From Ethiopia to London
By AfriGO Team
My name is Mary Haile. By the grace of God, I am a missionary from Ethiopia serving in London through SIM’s ENGAGE programme. I’m based at a central London church, where I lead ministries teaching English to migrants and running life-skills courses for low-income individuals.
In our English teaching ministry, we have been blessed with students from around the world. Our students are mostly immigrants who have come to London for work or to seek refugee status. God has used the ministry in powerful ways as we run classes in the church building and include the gospel content openly.
Over the lockdown, we were forced to make the classes online, and we expected lots of challenge. Instead, we were met with a new set of students from remote countries – students wanting to learn English and curious to hear Bible stories. A particular student from Korea regularly joined at 4 am her time; she didn’t mind waking so early to learn to pray in English.
Seeing their interest, I led a six-week course on John’s Gospel from Christianity Explored. To our astonishment, students from China, Myanmar, Russia, and so on joined consistently. Though signed up to learn English, they were delighted to get more than mere English classes -̶ they heard the true gospel. And some students sobbed through the session where we discussed the crucifixion.
Inspiring things happened in the first term of our online class, including the radical transformation of a lady we shall call Lily, for the sake of this story. Lily attended regularly. For months I had no idea Lily was transgender. She participated actively in English classes and joined our weekly Bible study. When we learned of her situation, in my heart, I thought it would be a very long time before we would see Lily lead a different lifestyle. But when we invited people for Christmas time, she was the only one to come to church in person.
It was then she shared with us that she felt God had been chasing after her for a long time, yet she couldn’t make the decision to go after Him because she lacked community. She asked to see the church’s counsellor. After a few counselling sessions, she wrote, “Tell Mary that I would like to be called ‘K’ as that is the name God knows me by” and asked that we were to refer to him as ‘he’ from here on. Without us ever saying what he needed to do to repent, he started to detransition back to his birth gender. He also legally changed his name to what it was before.
We learned that K had been on the streets 25 years and had endured great pain in his life. By God’s grace, K accepted the Lord Jesus as his Lord and Saviour and repented fully. He has now moved to a different part of London where he works in an organization that helps homeless people. K’s story of restoration and reconciliation with God is such a witness of the Lord’s active work through His body. May Christ’s church continue to be a light that shines in the deepest darkness! God bless.