Alayu and Yegile Dubale plant churches alongside their former persecutor

8,344 miles. That’s the distance between Alayu Dubale’s childhood home in Ethiopia and his new home in Denver, Colorado. In Denver, there are skyscrapers, snowstorms and traffic jams, and after living here for almost ten years, the language, food and culture are still perplexingly unfamiliar to Alayu and his wife Yegile. That’s why, as two of the 50,000 Ethiopians who’ve emigrated here, it would make perfect sense for the Dubales to ask themselves, “How did we get here?”

For Alayu, Yegile and their five children, the journey of 8,344 miles began with a single step.

Alayu and Yegile grew up in northern Ethiopia, where the conservative Orthodox Church is powerful. In the 1960’s when Alayu and Yegile were children, Orthodox priests violently persecuted Protestant Christians. That persecution, combined with a hardline Communist government, became a dangerous and sometimes deadly combination for many Ethiopians.

It’s not surprising, then, that both Alayu and Yegile have painful testimonies.

NAMB, AAEO, Denver

When Southern Baptist missionaries led a teenage Yegile to Christ, her Orthodox parents ordered her to leave home. She was eventually arrested for sharing her faith. “I was in jail, tied up with chains, for nine days,” she says. “There was so much persecution.”

When Alayu was 12 years old, International Mission Board missionaries came to his remote village, and when they led him to Christ, Alayu decided he should tell everyone what he had done.

“I wanted my friends to have that peace I’d found,” he says. “So, I started a Bible study, and our group grew. We led many young people to Christ.”

That was Alayu Dubale’s first church plant. And not surprisingly, it led, at least at first, to persecution.

The Communist leader and Orthodox priest in his village, a man named Lemma Azene, sent Alayu to jail and called for the execution of his family. But then, Jesus appeared to Lemma in a dream. Lemma Azene gave his life to Christ, and he and Alayu became the most unlikely of friends.

In the years that followed, Alayu and Lemma went their separate ways. God used Alayu to help plant churches and train planters and pastors in Ethiopia, Sudan, Uganda, Egypt and Syria. Lemma emigrated to the U.S. where, in 2015, he sponsored the Dubale family to come and join him in Denver.

NAMB, AAEO, Denver

Now the Dubales and Azenes are working together to plant churches here. They spend much of their time around Denver’s airport, passing out tracts, building relationships and sharing Christ with the many Ethiopians who work there. Alayu says it’s actually harder to plant a church in the U.S. than in Africa. “There, you can gather people and preach anywhere, anytime. But here, you have to search for people and develop relationships,” he says. “That takes time.”

For Alayu, being a part of Send Network has given him the time, training and resources needed to reach Ethiopian families in Denver. “Send Network has helped me understand the context and the strategies of being on mission in a culturally diverse community,” he says.

They’ve now planted three new churches in Denver and have plans for many more. Coming here to make Jesus known is one of the best decisions they ever made. They’re seeing Ethiopians in Colorado give their lives to Christ. And that’s worth every one of the 8,344 miles they’ve traveled to get here.

Alayu Dubale and Yegile Dubale are one of the many church planting missionaries supported by your generous gifts to the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering. To learn more about their story, and to discover how you and your church can support church planting and compassion ministry all across North America, visit

Published February 2, 2024

P.S. Get our best content in your inbox

We send one email per week chock full of articles from a variety of Send Network voices.