About 12 years ago, Ayaan, a Somali believer from the Horn of Africa, trusted Jesus with her life. She was just 19. When her Muslim family discovered her faith, they threw the young woman out onto the streets. She didn’t think she’d survive. But God has been faithful to her, sending provision through the hands and feet His Church, including Open Doors. One of our team workers visited the young woman who shared about recent attacks on her hometown that have forced her to flee and how God is using her situation to bring rest and build her faith.
When I arrive at Ayaan’s home, she is friendly and welcoming, as always. It’s the first time we’re meeting in this new undisclosed location that serves as a temporary refuge. She hugs me and invites me in.
“Thanks for coming, sister. It is so good to see you. After all that has happened, I needed someone to talk to.”
Escaping Death in the Horn of Africa
We can’t disclose the name of the town where Ayaan finds herself now. The region recently experienced horrific ethnic violence targeting Christians, including those from a Somali background. Many were killed. It forced Ayaan to relocate to this new place. Conditions are much better for her than at home, she says, but still intense. Life is difficult.
Since the unrest forced her to flee, Ayaan has had no way to earn an income, depending only on the support she receives from fellow Christians for her ministry. But the uncertainty she faces has not inhibited her generosity. She has prepared a scrumptious meal for me.
Between the four walls of her simple but immaculate apartment, and over a lunch of flatbread and stew (and fruit for dessert), we talk about the events back home.
“It was difficult—very horrible,” she says. “It was something that should not have happened.”
The attackers came to her house and stole some of her things, she says, but she escaped the violence.
“The Lord has kept me secure and protected me. I praise Him for that. The matter of the losses, I leave with Him.”
Following the attacks, Open Doors helped victims with emergency relief. Ayaan also received cookware, a mattress and a few other things. “You have come to us in our difficulty,” Aayan says. “Thank you so much for that. God bless you.”
Hymns of Hope
Her face lights up when I tell her that many people have been praying for her since our first visit.
“God bless them so much. In fact, this makes me feel like there is someone praying for me right now. It feels like someone is right beside me. The Bible says, ‘The prayer of the righteous does great in its work.’
“I am sure your prayers saved my life during the attacks! God has caused me to move here safely. It may very well be because of their intercession. May God bless everyone who has been praying for me.”
The attacks that necessitated her move have put (what she expects to be) a temporary halt to Ayaan’s youth ministry back home. She finds the interruption quite frustrating.
“There were so many things we planned to do with the youths of my church; but the conflict messed up everything. When I go back, I hope to continue teaching Somali songs to children and teach them how to respond to persecution and share their faith with their friends in school.”
Until then, she continues to attend Bible study. The lighter load is freeing her up to work on writing and recording new Somali hymns. Her latest work-in-progress: “He ascended to heaven, He will come back again with a lot of honor and glory.”
Like many persecuted believers, Aayan focuses on her hope in Christ and His return—the day when He will make all things new.
“The big message of the hymn is that Jesus will come back again! And everyone will know that there is no salvation without Him; Jesus is the true way,” she explains, smiling serenely. “And as He went, He shall return. The big message is for unbelievers. But also for me (as a reminder): He will come to take me with Him.”
A Missionary to Her People
Ayaan’s passion to share the gospel has only grown stronger.
“My desire is still to continue being a missionary to my own people, through song or through any opportunity I may get.”
Her heart longs for the day when Somali pastors, prophets and elders are established in the Church: “When will Somali Christians be able to worship and praise God in freedom? When will they have their own church? When will the message be preached everywhere and freely in their own language?
“The day I received Christ, was the day He favored me. Many do not get this chance to follow Him because these [truths from the gospel] are not revealed to them. They are in so many bad circumstances, yet when I tell them about Jesus, they only tease me about it. They do not understand. So I always remember how amazing it is that I have been brought out of that situation!”
Since our last meeting, it’s clear Ayaan has grown spiritually stronger.
“I am moving forward. I am more persistent in the faith. I am strengthened by the Word I study.”
And her relationship with her family has also seen drastic and surprising change. When her family first discovered her conversion, they forced her to leave the home. Her brother called her faith “Haram” (deserving of death). Their hearts have softened for the daughter and sister.
“When the attacks happened, my family was so concerned about me,” she says. “They would call me and say, ‘Take care of yourself. Fanatical Muslims might kill you; many people know that you are Christian.’ My family used to persecute me, but now they care about me. I call them often.”
Her request of the Church is continued prayer—again, like so many persecuted believers we meet. Their No. 1 request is always, “pray for us.” She is both thankful and passionate about seeing others trust Jesus.
“Please ask people to continue praying for me. Praise God for saving my soul. It is so amazing that He cares for me! Pray for me as I work on these hymns. There is a lot of work that still needs to be done.
“Also, pray for peace in the Horn of Africa. Pray for the Lord to reveal Himself to Muslims—unless God touches them they will not come to Him, even if the gospel is preached to them. A lot more people expect us to reach them. We kindly request you to continue to stand with us.”
“Thank you so much. God bless you, and I love you!”
All photos are from Somali-dominated regions of the Horn of Africa; the country cannot be identified for security reasons. Top photo is a representative image.
Even as persecuted Christians walk through the deadly flames of persecution currently raging throughout sub-Saharan Africa, our brothers and sisters are on fire for Jesus. Learn more about how you can support believers like Ayaan.