Lake Langano ‘Selam Ethiopia!’ HHTN/songwriting conference – May 2023
“I have such peace in my heart this week!” This was Desalegn’s comment as four of us met early one morning to pray and prep for day two, after the first day of HHTN. Around 25 Ethiopians gathered at Lake Langano retreat centre last May. Most were young musicians and worship leaders, but we also had around 5 or 6 senior pastors. Many different regions of the nation were represented. Nearly all were men; just 3 ladies attended. What an amazing time we had! The HHTN teaching had a profound effect on everyone, and both the cross workshop and the ‘standing in the gap’ session went very deep into people’s hearts. On the last night, we gathered for worship and thanksgiving around a campfire. The worship and dancing was totally wild and went on for several hours! I tried to learn a cultural dance at one point, but since everything was happening in Amharic with no translation, Joseph & I eventually headed off to our beds and left everyone to it.
One evening, Yerusalem, a female worship leader and just 21 years old, told me that this had been “the best days of her life”. Wounds were healed at the cross and tribal enmities laid to rest between many who had already experienced deep personal stories of grief in their lives. Days 3 and 4 were given over to songwriting training and small groups worked together on new songs of hope and healing which we hope can impact the nation in the not too distant future.
Altogether there were 15 beautiful new songs written, in typical cultural styles that represent both the orthodox and more modern pentacostal wings of the church. A theme song has already emerged, a kind of peace anthem called ‘Peace to Ethiopia’ (Selam Ethiopia).
What next? We did gather the senior pastors together at one point to discuss the best strategy going forwards from this conference week. All had been deeply impacted by HHTN, and said they had not come across anything so clear and powerful, despite their wide-ranging ministry experiences. The idea of holding a two day National Peace Conference in 2024 emerged. Many of the pastors assured us that, if invited, pastors from every region of Ethiopia would attend, along with representatives from government. The agenda could include testimony, encouragement, prayer and discussion around future strategy, but we could also showcase some of the new songs with live worship performances as well, hopefully. Do join us in praying this can happen; it will need a great deal of background preparation to be successful.
Ethiopia – video on YouTube; plans to record and showcase the songs in 2024
Meanwhile, I have been working on the songs in the studio and now have nearly all the backing tracks ready for the vocals recording. We were originally planning to do this in late November this year, but that has now been postponed until next spring. I don’t normally lead the HHTN part of the teaching, so I did quite a bit of filming during the conference. After my return to the UK we had this professionally edited, so there is now a rather good ‘birds-eye’ documentary of the week up on my YouTube channel. Sadly, the light was too poor to film any of the campfire worship on the last night, so you won’t get to see my attempts at cultural dancing!
Zimbabwe – plans for a new reconciliation ministry?
In October, I visited Zimbabwe just for one week to meet up with old friends and also stay with Greg & Sophie Sangwine, who have begun a new faith venture out there, a primary school with a special needs emphasis called ‘WayMaker School’. They are both doing such a great job; do pray for them.
Masimba Musora and Itai Chidewu are old friends from ‘ASZ’ days; both are pastors, and they and their wives all have a heart to see reconciliation ministry happen much more deeply in their nation. Church life can be tough and occasionally very wounding; we talked deeply together about their experiences and both couples are now keen to attend the next ISOR (International School of Reconciliation) in Kigali, Rwanda next March. The hope is that they can go through the healing process themselves and also get trained as facilitators.They will need some financial help to get there, so please do pray for that.
‘Prayer mountain’ – the new Government of Zimbabwe Parliament buildings!
On my last Friday, something unexpected happened! ‘Prayer Mountain’ was a church owned retreat facility we used to take the children many times in ‘ASZ’ days; every summer they played games, sang, danced and prayed for their nation up on the grass surrounded by a few lodge huts. We sang ‘Heal Africa!’ so many times there! The location actually has a historical significance; Mount Hampden is where the colony of Rhodesia was originally founded. In 2016, the land was purchased by the government as the location for the new Parliament buildings; work has now been completed by a Chinese construction company. On Friday morning, I went to visit friends from ASZ days who live nearby. They all work for the Chinese, as drivers and security staff. I had a great time with Jaydon, Tatenda his brother and their parents. But then Mr Mudhoni asked me if I would like a tour of the new Parliament! I wondered if that could be possible, but he assured me the buildings were currently not yet occupied.
So we drove up, walked right around the outside and then went into the debating chamber. I did not expect what happened next! As soon as I entered the chamber, the Holy Spirit reminded me that we had stood on this land first and prayed for the nation. So we prayed, right in the centre of the Chamber. We prayed for the poor, the widows and fatherless; for the economy of the nation and then for the government ministers themselves and the President. It somehow felt very significant.
‘..wearing their anger, like a ball and chain’ – Amy Grant
My last Sunday in Zimbabwe was spent with Greg & Soph and visiting their church. The war in Gaza was just about to start at that point, so we were invited to pray together during the service. Since I’ve visited both Gaza, the West Bank and Israel several years ago and have long had a desire to contribute something, however small, towards healing in the Holy Land, I wondered what I could realistically pray. Looking out of the window, I spotted a fruit tree growing in the courtyard. I remembered bits of the HHTN teaching; the tree puts down roots and bears fruit; if the roots get poisoned then in time the fruit will be bitter. True for all of us, individuals and nations alike. The tragic history of conflict in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza goes back more than 75 years. Eventually the bitterness, resentment and anger becomes overwhelming; a prison for victim and aggressor alike. Listening to an old Amy Grant song in the car just the other day, I was forcibly struck by one lyric, ‘wearing their anger like a ball and chain’. It is only in Christ that all can find true healing and freedom from the bitter wounds that stretch back through generations of families on both sides, and finally towards peace itself. I felt we could definitely pray that God would multiply His hidden miracles of grace, that is something God already does and will continue to do. There will be individual stories of forgiveness, grace and deliverance that emerge from the ruins of conflict that we will perhaps never hear. But to pray that God would somehow miraculously bring instant peace and reconciliation – that is like asking that the tree itself could change from a lemon to an apple tree; it is against the natural order of things. So perhaps it is wiser to pray to limit the spread of evil and the consequences of war, and also to ask that God will open new doors of opportunity for His servants to act in the situation to point towards the way of healing at the foot of the cross of Jesus. I felt I could really pray for that meaningfully.
Diary Dates – Autumn 2023
- Nov 13th – Album mastering (a friends project) at Air Studios, London
- Nov 19th – Healing & ministry, Malmesbury Abbey
- Dec 10th – Abbey Contemporary Carol service
- Dec 25th – ‘Meet the presents’ Abbey 11am service (Joel and me playing!)
- March 2024 – ISOR in Kigali, Rwanda; Ethiopia vocals recording (provisional)
Thankyou so much for your prayers and generosity! and thanks to all who gave so generously towards the $5000 we needed to raise for the Ethiopia conference – happy to say we made it to the total and with some to spare!
Love from Dave & Jean B.
With special thanks to The Crossroads Trust.
The Crossroads Trust is a Registered Charitable Trust, set up in 1987 with the following aims: to assist in the encouragement of missionary activity designed to foster the spread of the Christian faith; to promote better education between and within diverse cultural settings, and to provide relief for the poor and needy in society. Since 2005, the Trust has focussed solely on supporting the reconciliation ministry of Dave Bankhead and ‘We are One!’ Trustees include; Mike Burn (Chairman) and Simon Shaw. Registered Charitable Trust No: XN74834