Church without walls

Nicole James | United Kingdom

Casho* and Caaisho* don’t keep track of how many hours they work. In fact, they’re uncountable. “At home we’re working; [when we’re] out we’re working; in the bus we’re working; all the time some person wants to connect with us,” Casho said.

Why? Because the story of Jesus transforming their lives stands out among Somali people everywhere. Both born in Mogadishu as Muslims, Casho and Caaisho today are followers of Jesus, and they want everyone, especially Somalis, to know. “God has given us a desire and passion to share the good news with others,” Casho stated.

At an OM conference this year, the couple spent their breaks with earbuds plugged in, huddled over their phones, responding to the dozens of messages they receive daily from Somalis interested in the gospel of Jesus. After dinner one evening alone, they took four calls—two from Somalis who were saved after discovering their ministry and planned to get baptised the following year, and two from Somalis seeking truth.

Over the past couple of years, the couple have created a database of Christian Somali resources on their website, jidka janada (way to heaven). They film videos about various topics and questions that often come up in their discipleship conversations and post them online. “We know the questions. We always answer the questions from the Bible. We never talk about Islam; we just share the love of Christ and the Word of God. Faith comes by hearing the Word of Jesus,” Caaisho explained.

One of the videos they made was about divorce. “For the Somali people, it’s normal to divorce,” Caaisho said. “We made this topic, talking about [how] God wanted one man and one woman together forever, and [how] He hates divorce.”

In the video, which they posted on Facebook, Caaisho used the everyday example of a young Somali girl in her early 20s with four kids, each with a different dad. Within half an hour of posting the video, a Somali girl called her, crying. “Guess what?” she told Caaisho. “The person you were talking about is me.”

With three children from three different husbands, and a fourth on the way from yet another man, she grabbed onto Caaisho’s message: “I never hear [that] God hates divorce and God wants the family together. I want to be a follower of Christ. Can you pray with me?”

“She just watched that [video], and God changed her heart,” Caaisho said. “She’s still following Christ…She’s still loving the Lord and is a Christian, but her husband, not yet.”

Prepare for persecution

When possible, the two advise new Somali believers living in western countries to connect with local fellowships for further spiritual growth. But for those living in Muslim countries or Somalia itself, “we are their church,” Casho explained. “We disciple them through Skype, WhatsApp, email, different things…I say we have a church without walls.”

The same tools Casho and Caaisho use to disciple new believers — social media, messaging apps, the Internet — are also used to threaten and intimidate them. “Sometimes you don’t feel [persecution] physically, but psychologically you feel it. If you open Facebook or messenger, people will give you a threat and send you a [picture of a] knife or a weapon or a head cut off,” Casho said.

These virtual threats are reminders of the very real attacks they face on a regular basis. In Somalia, “if you convert to Christianity, the sentence is death,” Casho said. “Anyone who sees you can kill you because you convert to Christianity.” Although the couple now live in the West (having immigrated from Somalia with their families in the ‘90s), Somali religious authorities have still issued orders to shut them down.

“You know you are working for the Lord when you see arrows on your back. You are going a different way. Those arrows on your back, they are not from the enemy, they are from your own people because the enemy is in front of you,” Casho said.

As Casho and Caaisho disciple young Somali believers, they likewise prepare them to suffer for their faith. “This is not an easy way. It has consequences,” Casho stated. “The family will cut you off; some people will lose their jobs, especially living in Africa [or] working for Muslims… Not only that, even imams nowadays, they try to stop the wave of Christianity—they issue fatwa against Christians, especially those who are leading, those who are bold enough to come out on YouTube and social media. It is a dangerous way, very scary. …We trust in the Lord, but it is costly, and every day, we are carrying our cross.

Gathering for fellowship

Peter*, a long-term OM worker in Europe, who has championed a gospel movement among the Somali diaspora, encouraged an early believer to gather with other Somali Christians. Caaisho, the first believer in her family, initially connected with that believer as well as three other Somali believers in an Internet chatroom. But when she was invited to meet with them in person, she said no. “We were not trusting each other; we were using fake names,” she remembered.

That year, only Peter and three Somali believers met for face-to-face fellowship. Two years later, after continuing to develop the relationships online and building trust, Caaisho joined the annual meeting, where 10 Somali believers gathered. From the beginning, Peter encouraged them to lead the conference. “When we gather, it is our way. How we pray, how we worship, how we teach and preach, the Somali language—it’s a blessing from Peter,” Casho said.

“Peter 100 per cent supported us, and without him, we wouldn’t be here, him and his wife. We need each other, especially we need them,” Caaisho added. “We will call him and his wife, and they start praying straight away and encouraging us, giving us advice and wisdom and prophecy. They are a mom and dad for all Somali Christians.”

That support is vital, Casho explained: “When someone converted to Christianity as a Muslim, he loses his family, and he wants a new family, starting with us. Seeing each other personally, it is a wonderful thing.”

The annual gatherings, which started with three people, have dramatically expanded. “If we had a place, we could host 300-400 people,” Casho estimated. “Somalis are softening in their hearts now. They are fed up with Islam. They don’t have another way to follow God.”

Since 2015, Casho and Caaisho have partnered with OM to reach Somalis around the world. Everywhere they go, they have enemies—and they also find Somali believers. “We are seeing God’s hand in our ministry, in our family and in our people as well,” Casho said. “This time we live in is a historical time. God is building his church. Jesus is building his church among Somalis.”

Pray for Somali believers’ protection as they grow in faith and boldly share truth with their families and communities. Pray that the Spirit of the Lord touches more Somalis’ hearts. Pray for unity and love among Somali believers. Pray that God would raise more workers to share the good news with the Somalis.

*Name changed for security

Nicole is a world traveller and writer for OM International, based in the US. She’s passionate about partnering with believers to communicate the ways God is working across the globe. In her free time, you’ll find her biking, paddle boarding or curling up with coffee and a good book.

Published: Thursday, 28 February 2019
Credit: Nicole James
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About Features

Features take an in-depth look at life and ministry on the mission field. Here you’ll find stories of how God is changing lives through the work of OM, as well as stories describing the joy and challenge of serving God in missions.

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