Interview: Follow-Up on Dr. Charles Blair and 'Ethiopian Call'

Dr. Charles E. Blair, founder and president of the Denver, Colo.-based Blair Foundation, completed on Aug. 31, 2005 a two-year project to secure sponsors to fund and plant 1,000 evangelical churches in Benishangul-Gumuz, Ethiopia – an area bordering Sudan.

The project titled, “Ethiopian Call,” reached out and shared the Gospel of Christ to one of the most unreached regions in the world, where only one percent of the natives had previously ever heard of the name Jesus Christ and where the people do not wear clothes and do not go to school, but rather hunt and fish to survive.

Last year, Dr. Blair explained the mission of the campaign and the rapid growth of Christianity in the region in an Oct. 18, 2005 interview with The Christian Post. Dr. Blair recently went back to visit the region on Nov. 27 - Dec. 8, 2005 and, after his return, spoke again with The Christian Post.

The following are excerpts from the interview on Jan. 19, 2006 about his most recent visit to Ethiopia:

What was the purpose of your visit this time to Ethiopia?

The purpose of our going every six months is to keep in touch and continue to train the appointed missionaries given to us by the denominations. We train them and then the denominations supervise the accountability of their ministry in the actual villages.

On this trip, we commissioned the 1,000 missionaries. It is like an ordination service, but some of the denominations have their own ordination schedule so we call it commissioning. We do this for all our missionaries once they complete the four training sessions.

The Valley Christian Center, pastored by Ray Noah in northern California, helped us with the commissioning ceremony. They have a group of women in their congregation who sewed 1,000 shawls for these Ethiopian missionaries.

During the ceremony, we would drape the shawls around their shoulders, they would kneel, and we would pray for them. It was one of those sacred, most glorious moments.

I understand some of them took the shawl to bed with them. This was a big moment for them. These are the missionaries who have had four training sessions and are now given an assignment to evangelize and minister an area.

Are all 1,000 of the churches built now?

No. To get the ground permit we have to have 25 adult conversions. That doesn’t come easy in some of these areas. There is strong opposition – they worship the moon or they worship the stars or the medicine man. So it’s not easy.

Some of the churches are what we called “planted,” which means that a missionary has gone there but they haven’t reached their 25 members so they do not have the permit to build the church yet.

I received new statistics from a report dated Dec. 1, 2005. There are only 3 post offices in the whole region and only 2 banks so communication is difficult.

The total number of churches planted is 881 - this means that a missionary has gone there. The number of church building constructed is 639. As of this date the total number of people attending those planted church is 35,810. The number of those baptized – the people who have accepted Christ as Savior and follow the Lord in water baptism – that number as of that same date was 11,708.

In addition, I am happy to report that 27 more church sponsorships have been added to the 1,000 goal. People have called and said, “I just must be a part of this!” Also, 62 churches have been established as a result of nearby villages that are now being reached.

We have now 1,027 churches fully sponsored and 1,089 churches that are in operation or in function right now.

They are all unwritten financially. The campaign was a tremendous success.

I know that the region’s born-again president, Yaregal Aysheshim, initiated the idea to build 1,000 churches in Benishangul-Gumuz and he wanted all 1,000 churches to receive sponsorship before his term ended. Can you tell me what he is doing now?

President Aysheshim decided to continue on and run for a third term. He was going to finish with two terms and apply with the Ethiopian government to appoint him as an ambassador. But he saw what God was doing and in such an unusual way – to give us 1,000 churches – that he decided at the last minute to run for a third term. It’s a five-year term.

This is the first time in the history of Ethiopia since the communist government fell and the current government came into power that any of the national leaders have run for a third term and been successful. So he is very popular. The campaign is really secure now with him staying another five years.

Would you say that out of the some 100 countries you worked in, that Ethiopia holds a special place in your heart?

I just celebrated my 85th birthday. I pastored one church for 50 years. So I have had a lot of thrilling days in my life. But this is one of the most thrilling experiences because these people can’t do anything to pay you back. They are just too poor, and too isolated.

Do you have anything you wanted to add?

I have received an invitation from a nearby village, with a greater population apparently, to do the same thing. The interesting part is that they are not, at this present time, believers as we are, but they saw the change that took place in the lives of this region and they asked us to come and do the same thing there.

So this is the proof of the Gospel in my opinion. It is a ripple effect. Because they’ve seen the changes – they have toured the land and seen the transformation – they now too want us to do the same thing in their villages.

Before nearly no one was Christian, they did not wear clothes, and they did not want to go to school. Now they go to church clothed and they are agreeing to send their children to school as soon as the government builds the school building.

They now want schools and they now want a hospital.

This campaign has been an advertisement of the greatness of God.

Dr. Blair had pioneered and served for 50 years as senior pastor of Calvary Temple in Denver, Colo., before retiring from the position. From its small beginnings, Calvary Temple grew to be one of the ten largest Sunday Schools in America. Pastor Blair has ministered in over 100 countries throughout the world and serves on several international missions boards.