Columbus, OH: A Somali Diaspora

It’s a cool, cloudy, crisp fall Saturday in Columbus, Ohio. The scenery is marked with a variety of vibrant-colored leaves that dot the trees. Classic Rock music and the smell of smoked meat permeate the air. The city is buzzing with large crowds of people covered in scarlet and gray. Chants of “O-H” are answered by “I-O.” It’s gameday, and the atmosphere is electric as fans prepare to go cheer for the home team. The Ohio State Buckeyes are once again in the thick of the race for the Big Ten Conference Championship and a spot in the College Football Playoff. 

But just down the road in Columbus sits a little East African market that goes unnoticed by many locals. It’s managed by a Somali Muslim woman named *Aamiina. Today is a slow day for business. *Sam, a Global Gates missionary, recognizes the moment as an opportunity to follow up on a recent spiritual conversation he had with Aamiina.

As Sam enters the shop, he is met by Aamiina’s quick smile and the traditional Islamic greeting, “Assalamu Alaykum (Peace be upon you.).” Sam said, “Walaikum Salaam (And unto you peace.).”

He is searching for an open door to engage her with the gospel. A couple of weeks ago Sam and Aamiina were talking about the Thanksgiving holiday, and she asked if he was Muslim. Sam said, “No, I follow Jesus.” This sparked Aamiina’s curiosity as she queried, “Oh, so is your family all Christian?” 

Sam told her some of his family members follow Jesus, but not all of them. “You weren’t born a Christian?,” she asked. Much to her shock, Sam said, “No, I actually met and came to know Jesus when I was in college. I chose to follow and believe in him. That’s when I became a Christian.” This blew her category of understanding for what it meant to be a Christian. 

He asked if she was religious. Aamiina told him that she fasts and prays, but has her questions. “I’m a black sheep in my family, and I always have been,” Aamiina said. As soon as those words left her mouth, a crowd of Somalis entered the shop, and the conversation came to a screeching halt as she went to tend to her customers. 

This exchange is far and away one of the most encouraging interactions Sam has had with a Somali since he and his family moved from the South up North to Columbus last spring to engage this untapped harvest field that is teeming with 45,000 Somalis according to UPGNorthAmerica.com.

Columbus is also home to a sizable Somali Bantu (5,000) community and about 12,000 Indian Hindi-speaking Hindus per UPGNorthAmerica.com. Sam has encountered several Fulani and Nepali people, too. One of the greatest endeavors Sam faces is getting the local church to see the opportunity in front of it. 

“You can run into a person from an unreached people group going to the grocery store,” Sam said. “They’re kind of spread out. You run into them in the regular rhythms of life.”

“With The Ohio State University and Columbus State Community College there’s a lot of college students from unreached people groups, and also a lot of college students to mobilize.”

Sam encourages prospective missionaries to consider joining him in reaching Somalis and other diaspora populations in Columbus. 

“It’s a great city,” Sam said. “It’s a great city for families. It’s a very liveable city. It’s more down to earth. It’s a great place where you can live a very normal life, and cross paths with a person from an unreached people group very easily.”

Visit us online at globalgates.info to learn more about Global Gates, and how you can join us in what God is doing among the nations in Columbus.

*Names changed for security reasons.