1.5 hours away came closer. Transportation was hastily arranged and we were on our way. We would have been only a little late, but as we got on the ring-road around Addis, the car stalled. Our Ethiopian friend got it started again, but for the next hour, we limped along, stalling 30 to 40 times. Sometimes he got it started by popping the clutch, sometimes by starting it and revving the engine. We think it was overheated, because it didn’t have the problem after the outdoor service. Or maybe Satan didn’t want us to go there. It was scary being stalled on a highway. We prayed a lot. Fortunately they don’t go too fast and are used to going around obstacles; God protected us. As the sun was setting and the air was cooling, Joel preached in the open air to 700 people on “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” They listened well—pray with us that eternity will reveal fruits.

Open-Air Preaching to 700 People

Open-Air Preaching to 700 People

Back to the city. People walk everywhere, thousands of them. Even at night, with dark clothes, they walk in the road. It is a constant braiding of cars, taxis, and people. They just adjust moment by moment and go around each other. A quick beep means, “I’m coming through.” It’s like the people cross roads by faith, lane by lane, as opposed to planning for the whole way across before setting out. They trust the drivers, they trust they will make it to the other side, and I hope they trust God. Mihret met us on the way, and brought us to his house for an Ethiopian supper. His wife Bekelech had prepared a feast. He had earlier told us their courtship story. They had both decided to give their whole life to the Lord and not get married because they were so on fire for Him, but God brought them together in a wonderful way.

Winging our way home Monday, we were thankful for safety, prayerful for blessing, and enriched by our experience with the Ethiopian people. Maybe we should live life a little bit more like they cross the road, still planning ahead like we do, but stepping out in faith, trusting (and loving) others and God, and trusting we will make it safely to the other side.

Ethiopia Trip, Part I

Ethiopia Mary with Children

The following post was written by my wife, Mary.

Monday, January 5, 2015: We woke up at 3 a.m. for our 5:25 flight to Chicago, but our departure was moved to 7 a.m. The pilot finally arrived at 7:30 a.m. so we didn’t leave until 8:15 a.m. Consequently we missed our connection to Washington DC, went standby on the next flight, but missed our Ethiopia flight. We then rerouted through Frankfurt, Germany, so that we could arrive in Ethiopia on Tuesday evening (15 hours later than expected) rather than Wednesday morning, when my husband was scheduled to preach his first sermon.

As we relaxed over lunch in DC, we chatted with a middle-aged man named Jim at the next table. “Where are you headed?” “Ethiopia.” “Purpose?” “Conference for ministers.” He told us later that because we were going to a place not associated with vacation, and because we seemed relaxed about our delays (we had worked through our frustration earlier), he asked his next question, “Can you explain predestination to me? And do we have a free will?” Joel eagerly explained with Scripture and diagrams. Jim grew up Roman Catholic but said it never did anything for him. He was repulsed by scandals in the church. But his interest and curiosity about God has been growing. He doesn’t have a Bible, but when he rides his Harley in the wild hills of Texas, he has experienced the beauty and presence of God. He doesn’t want to bother God or take up too much of His time by praying too much to Him. And he doesn’t feel right just asking for things from God without giving back in return. He ventured a logical, fatalistic attitude: “If God knows whom He chooses, then what difference does it make if I seek Him?” Yet he is searching for God. When Joel explained praying by ACTS (adoration, confession, thanksgiving, supplication), he said, “I have experienced adoration and confession; that is very helpful.” We encouraged him to pray without ceasing, that God has time for him and millions of others—24/7, because of His gracious and omnipotent nature. We explained God’s secret will and revealed will and encouraged him with God’s invitations to repent and to believe, and to come unto Him by the power of the Holy Spirit. He had tears in his eyes and wondered aloud if this meeting was planned by God. We believe it was. Joel encouraged Jim to email him with questions and promised to send him the new Reformation Heritage KJV Study Bible and several other books. Joel prayed with him and we walked away greatly encouraged, thanking God for this opportunity to share His goodness. Then, too, I noticed a few others listening in to our conversation in the cramped quarters of the restaurant—so maybe other seed was sown as well!

On to Frankfurt, Germany, an overnight trip. I slept some, Joel not so much. Three hour layover, then off to Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia, with a stop in Jeddah, the capital of Saudi Arabia. We were very pleasantly surprised to be bumped up to business class! We were waited on hand and foot with elegant food, and seats that reclined fully! This was one time in my life that I wished the flight was longer!

It took a long time to get out of the airport—health scan, purchase visas, wait for luggage, find our Ethiopian friend. He is a PRTS grad who still lives in Grand Rapids and is working on his doctorate at Southern Seminary. He invited us and arranged our trip. A generous donor paid for the expenses of ministers traveling to the conference. Ethiopia is an emerging country. It is the birthplace of coffee, which is still a main export, along with livestock and water. The 94 million people are 65% Christian, 33% Muslim, and 2% no religion; they have gotten along peacefully for a long time. There is beginning to be some external influence to agitate the Muslims to become more conservative and work against Christians. Ethiopia’s military is strong, and terrorists are imprisoned or executed. The people are very warm and friendly and affectionate, marriage is esteemed highly, and homosexuality is illegal.

Preaching with Translator in Ethiopia

Preaching with Translator in Ethiopia

Our hotel was right next to a hilltop Ethiopian Orthodox church, and the priests were chanting/singing over a powerful loudspeaker until 3:30 a.m. Believe me, it was not a lullaby. Ethiopia celebrates Christmas on January 7, so Joel preached to about 400 people on the shepherds announcing the birth of Jesus. How fitting that on the way to church we passed a number of shepherds herding their sheep to market for families to buy one to slaughter for Christmas dinner. The church is more than fifty years old and has started fifteen daughter churches. Some of the old elders were the founders: kind, wise, and dignified men. Our friend said the streets were quite empty compared to a normal day, though I thought they were teeming with people. It is a family day; many go to church. Addis Ababa, population nearly 4 million, is not an international city. We saw thousands of people today, and only five white folks besides those in the mirror. It is a city in transition. There are many shanty towns—houses made of sheets of aluminum and scrap materials along dirt pathways. Yet high rises, highways, and railways are replacing them. The infrastructure is improving, but things like internet, phone service, and utilities are works in progress. China is funding many projects. They see great potential in the country because of possible oil and mineral resources. They employ hundreds of thousands of Ethiopians since labor is cheap. The Ethiopians like Chinese involvement more than American because the Americans criticize some things about the country and the Chinese remain silent.

After lunch, we headed to Nazareth 65 miles away for Christmas dinner with our friend’s in-laws. Once outside the city, the scenery was open and beautiful: mountains—mostly brown because it is dry season, but with trees dotted on the landscape and some canyons. Nap time on the way. It was the old father’s 95th birthday that day. His wife is 73, and she wasn’t feeling so well. We asked them if they loved the Lord. She replied, “He’s our only hope and our only Father.” They have been married 55 years, and had twelve children, eight still living. Two daughters worked hard to serve the meal: “hospitality bread,” “injera”—a tortilla-like bread made from a grain named tef, with different types of “wot”—stew or meat. We had lamb, and chicken with a spicy sauce. It was different, tasty. They had a “coffee ceremony,” which they do up to three times a day: spread grass on the floor, build a fire on a little charcoal burner, roast wild coffee beans, let everybody smell them, grind them, heat the water on the charcoal, wash the cups, pour the water over the beans, serve and drink the coffee. One of their daughters lives in her own little house on the property, takes care of her parents, and runs a small business—she showed us her two cows that she milks in order to sell the milk and cheese. Her ex-husband was present. He is very intelligent, has an advanced college education, and could have been an ambassador to Egypt but chose to waste his life on alcohol and drugs instead. He is homeless. Our Ethiopian friend very strongly admonished and evangelized him. He resisted at first, but our friend pressed him for his soul’s sake. He finally said he would acquiesce to God. Our friend prayed with him. We continue to pray that this is a real and dramatic change in his life.

Ethiopian Coffee Ceremony

Ethiopian Coffee Ceremony

The Reformed Pastor Conference with Conrad Mbewe

TheReformedPastor Conf with Mbewe