“Reverse Mission Trips” to Ethiopia – 3 Components

Click here to support a Reverse Missions Trip to Ethiopia.

Why do I have such a strong interest in Ethiopia? 

Because they can help us. Because they have much to teach us. Because we will soon need them. Details to follow below.

However, the origins of my interest probably began with a prayer and a curiosity I had about ten years ago. Having for two decades grown more concerned with the alarmingly low birth rates in the West—and thus Western Civilization’s decline and it’s inevitable defeat by the ever populous eastern nations—I began to wonder where on the map there is indeed a growing birth rate along with a majority Christian population. 

For me, that question also requires an historic Christian nation, as I embraced Orthodox Christianity two decades ago. Yet there are in fact a couple of what you might call majority Christian nations of the Protestant stripe. South Korea has many devout believers. Sadly, their birth rate has declined from very high a few decades ago to a stunning 1.3 children per woman, far below even the replacement rate of 2.1. Another candidate is Nigeria, the most populous nation in Africa with also one of the highest birth rates. Nigeria has many Christians. But the country itself is not stable. Visitors find it dangerous. And for me, without a long tradition to steer it, Nigeria didn’t make the cut. 

Sadly, historic Orthodox countries like Russia and Greece have low birth rates. Russia is recovering at 1.9, up from 1.2 in 1991 when Communism collapsed. Greece is at 1.3 with no sign of a rise. It’s future is very bleak. 

Ethiopia will soon be the largest nation in Christendom.

So when I started looking at the map and praying about this question—and studying birth rates and demographics—I saw that Ethiopia was the only country that really provides a hopeful future for Christendom. With five children per woman, and a 2000 year Christian tradition starting with the Ethiopian Eunuch in Acts 8—and centuries of Judaism before that—this nation began to capture my heart. 

Before its 2,000 year Christian history, Ethiopia had a large Jewish community for centuries.


Ethiopia can teach us and bless us in three ways:

1. Spiritual insight. With over 1000 monasteries in the country, Ethiopia is full of men and women who spend all their time seeking the face and heart of God himself. This is a key component, a central part of what the Christian Church has always done throughout the centuries. Such devoted prayer is of course a lost art today. Many Orthodox and other Christians desirous to learn from those consecrated to God in this way visit Russia and Greece and a few other countries with a monastic tradition. Some, like Egypt, have lost their Christian majority to Islam. Others, like Russia and Greece, have uncertain futures. Will there be people for their monasteries, which are even now in need of more monks? Ethiopia provides this light to the world, and their future looks bright as well. 

Ethiopia has over 1000 monasteries.

2. Defying Modernism. While Western Christians bemoan the slide of our culture into abortion, homosexuality, and now transgender and other absurdities, Ethiopia stands firm on the traditional values of strong families and biblical sexuality. Both adultery and homosexuality are criminal offenses. The church publicly condemns contraception. Traditional male and female roles are the norm.

Ethiopians preserve a traditional culture.

They can also teach us how to relate properly to Islam, arguably the most critical issue of our time. While 50 percent of the nation is Orthodox and 65 percent Christian, 35 percent of Ethiopia is Muslim. These two religions get along admirably, in general, and have for 1400 years. But while this involves a peaceful tolerance of Islam among their ranks, Ethiopia does not hold a relativistic “we are all the same” attitude either. Ethiopia is Christian. They crack down quickly on militants (it happens occasionally). They make no apologies for their laws based on Christian beliefs. What Western Christian nations exhibited a century ago before modernism—a firm, tough, but loving and tolerant hand—is what Ethiopia models today toward Muslims.

Christians and Muslims coexist peacefully in Ethiopia.

3. An Ark for the future of Christendom. Ethiopia is legendary for insisting it preserves the Ark of the Covenant in Axum, their religious capital. But I am proposing that they also may be holding for us another Ark, like the one Noah built. Where will Christians go if the secular and godless West goes the way of the Communists and the Bolsheviks, if persecution breaks out? Ethiopia provides a valid option.

For Christians of the West, the “Ethiopian Ark” may soon refer to Noah’s Ark.

Just as importantly, an Ethiopian diaspora may affect the rest of the globe for positive Christian advancement in the same way the Jewish and Greek diaspora changed ancient culture and the way the Chinese diaspora is helping prepare that superpower for a new Chinese World Order. To do this, you must have many people. Ethiopia is slated to have nearly 200 million people by 2050, 50 million more than Russia. This would make Ethiopia the largest historic, majority Christian nation on the planet. The Ethiopian Church may indeed be the Ark for modern Christianity’s future. I suggest we find a way to hop on.


In light of these three Ethiopian blessings for Westerners, I am dubbing my trips to Ethiopia “Reverse Mission Trips.” Often when I tell people I am traveling there, they ask, “Is it a missions trip?” I respond, “It’s a reverse mission trip.” Sometimes I explain, and sometimes I leave them scratching their heads. 

The Reverse Mission Trip concept has the great advantage of reversing also the mentality of superiority so prevalent in the West toward Africa. I have no problem admitting the obvious superiority of European culture, at least currently, in terms of technology, military power, medicine, invention, and other important spheres. But this does not make us superior overall.

Would Ethiopian Christianity have been more attractive to Malcolm X and Muhammed Ali?

Has not God said that he made the poor “rich in faith”? What can we learn from Ethiopians in the realm of faith? What can an organic, agrarian culture teach a superpower that is poisoning itself with genetically modified food? What can a sane traditional culture teach a country insisting that bathrooms for transgenders be built in every public building?

19th Century French journal caricatures the Italians for their failed attempts to invade Christian Ethiopia.

Just a couple of decades ago, Ethiopia was named the poorest country on earth. Is Jesus’s notion that “the last shall be first” just rhetorical, or is there something more to it? 

Ethiopia is the only African country that was never colonized. Italy invaded twice, in 1892 and 1935, but failed both times. While the colonial West looks down its nose at the rest of conquered Africa, even that rationale is unavailable for Ethiopia. Let’s model a shift from that unsightly view of Africa and take some Reverse Missions Trips. Shall we?




Please consider an option below for supporting
* All gifts are tax deductible. Make checks to Chattanooga Historical Foundation
c/o Dean Arnold; 4604 Conner St; Chattanooga, TN 37411. Also note: these donation suggestions (like “Buy a book” “Resources for Dean’s book” etc.) are suggestive and not conclusive. In other words, if a couple people give $245 for the resources, other such gifts will go to the general fund. There is a trust factor here, and I promise I’m good for it.)

$18 – Buy a book

I spoke to 100 seminary students my last trip. They are desperate for Theology books! The head academic dean of the major seminary in Ethiopia (3000 students) asked me to please bring them theology books. Thanks for considering a sponsorship of a book. They will love it!
Reward: Good feelings. 
No tangible reward for this, ha ha. The numbers just don’t work for buying the book, getting an item for you, baggage space on the return trip, and shipping it to you. But what you WILL get is what I’m told is the primary product sold by non-profits—good feelings. 😉

$45 – Help travelers be generous

This may seem like an odd sponsorship, but Ethiopia is indeed still a poor country, and many, many people are on the streets with their hands out asking for money. When I hand them the equivalent of 25 cents in our currency, they are ecstatic. Your gift for this aspect of the trip will allow us to bless these people and represent well for American Christians.
♦ Reward: 
Wood Ethiopian necklace cross. These are cool and really do capture the Ethiopian feel.

Wood Ethiopian necklace cross


$90 – Sponsor shipping of Books

The books we acquire must get to Ethiopia. I am working on a copy of all the church fathers. The best way is in a suitcase with travelers, but those can cost extra money as well. Please consider helping us ship the books.
♦ Reward: 
Small brass necklace cross. These are beautiful. My wife and I both wear one 24/7, as do four of our close friends that we provided these for (mine brass, theirs silver). The late iconographer at our church (an art professor), as one of his final acts, mounted a similar, larger metal cross I had brought back, noting how exquisite it was. And he knew his art.

Brass cross. I wear one.

$245 – Sponsor books and resources for Dean’s book on Ethiopia

I am writing a book on all this. Working title: Ethiopian Ark: Christianity’s past and future. It will be a non-profit venture. At this early stage, there are books I need to buy for research, but some of them cost as much as $50 to $75. Your contribution here will green light my efforts.
Larger silver necklace cross. These are beautiful. My wife and I both wear one 24/7, as do four of our close friends that we brought home to them. Our late iconographer at our church (an art professor), as one of his final acts, mounted a similar, larger metal cross I had brought back, noting how exquisite it was. And he knew his art.

Silver crosses – cross on right is brass. (I bought these my last trip.) Click for close up.


$415 – Sponsor one flight to the Monasteries

Once we fly into Addis Ababa, we need to take another domestic flight to the North where most of the historic areas, holy sites, and monasteries are located. Your contribution will empower someone to cover that cost.
Small hand painted icons in hand carved case: This is where it really gets interesting. These pieces are so fantastic. Authentic. They are probably worth ten times what I can buy them for in Ethiopia. You want one. 😉

Small icon with hard carved case. Size of two small napkins. See more samples here.


$950 – Sponsor one International air fare

A flight to Ethiopia costs around $950, depending on when you buy it, how many stops, etc. I need people to go with me. This major ticket item is the key obstacle. If you feel up to sponsoring an international flight, this would be a major blessing to the project.
Reward: Larger hand painted icons in hand carved case: This is where it really gets interesting. These pieces are so fantastic. Authentic. They are probably worth ten times what I can buy them for in Ethiopia. You want one. 😉

Gallery I visited. There are many. These icons the size of a tablet or laptop. See more larger icons here.

$2500 – Sponsor one traveler’s entire trip

The total cost for a trip includes the international flight, a domestic flight, room, board, taxi fare, tour guide fees and a few other intangibles that add up to approximately $2500. A gift of this amount would allow someone with very little means to join us in Ethiopia.
Larger hand painted icon in hand carved case AND a very large hand painted canvas.

This canvas icon is about 8 feet wide.

$5000 – Sponsor a professor/clergy/monastic to come to America

I have relationships with clergy, professors, and monastics in Ethiopia. America would be blessed to have one of them visit our country for a sabbatical term. If you feel led to provide a gift of this amount, it will take to the next level our desire to see more interaction between Ethiopia and America, and between the Eastern and Oriental Orthodox.
Larger hand painted icon in hand carved case AND a very large FRAMED hand painted canvas. These large canvasses are very tricky to frame. I’ll make it happen for you and get it to you.


That canvas icon now hangs framed in our church, blessed by +Alexander.

$10,000 – Sponsor hierarch and clergy visit

A bishop and two priests have already expressed interest in joining me in Ethiopia. My archbishop Alexander in this interview calls for American Christians to begin building relationships with Ethiopian, Coptic, and Oriental Orthodox Christians. Maybe you can’t travel to Ethiopia, but you have the means to make a major difference by sponsoring clergy from America to forge new ground in what could be a long-hoped-for reunification between these two ancient expressions of Christianity.
Any combination of the above items. Ha ha. We’ll talk.


Click here to give a specific amount of your choosing:

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