by Tracy Behrendt, Correspondent
As a 13-year-old growing up in Ethiopia, Destaye Crawford already felt called to be a missionary.
"At a young age I was so touched, moved and impressed by the missionaries who came to our country to tell us about Christ," said Crawford, a Master of Arts student, of her early desire to attend Bible college and begin mission work. "Many years later, the dream came true. Now I am a missionary both in my country, Ethiopia, and in the U.S.A."
Her father had come to Christianity when he was a teenager, rejecting a form of animism in Ethiopia. Once unable to read or write, he taught himself the Amharic alphabet and learned to read the Bible. He would go on to share God's word with his family—and numerous churches throughout Ethiopia.
With that same tenacity, Crawford knew she would find a way to study at a Bible college. Yet with Communism strong in Ethiopia, neither Christian colleges nor churches were allowed. It wasn't until 1991, when her sister traveled to the United States for treatment of a brain tumor, that Crawford got her chance. While there, her sister told her about North Central Bible College in Minneapolis, now North Central University. Two years later, Crawford was accepted to the school.
It was there that she found someone just as passionate about faith and mission work in Africa. Or, as Crawford put it, "I didn't find someone—God found someone for me. I came from Ethiopia to attend Bible college, not to look for a husband. In fact, I didn't have a plan to get married."
Yet Destaye and Jim Crawford, a native of Almond, Wis., married in 1997 and today have three children. They quickly become involved with All Nations Christian Assembly Church, planted in the Twin Cities by North Central professor Dr. Richard Shaka. But they couldn't ignore the call to plant a church in Africa. In 1999, they made their first trip to Africa together, beginning a church in South Africa with Shaka. It was there that the blessing of their shared calling to mission work in Africa became abundantly clear, both to the Crawfords and their family.
"My husband and I are not only a married couple but also best friends and partners in ministry," Destaye said.
"I would say it is a story of God's faithfulness to answer prayer," added Jim's mother, Judy Crawford. "Here we have a local guy who had a heart for Africa. What are the chances that a fellow from the little town of Almond would meet a young lady from Ethiopia and marry her? I guess that is what is awesome to me."
Much of their life since has been split between America and Africa. After several years of prayer and leadership training in the United States, Jim felt a strong call to Ethiopia, and the family journeyed there in 2002.
"We lived there for two years and planted a church and prayer houses," Jim said. "We've gotten back abundant joy and peace."
Feeling the pull back to Ethiopia again in 2006, the Crawfords returned to serve as full-time missionaries. This time they traveled to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia's capital, and formed Team Serve with a goal of establishing churches and preaching God's word through Christian education. The Crawfords saw this happen through partnerships with the Ethiopian Evangelical Church Fellowship and local Christian schools. Today, Team Serve operates a prayer house in Addis Ababa while focusing on relief programs and church planting across Ethiopia.
Destaye and her family returned to the United States in 2008 to pursue more training. She entered Luther Seminary's Congregational Mission and Leadership program in fall 2010. And, although she has been Lutheran her whole life, she sees her ministry in both Africa and the United States as much larger than that.
"It is not easy nowadays to be specific to one denomination, especially when you reach out to people from every background," she said. "I wish that all Christians would have one denomination—Christian."
Crawford is living out that wish. In June 2010, she and her husband planted a new church in Minneapolis, appropriately called the Church of Every Tribe and Tongue.
Whereas their ministries will likely take them back to Ethiopia in the future, Destaye and her family are committed to continuing their mission work wherever God leads them.
"I feel very strongly," she said, "that I will continue to do what I am doing: pray, mobilize teams, encourage people to use their talent and be available to do God's will."