It’s approximately 7,200 miles from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, to Fredericksburg, Virginia, with a flight time of around 18 hours. Most would find that long distance a bit daunting, but for Sofonias Aklilu, Class of 2020, it was just one more leg of God’s journey for him.
Sofonias (Sofi) had a great childhood growing up with his mom in Ethiopia. At eight years old, he was in a church service when the Lord spoke to his heart. “I just felt the Lord calling me, and knew I couldn’t leave that church service without opening my heart to Him.”
Since that day, Sofi has been pressing into the Lord, growing in His Word, spending time in prayer, and actively seeking God’s path for him. About three years ago, he felt the Lord leading him to come to America, and he shared this with his friends. “I had no idea how the Lord would work it all out, but I wasn’t the least bit concerned. I wanted my obedience to God’s plan to become a picture of faith for my friends.”
Sofonias received a phone call from his father about a few weeks later. His parents had divorced when he was young, and he hadn’t been around his father for most of his life. His father was now living in America and asked Sofi to come live with him and his new family.
Even though Sofi had just finished high school in Ethiopia, his father thought it would be good for him to attend high school in America. He believed it would give Sofi a good chance for some possible scholarships. Sofi struggled with the idea of repeating some high school years – who wants to do more school? He spent a lot of time in prayer and talking with his mom, and then two days before he left Ethiopia, the Lord granted him clarity.
Sofi attended a Bible study and met a taxi driver there. After the prayer time, the taxi driver told him, “God says you should start from the beginning.” Sofi believed the Lord was using the taxi driver to tell him exactly what to do.
He enrolled as a junior at FCS in the 2018-2019 school year. Things weren’t easy for Sofi. He was adjusting to a totally new life, he was struggling with the culture shock of coming to America, and he missed his friends and his mom. “For so long it was just she and I, and we were best friends. It was hard.”
Sofi had always been outgoing and loved talking about God’s Word but in this new environment, he felt hesitant to speak up and share. At times he wondered if he would ever fit in with his new school and his new life.
To be honest, he wasn’t sure if he would stay. “I was so shocked because the Lord had always guided me, but I began to wonder if I had made a mistake.” Sofi’s mom was concerned because he was afraid about the future, but she reminded him that “God’s plan is still true.”
Right about the same time, shortly after Christmas break, Sofi received word that Mrs. Elaine Ramos wanted to talk to him. At the time, she was the high school choir director, but he had never met her and had no idea why she wanted to speak with him. When he went to see her she told him, “The Lord has a plan for you here at this school.”
“I was so humbled when my mom reminded me who God is and then when Mrs. Ramos shared what the Lord had laid on her heart. I knew then that I was staying and wanted to be available to the Lord.”
Sofi began sharing more with classmates, speaking up during Bible, and encouraging those around him. He was selected to be part of the Homecoming Court. When he had the opportunity to share his testimony for the entire high school student body, it was the first time he really felt like himself since coming to America.
Sofi will graduate (again) in a few short months and feels led to become an evangelist. He plans to attend a Bible college and major in theology and philosophy. He’s not sure how the Lord will provide for his college funds, but his trust rests in God’s faithfulness.
In the meantime, he is active in the Missions Club and particularly loved their visit to downtown Fredericksburg to share the Word. “I want to share God’s love with everyone I come in contact with.”
“My journey these past couple of years has helped me learn about forgiveness, humility, and trust. God is a personal God and loves each of us so individually, and I know that God has plans for me.”