Soul Brothers

Nov 27, 2023 | Sports Friends International

Tripp Johnston, Co-Founder of SIM’s Sports Friends ministry, has recently published a new book, Soul Brothers.  This book is an inspiring account of God’s work in Tripp’s life and in Berhanu Kebede’s life, including the initial launch and early growth of Sports Friends. Two men, the same age, from opposite corners of the world, caught up together in a God-sized mission!

Below is an excerpt from Soul Brothers describing Berhanu’s first encounter with Jesus:

Deeply frustrated, Berhanu returned to his bedroom and collapsed across his bed. Where was his father’s pistol? It had always been in the exact same place. How could he find another weapon? How could he kill Abeges? 

As Berhanu lay on top of the bed plotting and scheming, the ceiling of his bedroom began to move. The corrugated tin roof scrolled back from front to back, revealing the cloudless blue sky above. It was after 2 o’clock in the afternoon. Berhanu was fully awake – this was no dream. The roof scrolled back like a garage door rolling up. He was transfixed by what he saw above him. From high in the sky, he could see a man descending towards him. He was moving through the air, not walking but floating, descending closer and closer, growing larger and larger, coming straight into Berhanu’s bedroom!

Berhanu had never seen anything like this before! Who was this man? What did he want? His arms were outstretched with the palms of his hands facing up as he descended. His clothing was white and shone brilliantly. His entire countenance was radiant, magnificent, overwhelming. He shone as a star – a clear, white, brilliant light. Berhanu could see that it was a man but could not identify clearly his features as the brilliance enveloped him and radiated from him in all directions. It was hard to clearly distinguish the clothes from the man from the surroundings, as everything was overwhelmingly bright and white.

As the man descended into his bedroom, Berhanu tried to get up and flee, but he couldn’t stand. All he could do was fall from his bed and lie flat on his face, wanting to hide himself. He embraced the man’s feet, clinging to the robe draped over them. He could not bear to look up, to gaze into this brilliance, this glory. A light more dazzling than any he had ever seen pervaded the room and illuminated everything – even the thoughts of his mind. There was nowhere to hide from this light. All was exposed.

Berhanu’s whole life seemed to pass before his eyes. Although no words were yet spoken, his soul seemed to be communicating with this man. He saw the many bad things he had done. He was especially burdened by his hatred for the man he was plotting to kill. Everything was exposed in the light. He was overwhelmed by his own guilt, by a sense of being unworthy. Berhanu began to cry as he clung to the man’s feet. 

And then the man spoke audibly in Amharic, Berhanu’s native language. He spoke in a small voice, yet Berhanu could hear it loudly. It was a sweet, clear voice, yet penetrating to the soul. When the man spoke, it was not complicated or confusing; Berhanu understood him clearly. Berhanu thought surely everyone in his home and village was also seeing and hearing this man as he spoke. The man told Berhanu three things:

“Do not sin anymore.”

Berhanu felt unworthy, like he could not stand or look up in the presence of this glorious, magnificent being. Everything in his life was open for the man to see. Although Berhanu never spoke out loud, he spoke in his heart and asked for forgiveness. In his heart, he whispered “save me.” It was like Berhanu was two persons – his physical body was watching all of this, while in his soul he was communicating directly with this man. There was no rush to the conversation. The man paused letting Berhanu absorb each statement before he spoke again.

“You are mine.”

There was now a lightness in Berhanu’s spirit, like a great burden was lifted from his back. As he absorbed this second statement, he felt completely loved and accepted. There was an overwhelming sense of being drawn in by this glorious man. The man knew him and loved him. This was a totally different experience from the worship of his family god, where Berhanu would have been terrified to be fully exposed before the family spirit. But Berhanu was not afraid now. He was accepted.

“You will carry my name to the nations.”

Berhanu didn’t understand what this last statement meant, but he accepted it. He had an overwhelming sense of joy now as he quietly lay at the man’s feet. Nothing else was said. There was no rush. Berhanu knew the man was still there, but he could not look up at him, could not look up at the light. 

Then the man left. The light faded. He ascended out of Berhanu’s bedroom and into the sky just as he had come. The roof scrolled back – reversing its earlier path. He was gone.

Berhanu raced from his room to see who else had seen and heard this man. He thought surely the whole village would have seen. His mom was working in the kitchen less than 10 meters away from his bedroom. Surely, she had seen and heard this man. “Mom, did you see that man in the bright robe? Who was he? Do you know him?” Berhanu’s mother had not seen anything. After Berhanu recounted the entire experience, his mother replied, “That is your father’s god, our family’s god, who has visited you.”

Berhanu knew that this man of light was nothing like their family god. This man, this God whom he had just seen, was personal, loving, accepting, glorious, and holy. He appeared in his own magnificent presence, not just speaking through another man like his father’s god. His father’s god was always angry, shouting, accusing. This man in white was totally different. Berhanu was convinced that this was not his family’s god whom he had met. Berhanu would recognize this new man’s voice anywhere. Even though he could not describe his exact facial features or skin tone, he knew he would recognize him instantly. His soul knew this man and was now also known by him!

Join Tripp on this amazing journey as he learns to hear the voice of God, step out in faith, and follow Jesus in ways he could have never imagined. Moving with his family to Ethiopia, Tripp encounters the God of miracles, prophecy, and divine encounters who explodes out of the small box of his own making.  Order your copy of Soul Brothers today on Amazon.