Determined Not to Be Late
One night Yonathan had a vivid dream. A man with tattered clothing entered his home and sat at his couch. “There’s work left in this world,” this person told him in the dream. When he asked what that meant, the person told him to pray. Yonathan asked two more times and received the same answer. On his way out the door, the person in the dream turned and said, “Please help those who don’t have the Bible in their own language.”
Yonathan Zeamanuel and Tizita Zenebe, his recently married wife, talked about this dream and what it meant for their calling. They decided to pray that God would give Tizita confirmation on Yonathan shifting from his current work on staff with a college fellowship to focusing on Bible translation.
Soon after, she had a similar dream in which she was told to show the way for the blind – for those who do not have the scriptures. Immediately, her passion shifted from her current ministry of equipping young leaders to working in Bible translation.
“If God wants you in a certain place, the Holy Spirit will give you a passion for that place,” she said. “That’s what happened to me.”
"Why are you so late?"
Around the same time, Yonathan and Tizita were reading the story of Dick McLellan, an Australian missionary with SIM (Serving in Mission) who spent over 50 years in their country of Ethiopia. Each night, they took turns reading the story aloud. In the final pages of the book, they read words that brought tears to their eyes.
Yonathan explained that at the end of the book, McLellan referenced how he took a twelve-hour journey to preach in a rural area. When he started talking to a lady in her 70s about Jesus, she tearfully asked, “Why are you so late?”
When Yonathan and Tizita read those words, they prayerfully asked themselves the same question. Why are we, the people of Ethiopia, so late?
Why did they see a trend among Ethiopians to wait until old age to quit work and serve God in churches and missions? After decades of foreigners committing their lives to spread the gospel in Ethiopia, why did Ethiopians seem so slow to join the work?
“My heart was moved,” Yonathan said.
Tizita provides her perspective in a meeting with local leaders from the Guji-Oromo community about their recently completed audio New Testament from Faith Comes By Hearing. Photo by Heather Pubols
Like many educated young people in Ethiopia, they face strong pressure to choose high-paying professional work over ministry. Yonathan pointed out that a very small percentage of Ethiopians get higher education each year. Yonathan and Tizita both have bachelor’s degrees in computer technology, and Yonathan has a Master’s degree in Christian Leadership. People have often said to him, “This mission work, anyone can do that. You can serve the Lord by your work in computer technology.”
Despite that pressure, the couple determined they would not be late. In September 2010, they joined Wycliffe Africa and began working to promote the use of Scriptures in the minority languages of Ethiopia.
“Our goal is to take the Bible off the shelf and get them reading it,” said Yonathan.
They are currently promoting the translation and use of Kande’s Story, a booklet and curriculum that informs people about HIV and AIDS, and helping coordinate the translation, distribution and use of dramatized recorded scripture provided by Faith Comes By Hearing. They are also full of ideas to make Scriptures translated into the more than 80 languages of Ethiopia practical: translated commentaries, Bible training courses taught in every language, or biographies of Ethiopians involved in Christian service to inspire others as they were inspired by the story of Dick McLellan.
Diversity strengthens the team
Having these two on staff contributes to a strong optimism among their co-workers regarding the future of translation work. Doug and Kelly Blacksten, who also work in Ethiopia, express deep gratitude for Yonathan and Tizita.
“They’re very capable people who are very gifted with great personalities,” said Doug. “It is very moving and powerful to see a young couple just willing to make that step, to join and be involved in ministry in their own country.”
He pointed out that the older generation of Christians in Ethiopia have been through years of persecution under the communist regime, and they too are encouraged to see younger Christians whose faith was not tested in the same way still faithfully serving God.
Kelly, who works with Tizita, said, “She’s a perfect fit for the work she's doing. I sit in awe watching her and think, ‘She really is God’s gift.’”
Their team is strengthened by a spectrum of ages, including Yonathan and Tizita, who joined the team at ages of 27 and 28, young in Ethiopia to have the leadership roles they have.
Yonathan and Tizita meet with local leaders from the Guji-Oromo community to discuss the Kande's Story project. Photo by Heather Pubols
“Older people have a mature mind, experience, and professionalism,” Yonathan shared. “The youngsters don’t have experience, and their profession isn’t tested yet, but the young have energy. The older ones lead us, guide us, and give us encouragement and counseling in a mature and tested way.”
“I am still young,” Tizita said. “We’re energetic. We’re doing God’s work. That’s a big encouragement for me. We’ll be working in all the coming years.”
Tizita describes times when people did not expect to see a young person in her role but have blessed and encouraged her. The same goes for being a woman in leadership. From some people she senses less respect than a man would receive in her position, but she also finds that many people respect her even more for her courage in answering God’s call to minister as a young woman.
“Being Ethiopian is an advantage,” Tizita said about what they offer to their diverse team. “You can facilitate things faster, communicate with different offices and get them to understand faster.”
At the same time, they see strengths in the foreign staff.
“Foreigners have their own unique gifts and character that are not replaced by us,” said Yonathan. He lists what he appreciates of his foreign co-workers, including identifying work roles that match people’s gifts, strong work ethics, and ability to communicate with mission partners around the world.
A foundation for the future
Alemayehu Hailu, the first Wycliffe Africa member, added, “When I see these kinds of young couples coming, I see the sustainability of the work being assured. I believe their commitment will attract more like them.”
Yonathan Zeamanuel and Tizita Zenebe promote the use of Scriptures in the minority languages of Ethiopia. Photo by Adam Jeske
Already his words are proving true. Many of the couple’s friends first heard about Bible translation as Yonathan and Tizita held informal discussions over coffee while sharing about their mission, their calling, and God’s work in Ethiopia. They now see friends not only supporting them financially but also starting prayer groups focused on Bible translation and taking off work to join in month-long or two-week trips to do Christian service in rural areas. One friend is currently praying and raising support to join Wycliffe Africa.
They imagine one day moving to a remote area to do front line translation work much like they read about in the story of Dick McLellan.
“We would share life with the people, translate, and give them the Bible,” Tizita said. “It might be a lot of things we hope to do. Because we have our lives ahead of us, God will give us energy.”
Tizita expresses a love for the work God has given them. “I feel energy and passion. Since I joined Wycliffe Africa I’m so thankful to have a part in God’s work. It’s a privilege to be part of the final work.”
Together they push forward answering the call God gave them in a dream with determination to never be late.
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Christine Jeske and her husband Adam have served as development workers in Nicaragua, China, and South Africa. She recently published a book called Into the Mud–Inspiration for Everyday Activists.
This story was written for the Wycliffe News Network.
不久，澤奈比做了個類似的夢。夢中她被吩咐為盲人開路 —— 為那些沒有聖經的人開路。隨即，她的熱忱從目前裝備年輕領袖的事工，轉移到聖經翻譯。
當史曼紐和澤奈比讀到這句話的時候，他們在禱告中問自己同樣的問題。為甚麼我們 —— 埃塞俄比亞人，這麼晚才去傳福音？
他們目前正在推動「康堤的故事」的翻譯和應用。這個包含製作小冊子和舉辦課程的項目，目的是幫助人認識愛滋病。他們也參與翻譯工作的統籌，又協助分發和使用由「信道是從聽道來」所製作的有聲聖經。他們滿有大計，想要幫忙讓聖經可以翻譯成超過八十種埃塞俄比亞的實用語言 —— 包括翻譯註釋，教授不同語言的聖經培訓課程，或藉著埃塞俄比亞人參與基督教服務的傳記去啟發他人，正如迪克‧麥克萊倫的故事所帶給他們的啟發。
有了這兩個成員，令他們的同事對未來的翻譯工作感到非常樂觀。同樣在埃塞俄比亞工作的彼斯頓和凱利（Doug and Kelly Blacksten），為史曼紐和澤奈比表達深切的感恩。
非洲威克理夫（Wycliffe Africa）的首名成員海陸（Alemayehu Hailu）補充說：「當我看到這類年輕夫婦，我看到了神的工作能持續發展得到保證。我相信他們的委身會吸引更多像他們一樣的人。」
Christine Jeske和丈夫Adam曾在尼加拉瓜、中國和南非擔任發展工作人員。她最近剛出版了一本書，名為《在泥漿中 —— 給日常行動主意者的啟發》（Into the Mud – Inspiration for Everyday Activists）。