On the agenda for Levi and me in Ethiopia will be staying a few days at a monastery that houses the Gerima Gospels, known as the oldest illustrated gospels in the world. I saw them on my last trip. They are dated as early as A.D. 390.
First seen by a European in 1805, this ancient text has never left the Abba Gerima monastery. However, it may have been buried in caves from the 9th to 14th centuries when invaded first by a Jewish Emperor and than a Muslim imam.
The Abba Gerima monastery is also famous as the site where Emperor Menelik II spotted the Italian army coming over the Adwa mountains in 1896. Ethiopia is the only African country to never be colonized, and Menelik’s decisive victory—which included men with bow and arrow and spears—is part of that legacy and accomplishment.
Our plan is not to attend the monastery as tourists. I did that last trip. We will stay for several days, hoping to learn something from these men who have dedicated their entire lives to Jesus Christ. Our Western culture, which has lost the whole concept of monasticism, struggles to identify with the monks and nuns in the 1000+ monasteries of Ethiopia that have renounced family, sexuality, and material possessions for a life dedicated to prayer, union with Jesus Christ, and a faith that rests in the next world of resurrected bodies, not this one.
My coined phrase “Reverse Missions Trips” is based on the idea that Ethiopians have just as much to teach us as vice versa. In this area of spirituality, where so many are so focused, I have to believe there is much for us to learn. And on this trip, I hope to take the first small sip from the fountain.
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