Somalia, the country with one of the longest coastlines of any African nation, known for pirates and camels, also boasts a population that is over 99% Muslim, placing Somalia among the most Muslim nations in the world. Unique among those Muslim nations; however, is that fact that Somalia has had over forty percent of their population displaced in recent years due to the civil war in the 1990’s. They fled to refugee camps in Kenya, Ethiopia, and Yemen and have made their way to American states such as Minnesota, California, Georgia, Maine, and Washington. Virtually inaccessible prior to this displacement, Somali Muslims can now be found in many western countries and American cities, often in large numbers.
Over three thousand Somalis now call Lewiston, Maine home, and over ten thousand have made their way to San Diego. Even larger concentrations of Somali immigrants can be found in Seattle, Washington and Columbus, Ohio; however, the largest populations of Somalis in North America are in Toronto and the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul, both of which contain an estimated sixty- to eighty-thousand Somalis.
They come with a history of trauma, often struggling with depression from the war and the loss of so much. Many come with a radical faith; from environments in which Sharia law is strictly enforced. They come with large families, or what remains of them, and struggle to make sense of a new land. They come with little in terms of material or educational means, but they are here. They are here in numbers so significant that they demand our notice and attention.
In America, many Somali immigrants are faced with prejudice and cultural misunderstanding, because shortly after a large influx of Somali immigrants arrived in America, the World Trade Center was attacked by Muslim terrorists. Their strict adherence to Islam suddenly isolated them from the land and people in their new home. They have moved to a land rich with safety and freedom, but they find their hands empty to experiencing it fully because they are so withdrawn from the communities where they have settled. Although they are very close, perhaps closer than they have ever been before, they remain isolated from the larger American community and the chance to hear about a different way of life.
Only water in your hands can satisfy your thirst, or so says a Somali proverb.
But Jesus once told a foreign woman at a well that “whoever drinks from the water that I will give him will never get thirsty again– ever! In fact, the water I give him will become a well of water springing up within him for eternal life.” (John 4:14)
What if the water that we put into their hands was Living Water? What if God uprooted a nation and cast them into ours so that they could grasp Water that would never leave them thirsty again?
We need to go next door to the markets that seem foreign to us, to the neighbors who dress differently, and to families with different customs, and place water in their hands. The experience of many Somalis in America would be extraordinarily different if, instead of prejudice they were met with Love; instead of confusion, met with Truth; instead of isolation, met with Hospitality. Love, truth, hospitality in the Name of the only One who can provide the type of water that will never make thirsty again. Imagine this in the lives of people who come from a country where there are no church buildings, no legal protection for Christians, and no Christian holidays permitted to be celebrated. How satisfying would that water be for their thirst?
The opportunities to fill their hands with Living Water are endless, as they have arrived in America in great numbers with great need. They have come to our country, a country rich with opportunity and knowledge of the Gospel, as a people with empty hands; and they come, in the words of their own proverb, knowing that only full hands can satisfy.
They are still thirsty for Living Water… and only water in their hands can satisfy their thirst.
Who will put it there?