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Jailed for faith in Christ, believer saw lives changed

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia (BP)–Berhanu Kebede’s faith in Christ has come with a price.
“Even if I had to give my life,” Kebede says, “God gave me his Son. What I gave was so little compared to that.”
Kebede works with Southern Baptist representatives in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, as they help nationals preach the gospel in the Red Zone, an area in the heart of the city with a million people and only six churches.
In his youth, Kebede had been a world-class soccer player. Like several of his friends, he was headed for a spot on the national team.
But Kebede, who was 15 at the time, began taking some of the players from the soccer team to his church. Since these were nationally known players, this angered the government’s communist regime and the opposing party so much that both began trying to kill him.
His parents feared they would be in danger if he stayed with them, so they asked him to leave the house. He began going from home to home, staying with relatives.
When Kebede was 16, police officers arrested him as he was walking out of church. For the next two years he was in and out of custody.
The cells in Ethiopian prisons were packed so tight that prisoners had to take turns sleeping. Prisoners were allowed to use the toilet only once every 24 hours. If they needed to go more often, they had to use plastic containers hanging on the wall.
“The smell was almost suffocating,” Kebede recalls. “You were packed in so tightly with everyone else. Sometimes they couldn’t wash themselves and they’d use the bathroom in the cell. It was really bad.”
But in the midst of the horrible conditions, Kebede found ways to share the hope he discovered in Christ.
“Sometimes they would put us in with thieves and murderers,” he said. “We had a chance to witness to them. Some of them never would have gone to hear an evangelist. God really changed many of their lives.”
Kebede counts himself blessed after what God has brought him through.
“For me to have just survived this long means a lot,” he says. “Praise the Lord, things are good. If you are a human, you need lots of things. But at least I have enough to eat and place to sleep.
“God has been good to me.”

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  • Tobin Perry