I recorded stories from Ethiopian pastors a few years ago for this book. They were full of miracles. It was crazy. Here’s one of the chapters in my book.
The pastor’s name is Faya Fede.
We sit down in the hut while people move around us outside. The pastor, my interpreter, and I sit close together in three chairs, my video camera and audio recorder pointing at them. After we are settled and have exchanged pleasantries, I ask my first question. I’ve come all this way and I’m ready to hear about miracles.
What is the greatest thing God has done in your life?
The translator translates for him and then translates back his brief and direct answer.
One dead person came to life again.
Yes. This is what I came to find out about. I watch him explain the rest of the story to the interpreter, whom they call PK (this is American speak for Pastor Ketsela). The pastor I am interviewing, Faye Feda, is tall. He has receding hair, graying on the sides, and protruding cheekbones that make his temples look concave. Deep wrinkles climb his forehead and crow’s feet spread from the corner of his eyes. His chin looks sculpted, strong and young. He wears a pink shirt, buttoned to the top and a dark sport jacket. His clothes are clean, when many others’ clothes here are dirty and limp. He has a very humble smile and peaceful eyes. He smiles as he describes the miracles.
PK turns to me and translates the following story.
I went to a village to evangelize and I saw a group gathered, crying because a woman had died.
They were waiting to bury her until the rest of the family could be there and be part of the ceremony. She had been 25 years old, married, and had a child.
I asked if I could pray for her. They said yes so I knelt down and prayed from 3 p.m. until 11 p.m. I stopped one time but the Holy Spirit told me to keep praying so I did.
Then I told the family to untie the dead body. They did and I checked for breathing. She had started to breathe again.
I went to open her jaw but I couldn’t; it was shut tightly. But I gave her hot water and told them she was okay. Then I left.
“You were dead, and a man came and prayed for you and you came back to life.”
I went back in the morning and she was sitting, alive with her family. She had asked what happened yesterday and her family told her, “You were dead, and a man came and prayed for you and you came back to life.” When I told her it was I who prayed for her, she went to my home with me so I could teach her about Jesus. She said, “Give me your Jesus. Give me your Jesus. I want him.” She prayed and followed Jesus.
His small mouth smiles slightly as he glances at me. I’m amazed. And a bit skeptical. So I ask deeper.
Are you sure she was dead? Did you check?
Yes, I checked her. Her body was very much cold, and they had already tied her up in a cloth. She died in the morning and I got there by 3 p.m.
I guess they would be the ones to know if she was really dead or not, and if they had already prepared her for burial it appears they believed she was.
I wondered if his other stories were as unusual as this.
Are there other stories?
I have stories of four people who had lost their mind. They ran around naked and stayed outside all night. They didn’t have a place to stay or anything to eat. They would just lie down in the mud to sleep and eat dung for food. They never came near normal people because they were so wild. People would beat them, and threw stones at them.
For the first one, after I finished a church service one day I saw him with stones in both hands. I said to him, “In Jesus’ name, I ask you to throw away the stones in your hands.” He immediately threw away the stones. I asked him to stop and he did. Then I laid my hand on his head and prayed that he would not go anywhere, but instead follow me to the church, and he did.
No one dared to come near him because he smelled so bad. I covered him in clothes from the church. Then I went and bought soap, took him to the river, and washed him. We went back to the church where I prayed for him and the demons fled.
Before I prayed he didn’t even know where he was. But early in the morning after I had prayed for him I asked and he told me his name, where he came from and his father’s name. He became normal again and we gave him enough money so he could go back home. He even started attending church programs.
The second story is about my brother’s daughter. She had lost her mind too. She would force her way into any house she wanted and would run the house members out so she could eat what was there. That was how she lived. I asked my brother to send her to the church so she could be free of the spirit. But our family said no. So she stayed outside. Hyenas didn’t even touch her (which is unusual).
So, one time I brought a man to help me take her to the church grounds. I went to her and said I have a good lunch for you. We took her to the church but when we started to pray she began to beat and bite us. We found rope and tied her hands together. For three continuous months we prayed and the spirits would leave her but then they would come back. The village said if she gets free of the spirit we will come to church.
After three months God helped us and she was freed. Then I got her washed up and took her to her father’s house.
I needed her family to confirm she was free of the spirit so I asked her to go fetch water and she did. After she came back from the river I asked her to prepare coffee for me and her family and she did.
I stood up in front of my whole family and said this is my God. You couldn’t do anything for her. But my God could. This is the God that I worship and you should also. And I told them about Jesus. Her father and 12 family members turned from practicing witchcraft and received Jesus.
For the third story, there was a man from the village who lost his mind. I asked his family members to give him to the church. They said no at first but I kept asking and they finally said yes. Now he is a member of the church and farms to help his family.
And for the fourth, it was my uncles’ son who had gone mad and was sick. I asked my uncle if I could pray for him. But they would rather he die than he become a Christian. They went to a witch doctor but he couldn’t heal him. Then they chose to go to the hospital instead of letting me pray for him.
After nothing else worked they finally came to me as their last option. They brought him and I prayed for him. For one year I kept praying for him, having him in the church. And after one whole year he was entirely free. He had six children. He supported his family by being a farmer. He also sewed clothes. So he became able to send his children to school. Eight years later he finally passed away and went to his Lord.
He prayed for him for a whole year? It’s hard to imagine how I could ever have this level of faith and self-sacrifice. So I decide to ask how hard it was to get there.
What has been hard for you to surrender to God, and how did you do it?
He leans over and stress gathers in the wrinkles on his forehead.
Even though there are obstacles we face, it stays here in the earth. So we have faith in God and we can face the challenge. Any problem you face, there is God. There is our heavenly Father so you can lean on him. Again and again even in the future I will surrender myself to God. I hope I will see more miracles. I prefer to die while speaking good news and praying for healing. Many sick people have become healed from my service.
I know the witchcraft.
I know the Orthodox.
I know all but one thing.
I couldn’t understand God himself. He is new every day.
Of course people have beaten me until I bled, and taken me to prison but God works with me. After I came to Christ I helped plant 14 churches. Even now I wish I could plant 400 churches.
I know the witchcraft. I know the Orthodox. I know all but one thing. I can’t understand God himself. He is new every day. This thing is in my heart. Until I stop walking, until I cannot walk, or speak I will serve Him.
I want this. But it still seems so unattainable for myself and, I think, most people in America.
What first steps can Americans take?
Brothers and sisters in America, a worldly thing is a worldly thing. It stays here. Try to look and see what God has for you and stick to it. As you can see, I’m old. Jesus used this old person. God can use a young person even more. So give your life, your wisdom, your energy to God so He can use you to do more.
And with that our time was up and we wrapped up the interview.
* * *
I was blown away. Someone being raised from the dead? Demon possession? This sounded like the New Testament. And I never got the feeling from him that these stories were made up.
However, a couple things about his stories unsettled me. I thought that if God was all-powerful and if he chose to heal, it would have happened in an instant. But instead it took eight hours to raise the person from the dead, and even a year to cast out one of the demons.
I wonder if the spiritual world is a lot more like the physical one than we think, but it just happens with invisible materials and invisible characters. I mean maybe sometimes miraculous healing really might take as long as physical surgery because cells are regenerating and things are moving back into place.
And maybe casting out demons can take time in the same way a siege to oust a tenant in a fortress would.
Also, I cringe because that story about tying up the girl who was possessed and taking her to their house would sound sketchy in America. I think here in America they would probably be convicted of assault for doing that. But still, the reason they were doing it was out of hopes to heal her.
It’s hard for me to imagine a hospital volunteering to nurse an emotionally unstable person for free for that many months. But the pastor did. Even if we don’t like the violence of binding someone, it seems like it was done out of love for her.
I also wonder if what they call dead is really dead. And if what they call demon possessed is what we would call mentally imbalanced.
I suppose whatever they call it, the proof is in the pudding. They had wrapped the girl up for burial, which means that nothing they knew to do could bring her back. But the pastor’s prayer did.
And if the people they say were demon possessed were really eating dung and running people out of their houses, there were some serious issues going on. But whatever the pastor’s treatment was, it was effective enough to solve them when nothing they had tried prior had been able to do it.
And I know this guy could be making up these stories and pulling the wool over my eyes, but I don’t know; if even one quarter of his story were true, it would still mean God works in the world today. They seemed so detailed and real. And he spoke with such peace, enjoyment and humility.
I think I believe him.
Raw Spoon, 7-21-17