Abebe and Abebech Langena have a simple philosophy about missions: Take time. Make friends. Be friends.
Abebe leans forward intently, his passion clear. “It takes time to change the mind of people,” he said. “I think relationships are very, very important. To understand the culture, to commit yourself.”
The Langenas also believe in covering their steps with constant prayer. Six years in Doro, South Sudan, and countless steps later, they see God’s provision and guidance at every turn.
They saw the SIM Doro base expand from a tent pitched just a stone’s throw from a Sudan People’s Liberation Army encampment to a thriving set of ministries. They helped build a foundation of trust with the local Mabaan people, even before the military left and more villages returned.
Most of all, they built relationships with the South Sudanese, brought the gospel to the unreached and discipled the church.
They were able to do so, thanks in part to the Harvest Workers Project, an SIM Sudan initiative designed to encourage missionaries from non-traditional sending countries to serve. While the Ethiopian Kale Heywet Church, a partner of SIM, supports them, the Harvest Workers Project assisted with high cost expenses to serve in South Sudan, like airfare.
Answering the call
Both Abebe and Abebech felt the call to go into missions, but it would be some time before their footsteps would bring them together in a common purpose.
Abebe became a Christian early, but it wasn’t until he was teaching a class on the history of missions, that he felt the call. He was struck by story of how the Ethiopian church grew, even in the face of persecution.
“God touched their lives. It was really miraculous,” he said. “When I read that history, that really touched my heart, and I said, ‘God, what can I do? Yeah, I am serving You, but what can I do?’”
Abebech, a minister’s daughter, wrestled with the same thing – then she spent two months in the harsher southern region of Ethiopia working with the Benna people.
One encounter touched her heart. She met an 80-year-old missionary. He declined a car ride with her group, saying he would go on foot – ministering to those he encountered.
Abebech was convicted. “God, I want to be a missionary like this ‘ababa.’”
After they met and married, the couple went about fulfilling their common desire: to serve wherever God sent them.
For the last six years, that place has been Doro, South Sudan. They were told about the hot temperatures, no electricity, no roads, no markets and few people.
“If the Lord wants us to go, he will give us grace,” Abebe recalls thinking.
The scars from war were deep, but as the years passed and more ministries developed, they saw the hearts and minds of people in Doro change and soften toward the gospel.
“Six years back, there was nothing there. Nothing,” Abebe said. “But God brought all those blessings.”