Hanna Asfaw Testimony
Hanna Asfaw Testimony

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Hanna Asfaw’s Story: Turning Tragedy to Ministry

Testimony by Hanna Asfaw and Margot Bass

Hanna Asfaw has been actively involved at Calvary Chapel the Rock in Santa Rosa, CA, since 2010. Born and raised in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, she emigrated to the U.S. in May 1988, fleeing the communist regime and persecution for her faith in Jesus Christ. In the U.S., she married and had two boys, Nat and Endrias. After a difficult divorce, she raised her children as a single mother. In this testimony, she shares how she lost Endrias in a tragic auto accident and how God turned her grief into active ministry.

On October 9, 2016, Hanna Asfaw was awakened by a hard knock at her front door at 4:30 a.m. Startled, she headed for the door, passing first by her son Endrias’s room—finding it empty. Downstairs, Endrias’s father, her ex-husband, stood at the door, crying. “He informed me that the police had come to his house to tell him that Endrias had been in a car accident and didn’t survive it. In less than five hours after going to bed, my life took a major turn forever,” Hanna shared.

Endrias, 18 years old, had graduated from high school a few months earlier, in June, and was attending junior college in Santa Rosa, as well as working part-time at an In-N-Out Burger restaurant. He had accepted Jesus as his Savior in middle school and had followed Him since that time.

Endrias at graduation

Endrias at his high school graduation in 2016. He was attending junior college and working part-time when he was tragically killed in an auto accident on October 9, 2016. The 18-year-old left behind his mother Hanna Asfaw and a brother, Nat. Their church family at Calvary Chapel the Rock in Santa Rosa, CA, gathered around to comfort and help the grieving family.

Hanna recalled, “I screamed like I was in a dream, and my voice couldn’t come out; but right away I felt that it couldn’t be true—I had seen him just a few hours ago.” Although day had not yet broken and it was still partially dark, they drove to the scene of the accident. The police helped them find the officers who had seen what happened. “They told us to take comfort that our son didn’t suffer for long and it happened in an instant, and that they didn’t find him alive when they arrived.” She later learned that although Endrias had not worked that day, he had gone out to eat with his co-workers around midnight after they had completed their closing shift.

“Where Were You?”

Hanna continued, “I came home broken, overwhelmed, crying, and began asking God a series of questions aloud: You couldn’t keep Endrias safe? Where were You when this happened? How could You let my son fall in the dark by himself where I couldn’t lift his head up or comfort him? I was taken by sleep, but were You also asleep? Did Endrias fall through the crack of Your hands?” She felt that she heard God immediately telling her that He had been there to lift up her son’s head and take care of him for her.

Hanna remembered, “So I continued dialoguing with God, asking, So You were there, and You knew all about this situation? For my question, a song came to my mind, which put my heart at ease and allowed me to remember that God is ever-present and knows all things. Then I realized that if God knows what happened, and He allowed it to happen, there must be a good reason for it. From there on, I received song after song, as if there was a choir in my mind; they continued to comfort me non-stop for the following three weeks.”

“Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.”
Matthew 10:29-31

Endrias

Endrias as a high school senior. Although he had accepted Jesus as his Savior, and Hanna knew he was in heaven, she questioned why God had allowed his death. God was faithful to comfort Hanna as she leaned on Him and to bring her closer to Him.

Hanna’s church family from Calvary Chapel the Rock in Santa Rosa, CA, rallied behind her in the days, months, and years following her son’s death. On the Thursday following the accident, the fellowship held a memorial service; the building overflowed with friends and family from all over the U.S., Ethiopia, and Europe. “At the end of the service, Lead Pastor Ross Reinman announced that the church would build a memorial of some kind or a foundation in Endrias’s name in Ethiopia. … I was overwhelmed with the love I received thus far, and on top of it was this promise that filled my heart,” Hanna affirmed. Then that Saturday, the In-N-Out restaurant where Endrias worked held its own memorial service. A friend from the church recorded all the testimonies about Endrias, turning it into a treasured piece of art.

Staying in God’s Will

Hanna continued to struggle emotionally after the memorial services. “Long story short, the journey has not been simple and easy, but being obedient to God’s call and agreeing to His will, I was able to continue having a peace of mind that passes all understanding and to have a healthy relationship with God,” she reflected. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ (2 Corinthians 10:4-5).

“Not only did I enjoy a good relationship with Him, but my relationship got stronger than ever before. God always guarantees that His children will have the ability to travel on the road that He chooses for them,” Hanna observed. “It may be a rough road, but He gives plenty of grace, joy, and love for the journey. I was overwhelmed with the presence of God in my life and how He never left me or forsook me in my journey of grief.”

“Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the LORD your God, He is the One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you.” Deuteronomy 31:6

Hanna and Endrias waving

Hanna and Endrias in earlier days. At his memorial service, Pastor Ross Reinman announced that the church would build a memorial or foundation in the young man’s name in Ethiopia, where Hanna was born and raised. That promise eventually led to Hanna starting the non-profit organization, Endrias Ministries International (eminow.org), to help children in Ethiopia.

“God had not for a moment left me to myself or to my weak nature; instead, He wrapped me with His grace constantly and held me up to continue to live normally. The Word of God was my constant comfort and companion. God provided people who came alongside of me when I needed it, and most importantly, the Holy Spirit comforted me and stopped my grief from going too far. Each time I was overwhelmed with a flood of thoughts, He reminded me of heaven, where my son lives, and that he is in a perfect place, and letting me know that the only enemy between him and me was time. I am and will be forever thankful to have a peaceful and productive life in spite of what I have experienced.”

Hanna remembered learning from 1 Corinthians 13:12 that we have only a partial knowledge of what there is to know. “We may not be able to know why God chooses these broken roads. However, He brings beauty out of the ashes. He teaches us lessons we might not be able to learn otherwise and uses us for His glory in the midst of these difficult and broken roads.”

For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.
1 Corinthians 13:12

Hanna and Endrias in front of water

Hanna and Endrias. In 2020, Hanna wrote a book, Amazing Grace, detailing her life story, testimony, and journey of grief to help support the ministry. It’s available at eminow.org, under the “Connect” tab.

Ministry Out of Pain

As God gave Hanna the grace to follow her hard road, He birthed a ministry out of her pain. “On the memorial of Endrias’s passing, my pastor announced plans to build a memorial for him in Ethiopia. I am now able to pursue my goal of reaching children for Christ in Ethiopia and potentially around the world,” Hanna proclaimed. In August of 2017, she traveled with four people from her church to Ethiopia to explore the possibility of establishing that memorial to bless the Ethiopian people in Jesus’ name.

“The church has been, and still is, supporting a children’s ministry in Ethiopia, but we have reached a point where we felt we needed to start a school there as well. This school would house 100 children and educate 200 children to raise an army for Christ our Savior,” Hanna reported. In 2020, she established a non-profit organization, Endrias Ministries International, to help build a school in Ethiopia, in order to raise up children who will be able to transform their community and become leaders of their nation. For more information about the ministry, visit eminow.org.

Hanna exclaimed, “Since the day my church set out to build a legacy for my son, I have been finding so much comfort in knowing that my son’s going home early will not be in vain, and other children will find comfort because of him.”

A statement on the website describes its mission: “… Working towards helping vulnerable children who are in need by connecting resources to organizations with boots on the ground, as well as building an orphanage to provide shelter and education to children who might otherwise be homeless.”

Hanna also wrote a book, Amazing Grace, documenting her life story, testimony, and journey of grief. Sales from the book will support the ministry. Hanna concluded, “The book is an easy read and can be helpful to those who have gone through grief as well as others who want to support a grieving person.” Information about purchasing the book is available at eminow.org, under the contact link.

 

All verses above are quoted from the New King James Version, unless otherwise noted.

© 2020 Calvary Chapel Magazine. All rights reserved. Articles or photographs may not be reproduced without the written permission of CCM. All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.® Used by permission.

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