By Anna Deckert — originally published in Mission Network News
In many countries, nationality and religion are practically synonymous. This is especially true for Somalis.
Todd Nettleton, Chief of Media Relations and Message Integration for Voice of the Martyrs, recently interviewed Ibrahim, one of the first ethnic Somalis to come to Christ in Kenya.
Nettleton explains that Ibrahim’s story is important for the international church to hear. “But also for the Somali community. We want to tell his story to people who believe that to be a Somali is to absolutely be a Muslim [and that] there’s no other choice. Ibrahim’s story illustrates the fact that no, there is a choice; you can be Somali and also be a follower of Jesus Christ.”
A Preacher and the Koran
Ibrahim first encountered Christ during a Christian Worker’s rally in 1969.
“Ibrahim was actually a policeman in Kenya. He was assigned to go to this large gathering, where a lot of people had gathered and a Christian missionary was speaking. As he spoke, he read a passage from the Bible. It was actually a passage from the Old Testament, and Ibrahim recognized this – it was actually a passage that was echoed in the Koran.”
Suddenly he was filled with questions. Christians are supposed to be very different to Muslims. They shouldn’t be preaching from the Koran.
Ibrahim needed answers. He sought out a pastor friend of his who could explain why this passage was similar. He opened up the Bible and showed Ibrahim the whole story.
“That was the start of Ibrahim coming to Christ because he thought, ‘If the Koran just echoes what is already in the Bible, I don’t want to read the copy, I want to read the original. I’m going to go back and study the Bible,” Nettleton says.
Transformed and renewed
God worked in Ibrahim to bring him to faith soon after that day. Since then, Ibrahim has worked with Somalis in Kenya and other Kenyans to plant 22 churches.
And remarkably, the man who sparked Ibrahim’s curiosity and search for God probably never knew it. Ibrahim said that he never contacted the Christian worker or interacted with him.
This serves as a powerful reminder that God works in many ways to accomplish His plans.
“We don’t know the impact that our words are having,” Nettleton says. “We don’t know the people who are watching us or listening to us, and maybe we won’t ever know until we get to heaven. But Ibrahim was dramatically impacted by that missionary that day.”
Join the story
Ibrahim’s story also serves as a call to pray for ethnic Somalis.
Ibrahim did not have an easy life after God called him to follow Christ. People were angry and confused that he would forsake his heritage to become a Christian. Nettleton encourages believers to intercede for Somalis.
“Pray for the Somali people. Ibrahim himself went through a lot of persecution when he became a follower of Christ, even in Kenya, even in a free country. But amongst the Somali people he endured great persecution. Let’s pray for the Somali people in Somalia as well as in Kenya, as well as in some of the other surrounding countries, that the spirit of God would move among them and that there would be a revival among the Somali people.”
In addition, you can join VOM through giving and committing to prayer. Visit icommittopray.com to join the VOM prayer team and learn more about those facing persecution around the world.
You can also sign up for the VOM newsletter and hear more of Ibrahim’s story when it is published in both English and Somali in early 2020.