February 24, 2011

Stories From the Frontlines of Where Faith Costs The Most

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(Text from Open Doors USA, www.odusa.org, serving the persecuted church)

Somewhere inside Mogadishu, the capital of Somalia, secret believers arrive one by one at the agreed meeting place. Once everybody settles in, the prayer leader opens a folded piece of paper and begins to share a message. Although some of the members own Bibles not one is in sight – if caught with a Bible they face certain death.

The opportunity is rare and much appreciated, but these believers cannot dare to meet for longer than three hours. Careful not to leave any tracks, members abandon the meeting place separately at intervals. As a precaution all evidence of conversations are destroyed. Telephone numbers are exchanged, but for safety purposes these numbers are memorized ensuring that fellow Christians cannot be traced, should one be captured.

In spite of these obstacles the church in Somali continues to thrive. Radio stations offer programs that help converts grow in their faith. “It encourages us to stay grounded in our faith,” testifies an avid listener. “The reception is good, but we have to listen in secret.” At a recent training session for underground prayer leaders in Somalia believers shared their testimonies.

Nishan*, 27 had just graduated from college and began interning at a hospital when he first heard the gospel in 1999. By 2002 he made known to his family that he had become a follower of Jesus Christ. Furious with his announcement, his family kept him in a dark room on their roof for 13 days without any food. Nishan’s sister, despite her fear of getting caught by her brothers, secretly brought him meals. Only after his mother pleaded with his father was he released. Today Nishan is one of sixteen secret believers in his neighborhood who meet at the mosque for prayer and call themselves followers of Isa al Misah. By meeting at the mosque their respect in the community is maintained, and at the same time they have the opportunity to build relationships with other secret believers.

Ramima*’s desire to learn more about Christ was so intense that she found herself befriending nuns at the hospital where she worked. “The fact that I was seen talking to a nun caused a lot of suspicion and tension in the hospital.” Colleagues’ suspicion eventually forced them to meet only at night but the hospital director mistrusted the friendship and ordered Ramima to be transferred to another hospital. Holding on to the conviction that her faith was a gift from God, Ramima was able to track down an underground fellowship and connect with the family of secret believers.

Abdi Mohammed*, a graduate from a local Quranic School, felt convicted that something central was wrong. In his pursuit for the truth he decided to visit his uncle, a teacher at a Catholic school. “He would endlessly explain to me about Jesus and the Christian faith,” Abdi recalls. Three months later Abdi moved in with his uncle and before long he gave his life to the Lord. In 1995, one and a half years after his conversion, his uncle passed away. When the family discovered Christian books in his home they knew that Abdi’s uncle had been a Christian for a very long time. That night all the books were burned. “I then embarked on a long journey to find other Christians,” Abdi said. At first, finding secret believers was hard, but God eventually sent a man to him. This man would preach loudly on the streets about Christian principles. He was considered mentally sick so the authorities left him alone. One day, Abdi followed him home. Just before the man disappeared into a small building, Abdi said, “I am of your family”. At first the man did not respond, but after several attempts to start a conversation, Abdi succeeded. He told Abdi that he was not mentally handicapped, but that he used the disability condition as a cover to get in touch with other Christians. Together they built a network of fellowships with secret believers.

Father we thank You for these brothers and sisters and their enthusiasm to learn more about Jesus. Train and equip them so that they can share the gospel message with those in Somalia who are hungry for the truth. Protect them so that they are not discovered by those who wish to harm them. Provide for their every need including food, shelter and fellowship with other Christians. We also pray that the radio ministries will continue to be an effective tool to spread Your message and be a blessing Your flock. Father we are grateful for the small but faithful church in Somalia. And although the country is war-torn, may Your light continue to shine brighter and brighter in the days ahead ultimately making a way for Somali Christians to freely and openly worship You. Amen

*Psudonyms were used to protect their identities.

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