As I was striding along the street in Nairobi with my brother Mohamed I felt a hand on my shoulder and someone say, “hey boss” I ignore it as I am frequently called to as “rafiki” friend or Papa or kaka, from people that want to introduce themselves and eventually ask, me for money. But this hand persisted and then I saw Mohamed stop and begin to engage another person.
The hand on my shoulder became firm, I turned to see some sort of government identification from the government but just like in America, it was flashed so fast I could not read it. This is a sure sign they don’t care if you can read it or not, but if they are asked in court after an altercation if they identified themselves they can say yes. It is not for me, it is for them.
I am asked who I am where I am going and what I am doing. My passport is demanded and it just occurred to me I never asked Mohamed what to do in this circumstance. It is my first time to meet with the persecuted. I don’t even know if I have any rights to refuse to answer or question their authority in stopping me. I glance over at my brother Mohamed and see him answering questions directly and with great confidence. He seems to almost be leaning into the officer questioning him, and announces he is a Christian. Then it occurs to me it is most likely that they really want to know what I am doing with an Ethiopian or Somali. We are near the area that was bombed just last month by radicals. And Mohamed fits the profile. I am merely a curiosity. He may be a suspect.
This is normal for Mohamed, he has been arrested and his house taken in his home country. He was beaten after a meeting where he preached in a crusade and many Muslims came to Christ. He was in the hospital for a week afterwards. So why is he leaning into the officer and proclaiming his Christianity? They are looking for terrorist and he must ascertain he is a Christian or he could very well be taken in for lengthy questioning. I tell them I am a missionary and he is helping me and that really helps. After a while they are satisfied. They are not the threat. It is still yet to come.
It is Tuesday. That is normally evangelism day. But I have thrown the schedule off. The week usually goes something like this.
Sunday, lay low and relax. Stay in, as that is the day “normal” Christians go to church. Monday is Sunday here. Known and trusted believers meet for “church”. No one carries a bible. They are all refugees from persecution. They are all targets for radicals. And they are all radically committed to Jesus, and reaching the Muslim world for His glory. They meet in a rented apartment. They sing quietly. They whisper the songs. Mohamed has scripture written on a scrap of paper and will share his teachings and sermons from memory. They will linger in fellowship. They will stagger their leaving just like they staggered their arrival. Not everyone could make it. Some may have been followed so they simply go to market or stay on the bus till the next stop and then return home.
Tuesday is evangelism day. All believers take this day to go and witness to Muslims one to one. Muslims are afraid to talk about Jesus in front of other Muslims as they might be informed on. Mohamed targets Imams and intellectuals. This is very dangerous work.
On Wednesdays all believers meet again for two hours of bible study. This time they have their bibles and meet mostly in small groups. Thursday is a day of inviting those seekers and new believers to fellowship. This is when things are dangerous. If a Muslim radical is pretending and the brothers and sisters don’t discern it there will be a price to be paid. Mohamed tells me if he dies he dies. They all understand this is a risk and nothing can be done about it. Not all can handle this pressure. Mohamed’s own wife was kidnapped and threatened and fled from Mohamed leaving him with three children. I am afraid that I can’t tell you anymore about that without endangering my brother. Friday is just like Tuesday. Saturday is a day of rest.
We arrive at a restaurant after traveling though horrible slum like conditions and putrid smells from the wet black streets. We sit with our backs to a wall in the corner and Mohamed surveys the room. It is dim but clean. He points out two men that appear to him to be Afghans and he does not like their looks. We wait. He will not give the signal for the others till he is comfortable with this location. If he is not we will move. We all remain flexible. After about 15 minutes they each order a beer and take a drink. Ibrahim relaxes. Radicals here would never take a drink in public. He sends a text or two and then makes a call. Almost instantly one person enters and later another. There were to be yet another but they caught the next bus and went home. Something did not feel right to them.
One young lady sits down with us. I am there to give them the news that the money that was given last month and earmarked for them is here with me. They can barely contain their joy. Many Somalis and Ethiopians that come to Christ have their homes taken immediately and can be killed. They leave their homes with nothing and come to other countries but the radicals try to find them or alert others to look for them. These believers had no place to live until you gave to provide them housing. The local Christian community of refugees will supply the food. Since they are refugees, others won’t hire them but they can start a business. We will try to get brothers to help. The goal is to get them self-sufficient in four to six months. This is incredibly hard to do with many children. I share the names of those who gave and they tell me to tell those that gave, that they love them. I am certain that these believers will be praying for their supporting brothers and sisters faithfully.
The young lady tells of a story she witnessed in her village. A Christian man was being beaten badly and the intention was to kill him. Finally, the attackers pinned him to the ground and poured gasoline on the man. Another woman burst through the crowd before the radicals could produce a match and with her baby strapped to her back she laid down on the man and shouted that if they were going to burn him they would have to burn her alive with her baby too. She could not be moved. Finally, they relented and left the man and woman alone.
We left an hour later together and were going to get a cup of coffee. However, things did not seem right again to the believers. As we walked the women would duck into alleys and change their head covering, first to the style of the Oromo tribe of the Ethiopians when in their area and then in the Muslim style when we entered the Arab area. Then back again. Finally, the women announced they could not continue with us and as we pretended to go into a restaurant they snuck out a back door and we exited the front. We did have our coffee and then walked a brother home. They got onto me for eating some food from a street vender. Hey, I love fresh pineapple. They reminded me that in this refugee area over 40% of the people KNEW they had aids and TB, there was no telling the real number. Besides they said we are walking in open sewage. I still wolfed it down and man it was good.
I could tell you stories like this all day. Instead I will tell you thank you. Thank you for allowing me to represent you and your determination to stand by your brothers and sisters in Christ. I am you. When I go to love the least of these, you are there. When I hand them money for food and shelter, you are handing the money with me. On judgment day Jesus will say, “when I was hungry you fed me, when I was in prison you visited me, when I was naked you clothed me. Enter in to the joy of the Lord, my good and faithful servant.” And he will be speaking to you.