Must We Prepare the Soil for a Harvest of Freedom?
July 30, 2008
“Do not be deceived: God cannot
be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows
to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap
destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit,
from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become
weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will
reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we
have opportunity, let us do good to all people…”
(Galatians 6: 6-10)
Ethiopia has become a place of massive and repetitive
crop failures, both literally and figuratively. We are
reaping what we have sown for years—and our harvest
is inadequate to meet the needs of our people in terms
of food, but our biggest crisis is the harvest of destruction,
oppression and tyranny that happens when crops of hope
are planted in rocky and infertile soil. The question
is: how can we prepare the soil for a “harvest
of freedom when most Ethiopians are sitting back expecting
someone else to do the work or are actively sabotaging
the work of others in order to advance their own interests?”
Between a Rock and a Hard Place 
Between a rock and a hard place is an expression that
means: stuck between two opposing forces that are both
powerful, making it difficult to find a way out of a
predicament. In our case, we quickly recognize Meles
and his supporters as being one of these forces—perhaps
the “the hard place,” but what is the other?
I say, the rock of resistance we face is our own misguided
beliefs! We have become so comfortable with years of
self-destructive thinking and the actions that result
from it, that we don’t see ourselves as part of
the problem. However, because of it, we are neglecting
the soil that only produces misery and suffering, while
illogically thinking that the harvest will be different
next time. This kind of thinking has not worked in the
past and will not work now. We must face up to it if
we are to create a harvest that will sustain life in
Facts: We are between a rock and
a hard place. If we Ethiopians are our own rock, what
shall we do?
1. Recognize: we have created a mess and that now we
must deal with it.
2. Realize: We have to accept some of the blame for
3. Understand: We are suffering because of the consequences
of the choices others have made.
4. Equally understand: because of our own bad choices,
others will suffer
5. Know: Pretending that we don’t have a major
responsibility for our predicament is part of the obstruction
of the “rock.”
6. Be encouraged: We can learn to be better people and
a better nation through the pain of this crisis.
How Can We Respond?
1. Fear God: God is what we need, but yet we will not
acknowledge it and accept it—perhaps because we
have swallowed a lie we have accepted from Communist
times or because “we want what we want”
even though it ends up bringing destruction and nothingness.
Seek good, not evil, that you may live.
Then the LORD God Almighty will be with you, just as
you say he is. Hate evil, love good; maintain justice
in the courts. Perhaps the LORD God Almighty will have
mercy. (Amos 5:14-15)
2. Do not run from truth and responsibility as only
as we face these two things will we learn and change.
Our present crisis is an opportunity for us to listen
and to turn away from what has led to our crop failures
of life in Ethiopia.
3. Humble ourselves and receive what God has in store
for those who do, for God opposes the proud. Oftentimes
when we refuse to humble ourselves, we end up blaming
other people or God when it was our own actions that
created the messes we are in.
4. Don’t lose sight of the purpose of our difficulties
because God can use them to perfect and transform us
into better people. We oftentimes want the benefits
of freedom without being freed of those things that
keep us from succeeding.
5. Don’t be afraid to cut off that which stops
transformation and healing—what is toxic, poisonous
“…let us throw off everything
that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and
let us run with perseverance the race marked out for
us.” (Hebrews 12:1a)
We have broken minds, damaged emotions and hardened
hearts and what comes out of that is rocky, dry and
infertile soil where nothing grows.
Our history has become who we are and will determine
our future unless we face it and replace it with God’s
plan which is filled with truth, grace and healing.
No matter what we say, what we think is who we are
and dictates how we behave. In other words, our actions
show our real beliefs regardless of our words. Democracy,
rule of law and justice are only shallow words in Ethiopia
with no meaning. Instead, this government has shown
their true beliefs through what they have done and it
is not about freedom, except for the few, privileged
What we think and the resulting actions is the soil
prepared for the next generation. We can pass on soil
• destruction, misery and death, or for:
• freedom and life
It is up to us! We must understand the right kind of
leadership and to see warning signs of the right or
wrong approaches. However, the public has to be invested
in contributing or the best of leadership will go nowhere
because they have not support. Just like a top-notch
general in the battlefield will not win the war by himself.
It is the common soldiers who win the war.
Two Kinds of Leadership
What kind of leadership do we need in light of this?
Here is some insight into what Jesus says is the wrong
kind of leadership and then he gives an example of the
right kind of leadership.
(Matthew 20: 20-22, 24-28)
Then the mother of Zebedee’s sons came to Jesus
with her sons and, kneeling down, asked a favor of him.
“What is it you want?” he asked. She said,
“Grant that one of these two sons of mine may
sit at your right and the other at your left in your
kingdom.” “You don’t know what you
are asking,” Jesus said to them. “Can you
drink the cup I am going to drink?” “We
can,” they answered.
[Later] when the ten [other disciples]
heard about this, they were indignant with the two brothers.
Jesus called them together and said, “You know
that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and
their high officials exercise authority over them. Not
so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great
among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to
be first must be your slave—just as the Son of
Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to
give his life as a ransom for many.”
The first kind of leadership demonstrated by the personal
ambition of the mother of Zebedee’s sons, I will
call “gate-keepers.” This is not what will
bring us a new crop in Ethiopia for it is based on flawed
and destructive beliefs.
Characteristics of Gatekeepers
• “Me-first thinking”, personally
ambitious, competitive against challengers, especially
those most able and capable. Gatekeepers seek to destroy
• Reserve the best for me and keep everyone else
outside the gate! Prejudices based on ethnicity, skin
color, religion, gender, region, education, etc.
• Tribalistic or ethnic dominance, “It’s
our turn to eat—not yours and we will fight you
• Gatekeeping can mean the use of violence, but
it does not necessarily only mean that. It could mean
spreading rumors, sabotaging the efforts of others,
preventing others from getting an education, clean water,
economic opportunity, land or roads, but it can also
mean passive resistance—lack of acknowledgement,
denying credit for accomplishments, exclusion, etc.).
• “There is only enough for us—not
you!” Instead of cultivating more soil, the gatekeeper
destroys the soil of others. Instead of planting more
trees, the gatekeeper will steal or grab on to someone
else’s, stepping on the hands and heads of others
to get ahead.
• Trust issues emerge for the gatekeeper is an
opportunist (changes positions and loyalties based on
what is best for him/her) so others don’t trust
him/her and conversely, he/she does not trust others
because he/she believes others are like him/her
• Secretive because the public face does not match
the private face. The gatekeeper knows that public knowledge
of his/her private motives and tactics would bring public
disapproval so they are carefully hidden.
• Blames others and accepts little responsibility
or accountability for mistakes
• Unfree and self-destructive
• Unchecked power will lead to abuse of others
and downward cycle for individual
2. Jesus’ way: Servant or
Slave of the People
The second kind of leadership is what Jesus demonstrates
in his life and calls his followers to imitate. He promises
that it is the way to being “great” or “first”
in the kingdom of God. It is freely choosing to become
a servant or slave to others.
Characteristics of Slaves/ Servants
• Free to choose to humble self and to serve
• Puts the well-being of others first
• Gives justice more than demands justice 
• Not threatened by others who are talented, committed
and able to help
• Actively empowers others and seeks ways for
them to use their gifts
• Respects the personal boundaries of others—independence,
• Overlooks faults of others unless respectful
confrontation necessary for the betterment of the person,
others or for a just cause
• Courageous enough to speak out against misguided,
wrong and destructive ways regardless of personal consequences
• Actively works against hate, lies and injustice—not
• Transparent: Admits faults and mistakes and
forgives others for theirs
• Lives under the moral authority of universal
principles given by our Creator rather than by the winds
of culture, peer pressure, opportunity, revenge, escapes,
Characteristics of good leaders:
1. Humble and self-effacing
2. Respects and listens to ideas and opinions of others;
questions them to gain better understanding of details
that form and impact the “big picture’
3. Ambitious for the right, for a cause, for a country—not
personally ambitious or needy for recognition nor competitive
towards others who are helping
4. Happy if others are successful in contributing, empowers
them and then gives credit to them for their accomplishments
5. Goal is to pass on success to successors so they
can achieve even greater success
6. Desire is not to lead, but the reason for involvement
is due to personal convictions and any God-given leading
7. Jesus is an example who embraced downward mobility—washing
the feet of his disciples and then dying on cross for
others to be freed from destruction to life
We must know what we want in order to fight for it.
Then, we must be examples of what we are fighting for.
Are we fighting for dominance—gatekeeping—leaving
others out or for becoming a nation depicting humble
servanthood to each other?
• In the first, we plant seeds of destruction.
• In the second, we plant seeds of freedom, justice,
peace and truth
Meles is our hard place, but we are the rock. Without
changing, we will put ourselves in another hard place.
We cannot be successful by just changing our government
if we remain the same. We must not resent the message
of those who put pressure on us to think differently
about our part in this. It is not all Meles’ fault
and we must be prepared should this government change.
Right now, we are not ready.
Even God disciplines those he loves and we know he
loves Ethiopians---all Ethiopians. We should attempt
to not resist his teaching but to be quick learners.
Who will free Ethiopia?
A changed Ethiopia will come from changed minds and
hearts. It will not be a politician or political party
members, but it has to come from the average Ethiopian
throughout Ethiopia and in the Diaspora. However, a
few can destroy Ethiopia if the rest of us are silent
and do nothing.
Perhaps our suffering will force us to wake up. God
sometimes allows suffering and hardship in our lives
to force us to produce a better crop—one that
he can only use after we are refined by persecution,
difficulty or hardship. For instance, I am certain that
God is the one who allowed the painful experiences I
have gone through in the past in order to shape me now.
Someone once said that such experiences leave us with
one of two choices—to become better, more compassionate
and God-fearing people or to become bitter and consumed
with anger and hate.
Those experiences were difficult, but they taught me
something I would not have learned from ease of living.
Through my own pain I started to see the pain of others.
I see now that God has used these lessons to teach me
to trust Him and to live differently because of it.
He gives each of us the responsibility of picking up
the broken glass in our pathways so others, such as
a child who might not be carefully looking out for it,
would not be injured in the future. This is what we
must do now.
The genocide of the Anuak was horrific, but God is
using this, as only He can, to bring about something
good. The lives of precious Anuak relatives, friends
and colleagues were stolen from my life and I will grieve
that loss forever. However, I have been pushed through
this tragedy to expand my world and as a result, I have
met over a thousand Ethiopians and non-Ethiopians throughout
the world who have become not only friends, but like
relatives to me. I am amazed how God has used this horrible
tragedy to bring new people together. What Satan wanted
for destruction, God can use for His purposes.
How Can We Respond?
I want to invite you to follow the example of Jesus
in becoming a slave or servant to others. Let me be
the first to publicly declare my choice.
I am a slave to Ethiopia by choice, because I am free
and because God has filled me up with love towards you.
I encourage you to give up being a gatekeeper if you
recognize this in yourself and most all of us will recognize
it in ourselves because we are flawed humans. But yet,
we must fight against it because it is a trap and it
is the right thing to do. It leads to nowhere. I t is
only by denying ourselves, and our personal ambitions,
that we become free.
I encourage you to cut off the load of competition,
gatekeeping, sabotaging others or waiting for someone
else to free you.
Let us be a nation of humble people who fear God and
are filled up and willing to serve others.
Those two disciples of Jesus, the sons of Zebedee who
were seeking honor, were transformed. You can read about
them—James and John—in the Gospels, especially
in the Gospel of John, written by John himself.
In the last chapter (John 21: 15 -19) of that gospel,
John records a discussion between Jesus and the disciple,
Peter where Jesus again turns upside down the world’s
view of leadership. This time, he understands.
In this passage, Jesus is asking Peter if he really
loved him. Peter says, “Yes, Lord, you know that
I love you.” Jesus responds by saying, “Feed
my lambs.” Again Jesus asks Peter if he truly
loves him. Peter again says, “Yes, Lord, you know
that I love you.” Jesus repeats the same instruction,
“Take care of my sheep.” A third time, Jesus
asks Peter, “Do you love me?” Peter, hurt
because Jesus had asked him the same question three
times responds again, “Lord, you know all things;
you know that I love you.” Then Jesus gives him
the call for the third time, “Feed my sheep.”
He then told him that it would cost him, but that it
would glorify God. He then told Peter to “follow
him.” Peter followed him and God used him as the
rock to build his church by humbly “caring for
Gatekeepers don’t care about the sheep, but make
sure they eat first. Are we willing to become people
concerned about the sheep—who “feed the
sheep” of Ethiopia, of the Horn, of Africa and
of humanity? Our future will be dramatically altered
if we do. Are we willing to take such a step? Until
we do, we will be in self-perpetuating bondage to our
past failures. We will eat and never be filled, drink,
but will remain thirsty. We will desire freedom, but
our souls will be in bondage to destruction. The reality
is, we are not really ready to be free of Meles until
we are free in our souls. May the God who loves Meles
as much as He does us, free his soul as well.
Are We Rightly Preparing for a “Harvest
Do we reap what we sow? Yes, but the “best injustice”
in the world is that God is full of forgiveness, love,
mercy and grace and if we humbly repent of our ways
and seek guidance from our Creator, He not treat us
as we deserve. If we are willing to listen, He can lead
us to new solutions to our predicament. He is interested
in healing the wounded and raising up the sick from
their beds of torment. He wants to produce freedom in
our souls that will spill over in its abundance to others.
He is not interested in punishing us, but in redeeming
us. The only way Ethiopia can be freed is if all Ethiopians
come together and agree to put their differences aside,
with one common goal in achieving a national reconciliation
like South Africa did, like Mahatma Ghandi did, or like
Martin Luther King, Jr did in the civil rights movement.
This is why we are calling for a Solidarity Movement
for a New Ethiopia.
Again, as I have it many times, this is not about politics,
but about how human rights is founded on God-given principles
of how to act towards others to bring about healthy,
well-functioning societies. We in Ethiopia have been
entrapped in self-defeating patterns that have skewed
our views on leadership and caused us to follow those
who have led us to more destruction. We have “grown”
exactly the crop of leaders, and the crop of followers,
we have planted. We must open our eyes and change our
As long as we have Ethiopians who will eat the crops
of failure without calling for a re-nourishing of the
soil and the planting of new kinds of seeds, we will
see crop failures and the malnourishment of the soul
of Ethiopia. It is time to cultivate a new kind of crop
that will bring the “harvest of freedom”
for which our hearts crave. Are we ready? The answer
is yours. You do not have to be a leader to influence
our leaders and our society.
May God expose the lies that have perpetuated our misery
so that we may choose a different path. May God’s
name be praised and may He redeem the hearts, minds
and souls of Ethiopia!
For more information please contact
me by email at: Obang@anuakjustice.org
Some of the ideas presented in this article were inspired
by talks given by Beth Moore at her 2008 Living Proof
Live Conference in Minneapolis (July 18-19) and by Wayne
Pederson at Calvary Church, Roseville, MN on July 20,
2008. In the latter talk, Pederson also talks about
some of Jim Collins' (author of "Good to Great")
research on qualities of top leaders which includes:
humility, working for the company’s goals for
the present and for the future and being motivated by
inner passion instead of selfish ambition.
Oswald Chambers writes in his book, My Utmost for His
Highest, p.179 to “Never look for justice in this
world, but never cease to give it.”
It should be noted that this article,
as others, was co-written by AJC members, Obang Metho
and Jill Anderson.
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