Seeing Somali Christians display costly love and bold faith
By Kim Wilson, who traveled to Ethiopia with Faith that Works in June
“If we live, we live for Christ. If we die, we die for Christ.” Romans 14:8
Kim, second from right, with team in Horn of Africa
This verse was quoted casually as we walked alongside the Somali pastor who tirelessly shares the gospel with anyone willing to listen. This passionate, kind man is the linchpin of Faith that Works’ ministry to the Somali communities in Ethiopia. Having been schooled in the Quran as a young man, he once asked his teacher a question and was beaten for his inquisitiveness. His father also rebuked him, but he continued his search for truth. His search led him to the teachings of Jesus Christ, and he became a Christian, finding a safe place to stay in a church after leaving his home that did not accept Christianity.
It is hard to imagine how real the words of Romans 14:8 are to Somalis who commit their lives to Christ, especially the women who represent the least of the least in their culture. These women are often uneducated, poor, and ill prepared to lose everything when their families reject, or for some, try to kill them because of their belief in Christ. Where are they to go? How are they to feed themselves?
Two beautiful faces traveled with me in my mind when I came home from Ethiopia. One is an elegant lady with two small children we met in a Somali area of a large Ethiopian city. It is very rare that Westerners (they call us “fringies”) visit Somali homes. So it was with a sense of privilege that we sat on her low, embroidered sofa with our pastor serving as our interpreter. She told us a story not unlike a lot of stories from other former Muslims who have given their lives to Christ. Hardship and heartache have followed her path of faith. She lives somewhat sequestered out of fear for her children and herself. Her eyes, which were heavily made up and striking, spoke volumes. I will never forget her.
The other face I will never forget belongs to a woman we met at the Faith that Works women’s conference, held in the Somali Region of Ethiopia. I had heard some of her story from Faith that Works’ founder, Terri, who had met her at the annual conference the year before. At that time she did not have enough money to buy food. She was being fed and nurtured by her Bible study leader (who is now leading Faith that Works’ Somali women’s ministry). Once Terri learned of her needs, Faith that Works provided her with the funds to start her own business.
When I met this lady, she was full of joy and health. She and I climbed in the back of a van together to ride to the first night of this year’s conference. Even though we could not speak words of understanding, I pointed to a ring she wore and pantomimed that it was pretty. This pleased her and she immediately took it off and put it on me, much to my protests. Her face lit up. Then she proceeded to search through her purse and pulled out a bottle of perfume and began to dab it on my hair, face, and neck - even up my nose. It was with love that she anointed me, and after returning home, I could still smell the faint scent on my clothes as I unpacked. It brought tears to my eyes.
I left Ethiopia feeling loved, convicted, and eager to return. Loved because Ethiopians and Somalis are so welcoming and tender. Convicted because my faith, not being tested like theirs, seems anemic by comparison. And eager to once again see these women along with all those whose lives are on the margin and whose hope is in Christ alone. That we might all know their hope, their warmth, and their courage. That we might all be anointed with the Spirit of God, as with a fragrance that knows no boundaries or borders, that empowers us to pray the boldest of prayers and lead the bravest of lives.