Preaching the gospel to a crowd of about 30,000 people in a Muslim town in Tanzania was not something Jacob Ebersole could have ever imagined growing up in Inman.
Christ for All Nations, an evangelistic ministry based in Orlando, Florida, sent him on the mission trip to Kahama, a town in northwestern Tanzania. He arrived in August working to spread the word about the upcoming crusade scheduled for November.
Ebersole, 31, had no idea whether anyone would show up. He said the hardest part was getting all of the permits for the event, and he was surprised and felt blessed when he saw the crowd that came.
“The night before; you have no idea. No one could have shown up,” Ebersole said. “Around 3 p.m., I finally went up to the stage and remember seeing floods of people coming in. The field was almost full. It was estimated at around 30,000 people. I just sat down on the steps and started to cry. I was so humbled and thankful for what God had done.”
Michael Seth, a volunteer with Christ for All Nations, was with Ebersole the day of the crusade. “Jacob ministers through authenticity and love,” Seth said. “He’s not trying to expand his ministry for his sake. He’s doing it for the sake of the lost and the sake of the lamb, and that is expressed in everything he does. He’s a workhorse and on fire for God.”
Chaos, hope in CHOP
Prior to traveling to Tanzania, Christ For All Nations sent Ebersole to Seattle in June where he ministered to people in the middle of the Capitol Hill Occupied Protest, or the Capitol Hill Organized Protest (CHOP).
From June 8 through July 1, the area was set up, as an occupation protest and self-declared autonomous zone. People who had protested the killing of George Floyd came to CHOP. Floyd was the Black man killed by a white Minneapolis police officer in May. The area was to be a police-free, self-governing utopia. But that didn’t last and law enforcement disbanded the zone.
Ebersole’s team was originally given admittance to CHOP to set up a tent and serve food to the people there. He said the strategy was simply to show love to the people, serve not only hot dogs and bottled water, but to bring hope to those who felt hopeless.
He said that none of the videos the public has seen of CHOP will do it justice. He said some days were like being in Hell. A person was shot every day he was there. But he also saw hope. Some were trying to plant gardens to grow their own food. He said some truly wanted to establish their own community.
Self-journey to finding faith
Ministering to others wasn’t something Ebersole could have imagined growing up in Inman. By the time he was 16 years old, his family had been through two divorces, and he was addicted to prescription pills, drugs, alcohol, and even dabbled in morphine and ecstasy. Through these dark years Ebersole said there was one preacher who never gave up on him. Ebersole had been attending church on and off at New Hope Baptist.
Pastor Joe Wampler knew Ebersole’s past and continued to pray for him to know Christ. Ebersole said the night of Feb. 19, 2006, he saw Wampler at the FATZ Restaurant in Boiling Springs.
“I was stuck in hopelessness,” Ebersole said. “Pastor Wampler hugged me and told me that God has a plan for my life. I had a true encounter with Jesus that night and gave my life to Him.”
At 18 years of age, Ebersole was sitting in a service with his then-girlfriend, Alicia Duncan, who would later become his wife. He remembers his hands shaking because he felt God was calling him to full-time ministry. However, Ebersole pursued an engineering career. After graduating from Spartan College of Aeronautics and Technology in Tulsa, Oklahoma in 2011, Ebersole began a promising career at Itema America, an industrial equipment wholesaler, in Spartanburg. But he always felt pulled back toward ministry.
“I started with a backpack full of Bibles, visiting some of the roughest areas of Spartanburg,” Ebersole said.
During his time working as an engineer at Itema, Ebersole became the youth pastor at a small church in Campobello. Random doors began to open for Ebersole and his family to share the gospel with other young people.
Answering the Call
Sept. 30, 2017, was another pivotal day for Jacob and Alicia. He had been invited to speak to Dorman High School’s Marching Band following a competition. Ebersole remembers being overwhelmed and nervous walking into the band room and seeing 200-plus high school students.
“The Lord told me to put my 3-point message away and preach the gospel,” Ebersole said. “I took it to the cross and shared my testimony. It was an intense message and 46 students and one teacher came forward to either accept Christ as their Savior or pray about other situations in their life. That was the day the Lord showed me He could take a broken kid like me and turn him into an evangelist.”
Jonathan Dyas, 18, was a sophomore in the marching band the year Ebersole spoke to them. Dyas remembers struggling with some personal decisions that year, and what Ebersole said convicted him. “I got very emotional about it,” Dyas said. “I ended up crying, Jacob was crying. You could tell how much he really cared.”
Alicia, Ebersole’s wife, remembers sitting on the steps in the band room after everyone had left. “We knew that this is what we were going to do for the rest of our lives,” Alicia said. “The Lord had been preparing us for this kind of journey all along. This is the day we surrendered to the call.”
From school to prison
Soon after Ebersole spoke at Dorman, he began to go into the Spartanburg County Detention Facility to share the gospel with the inmates.
“There is a lot of turnover in the county jails,” Ebersole said. “So I was able to preach to a lot of different guys. Most of them feel hopeless and are scared to death.”
Ben Duncan met Ebersole in 2019 while in the detention facility. Duncan remembers being mad at the world that day. He had been arrested for driving under suspension but says he was also involved in drugs and struggling with addictions.
“When Jacob walked in, he just shone a light,” Duncan said. “I wanted to have that peace. The only way I can do that is with God. Jacob showed me that.”
After being released from jail, Duncan wanted to do something to impact Spartanburg the way he felt Ebersole was impacting the world
“Jacob is all about taking Jesus to places it’s never been,” Duncan said. “I can’t go to Africa, but I can help people in Spartanburg.”
Duncan and his fiancé, Amber Searcy, spend most Saturday mornings passing out Bibles, food, and information on overcoming addiction to the homeless that will often gather on South Church Street in Spartanburg.
Traveling to Africa, coming home
Not sure of what their future would look like, Jacob and Alicia chose to trust God’s call into full-time ministry, and Jacob left his full-time job at Itema early last year. The next day, Jan. 9, Jacob, his wife, Alicia, and their young son, Elijah, left for Orlando, to pursue full-time ministry with Christ For All Nations. Ebersole began ministering to students in Orlando, much like he did in Spartanburg.
Soon he was named as a member of the team going to Africa for crusades in 2020. The ministry originally planned to host crusades in 10 cities on the continent of Africa. However, due to COVID-19, they reduced it to five. Ebersole was named crusade director for Kahama. As crusade director, it was Ebersole’s job to get the city ready for the large crusade.
The language barrier added another layer of difficulty, as the residents in Tanzania speak Swahili. Once Ebersole was on the ground, he connected with a local interpreter, Bishop Emmanuel Gewe.
When he began his ministry, he knew Jacob Ebersole Ministries wouldn’t be the name of his ministry forever. “I was going to preach at Emmanuel’s church and saw the dusty sign in the distance. ‘World Harvest Church,’” Ebersole said. “I knew then this would be the name of my ministry.”
He worked from August until November to get ready for the crusade. He was able to come home once during that time and finally returned from Africa Nov. 16.
He made it home just in time for his wife, Alicia, to welcome their second son, Judah. Alicia says Jacob being gone for months at a time can sometimes be challenging with two young children. And she does have concerns when he goes to faraway places that can be dangerous.
“Naturally, you worry about the worse things that can happen,” Alicia said. “But God gave Jacob a gift to draw people to Him. Jacob’s love for people enables him to see past the dangers. He’s truly letting the holy spirit guide his life.”
Ebersole will leave for his next crusade at the end of March. He will travel with a team from Christ For All Nations to an undisclosed place in the Middle East.
“A lot of people think we are out of our minds,” Ebersole sai. “But what motivates me and Alicia is Judah and Elijah. I don’t want my sons to see regret in my eyes. This is God’s plan for our lives, and I know he will use us to grow his kingdom.”