Berki’s Choice

One African man’s desire to please God, even amid pressure to conform …

Psalm 119:4-10
“How can a young man keep his way pure? By living according to your word.” v. 9 (NIV)

Berki Banko is a tall, lanky evangelist in Ethiopia. He has been trained by Bible translation leaders to tell accurate Bible stories (called oral Bible storying) in his mother tongue.

“Since people have . . . heard Bible stories in their own Hamer language,” he says, “they want to know more about Jesus.”

Since he was 19, this committed Christian has struggled to keep his life clean in God’s eyes. Based on what he knows in God’s Word, Berki has consistently refused to participate in a Hamer people’s cultural rite of passage into manhood: bull jumping.

In this ceremony, the village gathers. Bare-backed women chant and blow horns in hopes of provoking the boys to whip them with birch sticks. The permanent scars become a symbol of their devotion — even though some women have died from the beatings. Then, each boy runs naked toward a line of bull cattle standing side by side. Vaulting himself, he runs across their dung-rubbed backs. If he makes it across the animals, he joins a fraternity of men, claiming a bride and the right to father children and to own cattle.

Berki remembers the sound of bells tied around dancing women. The days of feasting and drinking sorghum beer. The animal sacrifices. Worst of all, the bloodied backs of women begging, “I was beaten in a small way. Beat me more.”

The ceremony is full of things that don’t please the Lord, Berki thought. But his family and community pressured him. “You must choose one of the two,” they told him. “If you jump, you will be part of the family and live with us peacefully. If you refuse, you are no longer part of this family and we will kill you.”

Here’s the full story, from Seed Company, of what Berki decided to do, and what happened next.

Canada may seem a world away from rural Ethiopia. But as our culture drifts from the truths of Scripture, it pressures people to accept and participate in things that don’t please God. Amid that pressure, remember the touchstone and standard of God’s Word. Berki steers his life by that compass, just as today’s verse admonishes us all to do.  

Lord, thank you for Berki’s example of directing his life based on your Word—even when that choice isn’t popular or safe. Help me to know and apply the truths in the Bible in order to please you, God. These are the standards to live out my days.