Editor’s note: This Lent season, Bread Blog is running a series of devotionals written by staff, alumni, and friends of the San Francisco Theological Seminary, which is affiliated with the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A).
By Asefa Wakjira
At the beginning of John, Chapter 6, the crowd was following Jesus. However, when Jesus said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven,’’ they were challenged. He continued revealing things about himself, and they started grumbling. Finally, they decided to turn back and did not follow him again. Then, Jesus asked his disciples if they also want to leave. Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom we shall go? You have the words of eternal life.’’ I appreciate that they decided to stay with Jesus even when the majority turned back.
From 1974-1991, Ethiopia was ruled by the communist government. The worst ideology of that government was the denial of the existence of God and becoming the enemy of the church. They specially targeted protestant churches like the Ethiopia Evangelical Mekane Yesus Church because they believed that the church had ties with the Western World (“Capitalists”). In June 1979, Gudina Tumsa, the general secretary of the Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus Church, was arrested by the revolutionary government of Ethiopia. He was known for speaking truth to power. Fearing for his life, the president of the Lutheran World Federation at the time, Bishop Josiah Kibira went to President Nyerere in Tanzania to ask for help. Nyerere managed to get Gudina released from prison and offered him a possibility of escape. But Gudina refused with the following words: “Here is my church and my congregation. How can I, as a church leader, leave my flock at this moment of trial? I have again and again pleaded with my pastors to stay on.” He quoted 2 Corinthians 5:15: “‘Christ died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.’ Never ever I will escape.” Gudina chose to stay while many people escaped from the country for their life. Then, he was abducted in July of 1979 and assassinated the same night. Rev. Gudina is regarded as the Dietrich Bonheoffer of Ethiopia.
I pray that we choose to stay where we need to be to speak truth to power. I pray that we never ever escape from the challenge that God puts us in to fight for the sake the Truth. I pray that we say no to our comfort and stand with Jesus even if majority turns their back. I pray that we live and die for Jesus as Rev. Gudina did, by the grace of God. In Jesus name, Amen!
Asefa Wakjira is a master of divinity student at the San Francisco Theological Seminary.