Saturday, October 27, 2007

Story from Somalia

It's LATE. And it's been a LONG day. I had three classes with two midterms from 9:00-2:00, worked an amazing night at Nightstrike from 5:00-10:00, and hung out with some friends afterward at Old Chicago from 10:00-1:00.

But my heart is urging, begging me, to tell this mans story.

Brian (There's another man's story that needs to be told!...But I'll save that for another time) and I were at Liberation Street Church around 5:30 getting things ready before volunteers started arriving for Nightstrike. I was in the back working with four of our new interns from Multnomah Bible College. Brian came running into the back and grabbed me, "I gotta introduce you to someone!". I half jogged trying to match Brian's excited stride. There was one man sitting in the middle of the room whom Brian introduced as Jamal. After quickly outlining the framework of his story I sat with Jamal for then next 15 minutes drilling him with questions.

Being born in Somalia, Jamal never had a choice to not be Muslim, but something never felt right - "such hate and obsession with power". Later in his life an underground missionary had developed a relationships through loving without expecting in return. Through the course of this relationship, he became intrigued with this man called Jesus, and these ideas of such sacrifice and incomprehensible love.

8 years ago Jamal became a persecuted Christian in Somalia.

After dedicating his life to Christ he was rejected and outcast from all of his family and friends. He was able to connect with an underground network of Christians whom he refers to as his brothers, his new family. But 3 years ago, Jamal's life had a drastic turn of events. His house, which he shared with a brother, was searched and their Bible was found. Without due process, without a legal hearing; he was thrown into jail.

Now Jamal was very adamant about his definition of "jail", this was not "prison". Prison is a place where you continue you live your life, granted within the confines of the premises, but a life all the same. A Jail is a 10 x 10 cement cell. A cell like that which Jamal spent the last 3 years of his life in. But God's plan for his life had another drastic turn of events in store.

In ways and by means completely unknown to Jamal, a Christian organization, that works to get Christians out of the worst persecuted countries in the world, found him. A man picked him and one other Christian up from the jail and the drove through Somalia into Kenya. What effort and what sacrifice went into his freedom is unknown. This trip entailed much planning and many bribes to armed militias. Once in Kenya these two waited for a month before word was given that one would be flying to Canada, and the other to United States.

Jamal arrived in Portland one week ago with all of his possessions on his back and a heart full of joy. He found a shelter with a bed to sleep in at night, and has spent his days roaming the streets of this foreign land.

On this particular evening he was walking down Burnside and saw "Jesus Christ" written on the window. He wandered in hoping to find "Church". Jamal wandered through doors that were open only because Brian and I had decided to get down there early to start setting up for Nightstrike.

Jamal has a bed to sleep on for the next week in Portland. I am arranging to meet up with him on my free time throughout this next week. Meanwhile we are trying to find him work and a place to stay until he can get on his feet. He said as soon as he gets his work permit (in the next month - pray sooner then later) he would like to work at one of the missions in Portland, though he would joyfully take any job he could get.

One of my favorite moments with Jamal was when I introduced him to the four Multnomah students. I told Jamal they go to a Christian Bible college here in Portland. His face was in utter amazement, scrambling to process the full impact of this concept, he finally managed to utter the words, "you are all so lucky". Some how those intangible words were transformed into a very real weight as they rolled off of Jamal's lips.

If all goes as planned, I will post more updated about Jamal in the upcoming weeks! Meanwhile, pray that God would continue to place people in his life to support and encourage him through this time of transition.


Sarah said...

That is an amazing story! I look forward to updates on Jamal.

Mirranda said...

That is really cool. :) Thanks for sharing despite your exhaustion.

MaryandLindy said...

Wow! God is so much bigger than us! Amazing that he worked all those circumstances together for Jamal. Awesome that you got to meet him. I am actually working on an e-mail for my hall to get them excited about coming out to nightstrike. Now I have another story to tell.