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Acts 20:24 – “But my life is worth nothing to me unless I use it for finishing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus. The work of telling others the Good News about the wonderful grace of God.” These are the words of the Apostle Paul that he spoke when he met with the Ephisian Elders. Paul was an all-out warrior for Christ and answering the call to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ, in his mind, was worth dying for. In verse 22, Paul said, “I am bound by the Holy Spirit to go to Jerusalem. I don’t know what awaits me, except that the Holy Spirit tells me in city after city that jail and suffering lie ahead.”
Folks! Paul was all in! What is it with people that are called to this kind of ministry? Why them? How many of us would answer the call to leave everything we’ve ever known? Our families, this country and all of the amenities that come with it? Would you trade it all in to spread the Gospel in a foreign land where you didn’t even speak the language? Humans fear the unknown. Or better yet, what we know we can’t control which leads to our greatest hesitations, fears and doubts.
So what is with these types of spiritual soldiers? Well, I sat down over some grub with one and found out. By the time we had finished lunch, I was full! And I’m not talking about the amazing salad I had at LaFarm! I sat down for almost two hours with my brother in Christ, Eddie Evans, and got my spiritual eat on! Eddie is one of those dudes that got the call, answered it and off he went! Eddie began to seek the Lord about what to do, where to go do it and when.
We’ve all heard the old saying, “Be careful what you ask for.” God’s answer to these types of prayers is almost guaranteed to look like the total opposite of what we expect or selfishly want. He does this because nothing can ever be accomplished for His glorious Kingdom as long as we’re sitting in our comfort zones. A comfort zone is nothing but a paralyzing state of fear. It’s a place where we call all of the shots and avoid the things in life that challenge us. A comfort zone is also a place from which we question the leading of the Holy Spirit. If an answered prayer doesn’t resemble what we envisioned for ourselves, we completely write it off and quickly establish that it couldn’t possibly be God.
Not too long after Eddie laid his request at the foot of the cross, he noticed everywhere he went, he kept seeing people from Ethiopia. Grocery store, Ethiopians. Restaurants, Ethiopians. Running errands, Ethiopians. Now keep this in mind: back in the early 2000s, you just didn’t see a whole lot of our Ethiopian brothers and sisters in and around Cary, at least I didn’t. But God, in His clever way of making His point, made sure that Eddie saw them all. So in 2004, Eddie got on a plane, left all of the spoils of America, the comfort, the convenience, his friends, his family and went to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia to pastor a church. Eddie had set out to start a whole new life in this foreign land.
But with this new life traveled the most devastating death he had ever experienced to this day. On October 25, 1989 Eddie lost his baby brother Johnny Evans. Johnny died in a fatal car crash on a cool October night at the age of 19. There are certain things that happen in life that you can never ever forget. Losing Johnny was one of them. It’s been almost 30 years since his death and the emotions are still the same. There’s just something about those Evans boys that sticks with you.
When we sat down to do this interview I asked Eddie. “Can I ask you some questions about Johnny?” To be honest with you I expected him to say no, and that the subject was off limits but he didn’t. Like I said, there’s something about those Evans boys!
He said. “Sure brother!” I put the exclamation point at the end because that’s how he delivered his answer. With a smile and a bit of excitement which I didn’t quite understand. When we lose a grandparent, an uncle or a cousin, the pain that comes with that loss strikes a mighty blow to our hearts. But a brother, and your only brother at that is a different kind of sting. Even after he told me it was okay to ask questions, I had my reservations. As tough as it was to initiate the conversation, I just had to get to the source of that hint of excitement in Eddie’s voice that I heard. Something was there and I had to have it!
Me: How did you even begin to deal with losing Johnny?
Eddie: “Jimi brother, it was all God. I’m not saying that because that’s what I’m supposed to say as a believer in Christ. It really was all God. I knew it was Him because I was able to accept what had happened and I was calmly okay with the reality of it. Don’t get me wrong, I was hurting inside. My heart was aching because my little brother was gone. He was my best friend in ways that I could never explain. I just loved him so much and it hurt. But God gave me enough strength when I needed it the most to stay strong not just for me, but my folks as well, especially my mom. I lost my baby brother, but they lost their baby. That was a pain I couldn’t possibly relate to because I’ve never been a parent. I can’t imagine having to bury my child. At times I had to be a counselor, a shoulder to cry on, a peacemaker and anything else they needed to get through the next five minutes of life.”
Me: Do you remember the first words you spoke in front of everybody at the funeral? Because I do.
Eddie: “Jimi, really don’t. I was in such a whirlwind of emotions that day. But the one thing I did know is that I had to share the gospel of Jesus to help all of those young people understand how much Jesus loves them.”
Me: “You’re all here for a reason. I know it’s tough, and you’re hurting. But there’s a reason why all of you are here today.” That’s what you opened with, and then you began to talk about Jesus, His love, Salvation, and forgiveness. And it all angered me so much, Eddie. I left that funeral very upset. I remember feeling like you were forcing your religion down my throat. But it was that good old gospel truth that was choking me out that day. Human flesh will always be offended by gospel truth. Always has been, always will be. That message was intended to teach all of us that it could’ve been us and that we need to be right with Christ because one day it will be us. At least that’s the message I got that day, and that’s what bothered me so much. Throughout my life, my grandmother had laid a foundation that God had used you to remind me of as you were standing up there. A foundation that I was not standing on, and had become so foreign to. That day is still so clear to me. Did you go to Ethiopia trying to outrun the pain of Johnny’s death?
Eddie: “No. Jimi, that call from the Lord was powerful and so clear that I knew I had to go. My greatest struggle with losing him hit me once I got back to college at UNCW, when all of the people were gone, it was just me and God and everything was silent. I began to wrestle with my faith quite a bit. I prayed for my brother every day and had faith that all was going to work out in his life. Him dying never entered my mind.”
Me: Were you ever angry with God?
Eddie: “No. I just had a lot of questions and no answers. But I did have a promise. I knew I was going to see my brother again.”
At this point in the interview, that excitement in Eddie’s voice arrived yet again with an ever greater entrance!
Eddie: “Just months before Johnny died, he gave his life to Jesus at a church service I invited him to. He accepted Christ as his Savior. My little brother died and came to life all in the same year!”
Now after Eddie dropped that bomb on me, here comes bomb number two!
Eddie: “I gave my life to Christ on October 25, 1984, at the age of 19. Johnny gave his life to Christ at the age of 19 and died on October 25, 1989!”
As a columnist, I will not even attempt to try to explain what I felt after bomb number two! I’ll just tell you that I wanted to flip over tables, dance, shout HALLELUJAH and cry! Because our GOD IS TRULY AMAZING! After stopping my brain from shaking all over the place I asked.
Me: Do you visit his grave when you’re home from Ethiopia?
Eddie: “Always. I always set aside some time to go by and just sit.”
I’m going to close this article with these few words. Let’s stop stressing about what we can’t control? We kill ourselves mentally, emotionally and sometimes physically to have these cookie cutter lives in hopes of impressing a whole bunch of people that really don’t care about us at all. We want to create and put on display perfect children for all to see. We weigh them down with this agonizing idea that they have to
PERFORM! PERFORM! PERFORM! PERFORM!
BE BETTER! DO BETTER! LOOK BETTER!
DO MORE! WORK MORE!
It’s no wonder that we’re now hearing reports of 16-year-olds having heart attacks from stress. We stress them because we’re so stressed. All that we desire in this life is so meaningless at the end of the day. At a young age, we begin to press in on them about performing to get into a certain college later in life. But we give them very little insight and understanding about their existence after this life. We teach them about all of these tangible things, and rarely teach them that the best things in life are not things. We make them think that if they’re not always on top they’ve lost out.
But we never teach them that if they ever lost everything, but still have Jesus, they’ll always have enough to start over. We deceive them into thinking that the more stuff they have, the more successful you are. Stuff can’t console you when death comes knocking. Money can’t relieve you from grief. A big house in a popular neighborhood can’t fix your inner insecurities. Seeking approval from people will never fix what’s really going on with us. I’ve seen people slip into deep depression seeking after it and some never made it out. We all have voids in our lives. And we all want something to fill the voids in hopes that the emptiness would just go away. But nothing we ever own or accomplish can take the place of the love, grace, and mercy of Jesus Christ. You can shovel in all of the materialistic stuff and fake relationships you want, but as my grandmother used to say: “Nobody can do you like Jesus!”
Eddie, so much of the message that Jesus laid on your heart to share with us at Johnny’s funeral makes more sense to me now than ever. I get it my friend, and I thank you. God got the glory in the end, didn’t He? Here I am, almost 30 years later writing about and glorifying that very same Jesus you talked about that bothered me so much that day.
Eddie is now in his 14th year of pastoring Bethel International Church in Ethiopia. The church is thriving, lives are being changed and souls are being saved. So many young people, boys, and girls have had their lives transformed through all that God is using Eddie to do. They’re graduating, going on to college and are giving back to the source that made it all possible. I’ve seen video clips and have heard testimonies that are so inspiring. Their humble way of living and the gratitude they show for the simplest things explains why they’re so ambitious. And they give all of the credit to Jesus.
God is molding future doctors, lawyers, engineers, and pastors. God has divine appointments set for all of us. Some appointments are for us and some are for us to be used to make someone else’s life better. Eddie, you got the call from glory and never tried to shy away from it for one second. I can see that your congregation loves and cherishes you, my friend. They’re so very grateful for all that God has used you to do. So many people are praying for you, brother.
I want to give a special shout-out to the entire Montague family, Chris, and Sandy Armfield, Forde Aley, Lee and Leigh Aley Holmes, Austin Ale, and everybody else that rallied to assist in the Kingdom work God has called Eddie to do with this year’s fundraiser at Montague Lake. The food, the auction prizes, and the event as a whole was so great!
Eddie, your passion for your ministry is obvious because I don’t know many people at all that would humble themselves and do what you’ve done. And at year 14, you’re still on fire for the assignment. As much as we’ll miss you when you go back, we understand that friendships should never override faith. God looked at your heart and knew you were the most qualified for this mission. You’re an inspiration to so many and a big gut check for me personally. God bless you, Eddie. I’ve got nothing but love for ya!
Luke 10:2 – “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few.” Eddie, your labor is not in vain.
To bless this wonderful work monthly, or to make a one-time donation go to www.globalimpactresources.org, and select Ethiopia Missions when prompted.
(RIP Johnny! And save me a seat in the mansion!)
Story and photos by Jimi Clemons.