Tesfai Tesema, Missionary to America, Ethiopia
“I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked.” Psalm 84:10
Tesfai Tesema walked out through a door in Ethiopia. For him it was a door of no return.
The door he walked through was from a jail cell. He had been put in prison by the then communist government in Ethiopia. He considered himself an unbeliever, an atheist. But his mother in Ethiopia never stopped praying for him. Tesfai did not expect he would walk out of the prison alive, but he did. The door was “accidentally” opened, a miracle that allowed the atheist to escape and begin a long and danger filled trek across the Danakil desert to find refuge in Djibouti. Abandoned by his guide, he and two companions were left at the mercy of a group of Muslim nomads.
After spending time in the impoverished country of Djibouti, he made his way to Saudi Arabia. There, another door opened – by a greater miracle than a jail door swinging open. Tesfai became a Christian – in Saudi Arabia. As a part of the Saudi underground church he used every means to tell Muslims about Jesus. Unable to contain the joy and hope and love that lived in him, he caught the attention of the wrong people. One day he came home to find a threatening note from the local police. To save his family he had to exit the country. It is a truism that when God closes one door He opens another.
The only country he and his wife Abeba could legally emigrate to was Sudan.
Life was not easy in Sudan. Refugees were overwhelming the government’s capacity to care for them. Tesfai and other Christians had to sleep on the ground in a park – in danger from thieves and incessant mosquitos. Nothing could stop their proclamation of the gospel of Jesus.The small Christian community opened its arms to them, but while there was great love to share there wasn’t much earthly treasure. No matter the challenge, Tesfai led refugees fleeing persecution in Ethiopia and Eritrea to begin worship services. The numbers grew, worshipping first under a tree, then in a small office and then in larger spaces. More churches were begun. The Word of God spread like wildfire. Then, another door opened – a refugee visa to the United States.
Today Dr.Tesfai Tesema is a missionary in San Jose, California. He is opening doors for Ethiopians and doors to Jesus for ethnically diverse millennials. Who could have believed an atheist from Ethiopia could be brought to the United States as a Christian missionary?
This was no accident. Jesus made a bold claim in John 10: 7,“Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved…” In Tesfai’s life this has proven to be true many times. It is true in my life and, I expect you can say the same.
Doors close on you and me all the time, but one door always remains open, the door to salvation – the door that opens after one door closes, the door opened by our Lord to realms no human can imagine.