The Word that will never return void
By AfriGO Team
By age 12, the young Somali boy had learned the whole Qur’an. He committed long portions of it to memory in Arabic, a language he did not understand. At age 18, he went to live with his uncle in the capital city, Muqdisho (Mogadishu). One day he found a book on his uncle’s shelf titled, “The Holy Book”. Thinking it was the Qur’an translated into Somali, he began to read. To his shock, he discovered this book, the Bible, belonged to a different faith and that his uncle followed Jesus Christ. He asked Allah to forgive him for touching and reading the “unbeliever’s book”. Yet something drew him.
“I continued to read it,” he says. “I felt this was the original and complete Word of God. As I read the New Testament, the personality and the message of Jesus Christ touched my heart. As a Muslim, I worshipped Allah out of fear, but through Jesus, God is my Father who loves me more than an earthly father.”
He began to compare the preaching of the imam in the mosque with the Bible, and the preaching fell short. In Islam, doubting means you are out of the faith and will go to hell, so he pleaded with God to lead him to the truth.
After about two years of Bible reading, God removed all doubts, and Abdi believed fully in Jesus as “the way, the truth and the life” (John 14:6). He had slowly become a Christian! Finally, he took courage to ask his uncle to go to his church. He joined a small Protestant fellowship in Mogadishu of about 20 members, where he was discipled and baptized in 1989.
Thirty years later, Abdi Duale and wife Kawser Omar are missionaries with SIM reaching out to Somali people all around the world using a variety of online platforms.
Abdi says, “I praise God not only for saving me but also for sending me back to Africa together with my wife to tell of His great love through Jesus Christ to the Somali people. God’s Word is indeed powerful. As we reach out to Muslims using different mediums of communication, our aim is to point them to the Word of God – it will never come back void.”
A LOOK BACK
The saying goes that “to be Somali is to be Muslim”. Islam arrived in the eighth century, and today nearly all Somalis practice Sunni Islam. Christian missions work began in the 1880s but has faced many challenges. The full Bible is available in Somali, yet less than one per cent are Christians. They are strongly self-sufficient, resist change and exert social pressure on those who dare to follow Christ.
Civil war began in 1978 and by 1991, Somalia was declared a “failed state”. Many Christians were killed, including Abdi’s uncle. Somaliland broke away and remains largely peaceful, while Somalia has suffered extreme violence and famine. Over one-third of the territory is controlled by the group, al-Shabaab. The war also led to a global diaspora, with millions of Somalis living outside their homeland.
NEW LIFE MEDIA
Just as Abdi happened upon a book on his uncle’s shelf, the ministry of New Life Media aims to provide opportunities for Somalis to find the Bible as they search websites and social media.
Started in 1972 as The Voice of New Life shortwave radio broadcast, the ministry expanded in 2006 to the New Life website, and by 2014 to Facebook and YouTube. These platforms give people access to God’s truth in the privacy of their homes. Christians can witness boldly without the dangers of doing so publicly or in person.
Social media content includes many Bible memes, with URLs leading to the verse and chapter in the Bible. Christian music in Somali is also posted. A recent video of a hymn about persecution, Kan ii dudayaa yeelkii (I don’t care about the one who troubles me), drew over 210,000 views.
A video series called “God’s Word and Somali Proverbs” recently posted an episode which critiqued the fatalistic view that change of character is impossible. It drew nearly half a million views.
Audience interaction is high, and the goal of all content is to achieve one-on-one contact with individuals who want to learn more.
New Life reports that one Somali in Scandinavia wrote to them: “I am searching for the true God of mercy, whose followers love peace.” He was linked with church members in his neighbourhood. (Please pray for his friendship with local Christians and for him and his family to follow Jesus Christ.)
Abdi says that for those who do follow Jesus, most will take years to tell anyone about it, if at all. He adds, “They are hostages to the culture.”
Abdi and Kawser face threats, which Abdi calls “normal”. These come as comments on memes and videos posted on social media. Both their families have rejected them since they turned to faith decades ago.
SOMALI GOSPEL TV
In 2020, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed called for a time of national prayer. Abdi and Kawser were invited to present a programme in Somali which aired widely on national TV on May 10. A second worship time was broadcast on June 21.
Michael Madany, director of New Life Media, said, “Join us in praising God for this unprecedented development. As far as we know, this is the first time that a Christian programme in the Somali language has been broadcast by a national TV station.”
Since then, through a partnership between SIM and the Horn of Africa Evangelical Mission, more programmes have been produced for broadcast via an Ethiopian evangelical satellite TV channel. In this way, Somali Gospel TV was born in 2021.
Currently Abdi’s programme airs every Friday afternoon, coinciding with the call to prayer. Then a link connects listeners online.
Despite huge obstacles to traditional evangelism and church-planting among Somalis, new digital pathways are carrying the Living Word of God into the homes and hearts of people who are not forgotten by our Lord. Faithful witnesses such as Abdi, Kawser, and their team are staking their lives on the promise that the Word shall accomplish what God pleases and shall prosper in what He sent it to do (Is. 55:11)!
- For more harvest workers and for Christians to pray and reach out to Somali diaspora near them.
- For physical, spiritual and mental protection for believers and ministry workers.
- For discernment when challenging spiritual strongholds.
- Praise for a record number of people studying through the online course, One God, One Way.
- For all involved with New Life Media and Somali Gospel TV in production, social media, and audience follow-up.
Do you have skills in web management, video editing, or social media? Then you can help to further the gospel among this unreached group. Please contact email@example.com.
Read about Kawser Omar in this past AfriGO article: “Social media enables discipleship among least-reached women”: https://bit.ly/3fFpqB8
New Life website: https://noloshacusub.com/
Somali worship service on Ethiopian TV: https://youtu.be/VfvYHmWIM0o
Testimony of a Somali
“Greetings in our Lord Jesus Christ’s name, from whom I have received salvation, grace and eternal life. Being a Christian has brought me much trouble. My wife and five children left me when I said I could not renounce my faith in Christ. After all, there is salvation in no one else. I was sentenced to prison for 20 months, although I was released after only six months. No person made me a Christian; that was the work of God. I had never seen another Christian; however, I had downloaded the Somali Bible onto my mobile phone. I am not well educated, and I work as a manual labourer. I can read and write in Somali, since I completed third grade before the war began in 1988. I have been a Christian for six years, and I am still new with Facebook. My first cell phone was very small and had only Google, yet I downloaded the Bible. I have read most of it from Genesis to Revelation. I thank the Lord who delivered me from
darkness, ignorance and the shadow of death. I am visiting every Somali website that proclaims God’s Gospel.”
photo at top of page by AIMStories
“Greetings in our Lord Jesus Christ’s name, from whom I have received salvation, grace and eternal life. Being a Christian has brought me much trouble. My wife and five children left me when I said I could not renounce my faith in Christ. After all, there is salvation in no one else. I was sentenced to prison for 20 months, although I was released after only six months. No person made me a Christian; that was the work of God. I had never seen another Christian; however, I had downloaded the Somali Bible onto my mobile phone. I am not well-educated, and I work as a manual labourer. I can read and write in Somali, since I completed third grade before the war began in 1988. I have been a Christian for six years, and I am still new with Facebook. My first cell phone was very small and had only Google, yet I downloaded the Bible. I have read most of it from Genesis to Revelation. I thank the Lord who delivered me from darkness, ignorance and the shadow of death. I am visiting every Somali website that proclaims God’s gospel.”