Thankfulness In All Situations – Lessons Learned In An Eritrean Prison

Eritrean MapHow do you react when things don’t go your way? Do you grumble and complain? Does your face grimace to reveal your displeasure? Do you become angry and snap at those around you?

Or do you do all things without grumbling and disputing (Philippians 2:14)? Do you give thanks in all situations (1 Thessalonians 5:18)? Are the words of your mouth acceptable in God’s sight (Psalm 19:14)?

Every minute of every day you have a choice. How will you respond? What will your attitude be? Will you complain or be thankful?

Dr. Berhane’s prison experience makes this Scriptural truth a powerful reality. Being a fairly new Christian in Eritrea, Berhane was arrested for his faith and brought to an unbearably hot and nearly dark cell. The prisoners that greeted him were in their underwear and wore bandages to hide their wounds inflicted by the prison guards. The air was filled with the smells of perspiration, sewage and smoke. And most of the prisoners that surrounded him were murderers, burglars and political prisoners. The person that slept next to him was a serial-killer.

He also experienced torture that he never truly expected. Tied upside down, in a position vaguely resembling the number eight, the bottoms of his feet were beaten with the prison guard’s full strength. Although not understanding why God would allow this to happen, the only words on Dr. Berhane’s lips were praise and prayers to the Almighty God! In his own words he recounts his experience,

On our way back, both of them were silent (prison guards), it was only me whispering prayers and praises. They took me to a small room for an interrogation. I said to them give me just five minutes to pray, and without waiting for their permission, I bowed my head and started to pray. They said, stop it, and go back to your room, we will call you another day. On my way back to the cell, I was not able to walk, both my feet were so sore and was so painful with each step. I went back to my room limping and the prisoners started to anoint me with anti-inflammatory cream. For a few days I was not able to walk completely, later I started to walk limping.

Since that time, I started to say to myself, I have two choices. The first one is to complain about how weak I am; complaining about my health, failure in life, the situation in my country, war and famine and my present situation, the prison. It was the same as to complain simply for being like a jar of clay, fragile. The second choice was accepting everything as it is, and spend every minute to glorify God. I made my choice right, and I remained strong throughout the eleven months of my prison term. The prison cell was filled with a lot of notorious criminals. There was no one who was able to tame them, but it was a miracle, I was able to do that. I was convinced that this enormous power was working in me.

For the coming days and months, I decided to focus on the wonderful work that the Spirit of God had already started in my life. I thought my weaknesses or strengths will become irrelevant, if I submit my whole self to Jesus. So I decided to move with that spirit for the rest of my life, where ever I am. When Paul was experiencing suffering he prayed to God to remove the thorn, but God said, “my strength is fulfilled in weakness, my grace is enough for thee.”

Dr. Berhane began to implement this powerful truth in the worst of circumstances. But you don’t have to wait until you are suffering in prison cell to glorify God in each and every situation. How about when you are in the long airport security line? Or when your taxes are more than you expected? Or when someone tries to damage your reputation?

But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies (2 Corinthians 4:7-10)


The Rev. Dr. Berhane Asmelash of Eritrea was imprisoned for his faith during Eritrea’s war with Ethiopia. Now a pastor in England who continues to work with Eritrean underground believers and Eritrean refugees, Dr. Berhane comes to Korea to share his experiences which can transform how Korean pastors and churches minister to NK defectors. A special event open to the general public will be held on Monday June 6 at 7:30PM.

에리트레아의 버하니 아스멜라시 목사는 에리트레아와 에티오피아 사이의 전쟁 기간 동안 기독교 신앙으로 인해 투옥되었습니다. 그는 지금도 영국에서 에리트레아의 지하 교인 및 난민들과의 동역을 계속 이어나가고 있습니다. 버하니 목사는 한국을 방문하여 한국 목회자들과 교회의 탈북자 사역이 어떻게 변화될 수 있는지에 대해 자신의 경험을 나누어 줄 것입니다. 일반 회중들에게 공개되는 특별 강연은 6월 6일 오후 7시 30분에 진행될 예정입니다.

About tdillmuth

Pastor Timothy Dillmuth is the Discipleship Pastor of Voice of the Martyrs Korea. He oversees Underground University, a missionary training school for North Korean defectors, and does discipleship training with Christians from all over the world. Pastor Tim received a bachelor's degree from Zion Bible College and an M.Div. from Regent University. He lives with his wife, Melissia and their three children in Seoul, South Korea.
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3 Responses to Thankfulness In All Situations – Lessons Learned In An Eritrean Prison

  1. happyinhim says:

    What an amazing and courageous testimony. To God be the glory! Thank you for sharing.

  2. Pingback: When an Eritrean Pastor learned to “Count it all Joy” | Missio Links

  3. isaiah41v10 says:

    Thank you for sharing this. I am ashamed to say that today I complained a lot as I was making a long car journey, about things that weren’t going as I wanted. When my daughter said something to me about my complaining, I got angry at her, but she was right. How much better it would be to praise God and not let any complaints come out of my mouth.

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