Peter (not the real name), brimming with godly enthusiasm travelled to Ethiopia in the early 1970s with his wife. Though they got married only a week ago, the purpose of their trip was not a honeymoon.
They were determined to meet Emperor Haile Selassie to seek permission for Logos, the Operation Mobilization ship to visit Ethiopian ports. The political situation in Ethiopia was very volatile. His Christian friends who knew Ethiopia well, laughed at his idea. Moreover, the couple knew no one in Ethiopia.
To the surprise of all, after many attempts they did get an appointment with the emperor! The emperor allowed the ship to be docked at port Massawa which is now a thriving port in Eritrea. Not only that, but the emperor visited the book exhibition onboard the ship to open it to the public.
This was more than what the couple had hoped for. Thousands of pastors and lay leaders came to visit the ship, the bookstore on board and for the seminars.
As years went by, Ethiopia went through drastic political upheavals. Emperor Haile Selassie lost power. Eritrea was carved out of Ethiopia. Many Ethiopians and Eritreans migrated to all parts of the world, including the UK.
Years later, Peter now in grey hair walked into a Starbucks in the UK. It was packed, but he was fortunate to find a vacant chair in a corner where a young man was immersed in reading. While waiting for his coffee Peter noticed that the young African man was reading a Christian devotional book.
The young man (let us call him John) is a pastor of a small Eritrean congregation in the UK. He told Peter how he became a Christian. One day John’s father told him how a book changed his life radically. It was a copy of the Living Bible that he bought in the bookstore in a ship that was docked in the port of Massawa in the early 1970s.
Now it is Peter’s turn to tell his story. With tears of joy welling up in his eyes, punctuated with sobbing, Peter told his part of the story. His story of grueling travel to Adis Ababa with his newly wed wife; the long days of waiting for an opportunity to meet Emperor Haile Selassie. The excitement they had as the ship was docked at Port Massawa. The images that still linger on in his mind of long lines of Ethiopians who queued up to enter the ship and who spent their hard-earned money to buy books and bibles. It must be one of those Bibles that changed John’s father’s life and of his son. Now through John, that book is changing the lives of Eritreans living in the UK. Who can ignore the beginnings of small things?
(Special thanks to Peter who told me this story to encourage to keep telling stories!)