Most people don't think of Jamaicans when they think of Ethiopia. That is unless they know a little something about Rastafarianism.
Rastafari's believe that Ethiopia's Emperor Haile Selassie (Born 1892, Emperoro1930-1974) was the second advent of Jesus Christ. As such, Ethiopia is somewhat of a holy place for them. As a matter of fact, the city we stayed in all week, Shashamene, was home to probably the most famous Rastafarian, Bob Marley, for several years.
All of this is to introduce you to Larry. Dreadlocked, beard wearing, song-singing, Bible-carrying Larry. Larry is the owner of the hotel where we stayed and, though he is not from Jamaica (He is from Trinidad and Tobago), Larry is a Rastafarian.
From the start, we all greatly enjoyed being around Larry. One of our interpreters began conversing with him about Christ. This lead to a heated discussion with some of the funniest one-liners of our entire trip. Larry is one funny Rastifarian!
The next night, several of us sat down with Larry, opened our Bibles, and began using the Scriptures to discuss the person of Christ. Larry had several passages he believed pointed to Haile Selassie being Christ (Acts 2:30, Psalm 87:4, Psalm 2:12, and others) and even where marijuana was a gift from God (Ezekiel 34:29)! He only used the King James Version Scofield Study Bible, so the translation we had was pretty different.
Needless to say, this made for an interesting conversation. The hardest part was that he would agree with us about everything we said about Jesus, but applied them all to Haile Selassie as well. Even when we would point to something in the Bible that went against what he believed, he would move to something else. Or just stare at us.
Larry was fun to be around. Larry was also very hard to share the Gospel with. It was a great exercise in relational evangelism. It was also a great way to make a new friend. We must never stop being or becoming friends with someone just because they don't accept the Gospel. I truly enjoyed being around Larry and he seemed to enjoy being around us. I am praying for Larry and hope you will too. I hope I get to go back to Ethiopia and I hope I get to see Larry. Most of all, I hope Larry meets Jesus. Of course...Larry says he has.