Amal's Story: Strength in SufferingThe Somali pastors we partner with in Ethiopia often tell us what they see happening is unprecedented. When we speak with them, they express their excitement at what God is doing within their largely Muslim Somali communities and tell stories of fellow Somalis coming to know and follow Christ. They share stories of struggles and persecution also, but their words contain an underlying joy at God’s work and faithfulness. Their stories are powerful, and though they come to us in the US from across an ocean, they are the stories of our brothers and sisters in Christ. The story of a woman in one of our Somali house churches illustrates some of the challenges and fellowship present in the Somali immigrant and refugee communities where our leaders live and serve. We met “Amal” when we visited our 5 Somali fellowships in Ethiopia in October. Amal is a Somali mother with a very thin frame and two daughters. When Amal began following Christ, her husband and family abandoned her, considering her an “infidel.” For the last ten years, Amal has been providing for her daughters on her own.
The days start early and end late for Amal. Each morning Amal rises early to prepare filled-pastries called sambusa and bon bolino and sell them in a nearby market. The process begins the night before when she purchases flour and works with her oldest daughter to make a dough for the pastries. Depending on the amount they are preparing, this process can last long into the night. In the morning Amal rises before her daughters wake, starts a small fire, and begins to boil oil to cook the sambusa and bon bolino. Once cooked, Amal wraps the pastries in cloth, and takes them straight away to the market to sell them.
The main market where Amal sells her cooking is an animal market near her home, and many of her customers are merchants there. One of the leaders in Amal’s fellowship shares that this market can be a dangerous place to work. The large animals can shift unexpectedly, at times crushing those caught between them. Generally no one takes responsibility for these accidents.
In the midst of these daily risks and challenges, Amal continues following Jesus, and her example has inspired and encouraged other Somali Christians in her community to persevere and live for Christ. As a Christian in a primarily Muslim Somali immigrant community, Amal encounters separation in many ways but has found encouragement in the fellowship of other Somali Christians in her city. One of the leaders in the fellowship visits Amal and other Somali Christians regularly and tells us that Amal is one of the strongest mothers he knows. Demonstrating the love, unity, and generosity present in the body of Christ, this leader has given to Amal out of his own small income. He shares her burden by holding her story in his heart, allowing it to spur him to continue growing in faith and love for others.
We carry Amal’s story and others with us as we continue our work of mobilizing leaders to share the gospel in practical, empowering ways among the Somali people in the Horn of Africa. In the midst of poverty, separations, and daily struggles, the gospel message of love is being lived out in powerful and beautiful ways in the house churches and communities where our leaders now serve in Ethiopia. We share the excitement of our Somali brothers and sisters as they see God moving hearts and changing lives, and we are grateful for all who partner with us in praying, giving, and going.
Embracing Others in Prayer
Prayer is at the heart of our outreaches, especially our global outreach among the Somali people in Ethiopia. In early 2014 we decided to form a prayer team that would pray for our trip to Ethiopia that summer. We wanted prayer to “go before us” in our work and be a source of strength for the US team members and our Somali leaders. The prayer team took the form of a weekly prayer chain. Each person on the prayer team committed to pray for one hour, one day a week. At the end of their hour, they would text or call the next person on the prayer chain to share thoughts, prayers, feelings, and prayer requests. The members of the prayer team did this for 12 weeks leading up to last summer’s trip.
We are currently in week five of our third prayer team since that first chain formed! Our Global Leadership Development volunteer, Cathy Westbury, leads the prayer chain, sending out a weekly email to team members with a theme for the week, suggested scripture readings, and news from our Somali leaders. Through her involvement in the prayer teams, Cathy has been a “pray-er” and also felt the impact of being embraced by others in prayer. She shares her experience and what it’s like to be a part of the prayer chain:
During our most recent trip to Ethiopia in October, our team was energized daily knowing that in addition to our friends and family that were praying for our efforts and safety, someone was praying for us very intentionally each day of our trip. It freed us to spend our time in deepening relationships with our Somali pastors and the members of their fellowships. The prayers back home in the US and the prayers we shared with our Somali friends helped us be fearless in building those relationships, and now our Somali brothers and sisters make us aware of their specific prayer concerns and struggles. Imagine their joy as refugees in a country where no one seems to care, but now they know we have someone praying for those very needs daily. They, in fact, also pray for us.
How does the prayer team work? We seek praying hearts. If you're looking for a non-threatening way to dip your toes into God's Great Commission, this might be the perfect opportunity. We have “prayer warriors” on the prayer chain and other team members just beginning to pray. We're all in it together, and we realize that God doesn't seek perfect pray-ers. He just wants our willingness to communicate with Him and get to know Him better. It's a great way to see how beautifully God is using Faith that Works to spread the good news of the gospel.
I’ve had team members tell me that being involved in the weekly chain focuses their prayer in a very personal way. Through prayer we can connect in a deep and powerful way with the lives and struggles of those for whom we pray. In the words of one prayer team member, "Intimate prayer leads you directly into the rawness and struggles of another and creates an immediate bond.”
If you are interested in joining a future prayer team, please contact Cathy at firstname.lastname@example.org.