a book review by Sister Heaven Tadesse Atsebeha
Unseen hands, a book written by Nona Freeman, speaks about the life of Tekle and Erkenesh. A riveting story —of personal and religious views — in which you read of events that seem grueling and sad, but once the moral of each story is revealed, you see the good in each act. You see the perseverance and trust in God that is instilled within each person.
Tekle is a bishop, who at the beginning of the story was just a little boy whose life was a series of unfortunate events. He drowned and was thought to be dead but wasn’t, “‘He’s alive!’ they shouted in glad surprise, and lifting his arms they pounded him on the back. ‘Look! He lives!’”(Freeman). A dead branch pierced his stomach and, without a doctor, his father pulled it out and he was safe, “When his father finally decided to pull the six-inch-long stick from his abdomen, he found that fatty tissue had prevented intestinal rupture.”(Freeman). Tekle went through a village killing sickness; moving his approaching death family to a makeshift hut he built up high from the rest of the sick village, he ran into hyenas, which imposed as another issue. There were many more grueling imes mentioned in this book. Dropping from high trees, falling unconscious, and living through famine and unhealthy water. Violent gun explosions, deadly venom bites, etc. But through all of it, instead of feeling discouraged and giving up, he looked at the remaining beauty in life and asked, “‘O God, creator of all these wonders,’ he cried, ‘I entreat You for only three things: first, make a way for me to read and write ; second, give me wealth of the world so that I can feed the poor and hungry; third, make me a priest and let me serve You all the days of my life. O God, I understand Your power by the work of Your hands. Please do not let me die before I receive these three requests.’”(Freeman). With faith that God had the upper hand, Tekle surrendered to the Lord and his life with the Lord began, “I am the vine, he are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringers forth much fruit: for without me he can do nothing.” John 15:5.
Photo: Bishop Teklemariam Gezahegn
Erkenesh was promised to a missionary couple by her father at the age of six, “Shoved harshly into a cruel, impatient, adult world and assigned tasks far beyond her strength and knowledge,”(Freeman). She was sent to a school at seven and by the age of ten receiving a marriage proposal, leading to many more. She was starving and just wanted to go home. Through years of marriage proposals, she answered each with “‘It is not the will of God’” (Freeman), and received death threats for declining. Eventually, Erkenesh met Tekle at one of his preachings, she asked for him to pray for her, as he kneeled down to do so, he was struck with the Holy Spirit. “Overwhelmed, he spoke softly and in awe, ‘God has spoken to me. He has called you for the ministry of evangelism. You will be my wife, and we will go together..’”(Freeman). Hearing this Erkenesh refused to belief what was said, even after God revealed it to her himself, for she did not see how such a man would fit in with the plans of her desires. Through all this doubt and fear, she prayed and read the word of God and finally came to terms with the matter. However, others did not, they tried to kill, kidnap, and marry her to others —rather than a man they called crazy because of what he taught. They soon came to realize Erkenesh also had the same views as Tekle, and threw the same insults, calling her crazy as well, but she answered with“‘Oh no,’ Erkenesh replied ‘I am more sane than ever, and God is leading me. He has given me His great salvation and has brought Tekle into my life so we can work together for Jesus.’… ‘It is not the way you think,’ Erkenesh firmly stated. ‘I have received the Holy Ghost, and my life has been changed. If you will seek God and receive the glorious gift of His Spirit then you will understand.’”(Freeman). Erkenesh had accepted the plan and was happy to see what God had in store. She was ready to give her life in the marriage to serve the Lord as a couple. She was confident in the Lord and his Spirit, and told those who may not be, to seek they shall find. “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” Matthew 7:7
The Pentecostal church was looked down upon by others, and faced many obstacles, whether they or the buildings were harmed. God made a spectacle of those who tried to do so, like these two men who were falsely accusing the church of wrong behaviors. They tried to destroy a church and to imprison innocent people out of hatred. Since the government in which they were under was corrupted and bias, the innocent prisoners were not listened too, “No one would listen to their firm explanation: ‘We teach purity of heart and holiness.’ They were taken to jail in Kibre-Mengist, a neighboring town. The next morning their accuser galloped away toward the country, and his horse threw him. He died with a crushed skull that spilled his brains on the ground. One of his colleagues brought nine more believers to jail and jumped on his horse to go burn down an Apostolic church. His horse stumbled and he died on the spot.” The men were punished for their wrongdoings, by the God who sees all, “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness” Romans 1:18. One man was burning churches down and was set afire “Then an invisible fire made his flesh so hot that no one could bear to touch him. He screamed, ‘The God of the Apostolics is burning me because I burned His church’s!’… Many of the spectators came to repentance, crying to God for mercy, which He graciously gave.” Through his punishment people were in awe, and were quick to ask for forgiveness, which they were given, as God is a forgiving God, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9.
No matter the situation, the people let God lead them, and when they slipped, they got back up again to serve him, rather than fall to the worldly fashions forever. For example Dijamo, Dijamo was strong in his faith and was consistent with the Lord, however he started to slip, which led him to his near destruction. “‘I am your pastor- Elias. What happened to you?’Dijamo confessed that he had grown cold in the Lord. ‘It felt as if two dragons had coiled around my neck and were going to kill me, but an angel slew them and saved my life,’ All of the churches took Dijamo’s story as a warning that backsliding is dangerous.”(Freeman). God used him as an example, warning the others to be careful and to not be lukewarm. To not have one foot in the church and one out in the world, as growing far from the Lord can lead to destruction. As said in Romans 12:2 “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.”
Through it all, the people persevered and put their trust in the Lord; they did not let any person or thing stop them from doing so. They were simply trying to live their lives and worship their God but the rest of society refused to let them do so. They were put in jail, beaten (even the kids), and their buildings were destroyed and burned. But through it all they stayed with the Lord, “On the organizational side, the national church office issued credentials and identity cards, kept records, and added stability to the work. The body of believers reached out with an extensive ministry of tracts, tapes, and Bible studies. The headquarters church sponsors evangelists who go everywhere, ‘with signs following.’ They are determined to multiply the revival in Ethiopia until Jesus comes again.”(Freeman). God was truly working in their lives and by their actions, through their stories it is revealed. “How good and pleasant it is when Gods people live together in unity!” Psalms 133:1.
Freeman, Nona. Unseen Hands: The Story of Revival in Ethiopia. Hazelwood, MO: Word Aflame, 1987. Print.
Book Review Written by Sister Heaven Taddesse Atsebeha from ACI Greater Los Angeles Area. Sister Heaven is a junior high school student and a daughter of Pastor Tadesse Atsebeha, who currently Pastors ACI Greater LA Area and who is also, the first Pastor of Oakland church.
Collected by Brother Ahadu Lakew from ACI Greater Los Angeles Area.