We recently spoke with Mezgebu Tucho, pastor of the Oromo Christian Church in Toronto. Mezgebu has experienced a level of persecution for his faith few of us in North America will ever know. While planting churches in Muslim regions of Ethiopia, he has been jailed six times, has been beaten unconscious and was even kidnapped. After planting more than 50 churches in his homeland, he came to Canada as a refugee on April 9, 2009, where he still awaits being reunited with his wife and children.
CBOQ: How did you come to faith in Jesus?
MT: I was born in Christian family. At the age of 12, during a church service, the pastor spoke about the Holy Spirit and most of us were touched with the Holy Spirit. Jesus Christ came alive to me then. I knew the Bible quotations, but really my heart was changed at the age of 12. At the age of 15 they made me a Youth Pastor.
CBOQ: Tell us about the first time you were imprisoned.
MT: As soon as I finished high school, I was put in prison for one year because of persecution during Ethiopia’s communist regime. They found us at an underground prayer meeting at night, even though we had been trying to pray as quietly as possible.
But when the persecution came, we had great love and great unity as a church. Church members would send us messages or come to the prison and encourage us. Some begged the guards to be thrown in prison as well, just so they could stay with us. When our fellow prisoners saw the way other believers treated us, most of them came to faith in Jesus Christ.
CBOQ: Are any of your other times in prison particularly memorable?
MT: Another time I was put in prison with 41 people. The day I arrived and began speaking with them, all the people came to faith. For the next week, I taught them the basics of following Jesus Christ from memory: baptism, the Lord’s Supper, the Trinity, etc. The day we were released from prison, we went to the river and I baptized all 41 of them. Today many of them are preachers and pastors in Ethiopia. If they didn’t put me in prison, who would have told them the gospel or discipled them? I find that every time the persecution comes, God has a purpose in it.
CBOQ: Were you ever discouraged by the persecution?
MT: I never experienced fear in the moment that persecution arose. At that time, the Holy Spirit was on me and I knew just what to say and what to do. But after the event passed, that’s when I started to become afraid. Sometimes when I am sitting here in Canada, I wonder, “How did I pass through that? If it comes again, what will I do?” It’s easy to forget the way God was with you in the past.
CBOQ: How has Jesus strengthened your soul through these experiences?
MT: Persecution helped me focus on a single objective. Once we understand our purpose – the purpose to which God called us – then no matter what comes, we will be alive in that purpose.
CBOQ: How can our churches here in Canada become more faithful to Jesus?
MT: I have only one thing in my mind: praying. If we pray, change will come. Here in North America we don’t depend as much on God because we have everything. I’ve noticed that many of us pray for a ‘grocery list’ of wants: a new job, or other earthly things. But, like David wrote in Psalm 27, we need to seek the glory of God. So my great message for our churches is to change our praying from a grocery list to the glory of God. At that time we’ll understand that God is full of beauty; everything else is vanity.