Sixty women from sixteen countries journeying on the misty eastern edge of Nairobi. Sixty women of Africa, coming to learn and grow, seek and find, reach out and be touched. From Uganda and Nigeria, Tanzania and Ethiopia; Somalis and Kenyans, Congolese and Malians converged for a journey to “together.”
Nothing quite like this has ever been done before, just for women. Missions conferences and consultations on Muslim ministry proliferate the globe. But this—this was different. This was a journey of women in ministry, telling their stories, learning the issues, sharing heartbreak and hope. These passionate Africans, called to sacrifice and serve, found something very precious on this Kenyan plateau: a vision for the Kingdom they work to bring on earth. These sisters, strangers to one another on Monday, had traveled to a place of understanding and mutual compassion by Friday.
Each day Nicole led us down the path to awareness of pitfalls in reaching out to Muslims. Reviewing the history of Islam on this continent, she pursued the aftermath of the Arab Spring and what it means to us who belong to the Kingdom of Heaven. Her gentle reminders of the various strands of Islam, as well as its leeching tentacles, brought us to our knees in compassion for our Muslim sisters. Jihad, which we associate with terror, has many guises such as economic and bureaucratic. But the one which touched our hearts most deeply and set the tone for “serving in hostile environments” was gender jihad.
Papers were read and discussion was lively. Samira of “Women Arise” told a harrowing testimony of the psychological wounds of physical mutilation (FGM) and God’s redemption of this in her life. Lucy shared insights from her holistic ministry which uses a woman’s life cycle to raise self awareness and provide opportunities for witness. Rose presented some of the difficulties of helping new believers and the toll on the local missionaries. Her “Spring Flowers of Somalia” left this question in our hearts: how ready is the Church for this harvest? Pauline’s workshop on holistic convert care brought many questions to the surface about how to best walk alongside MBBs and empower without dependency creeping in.
Our Journey was a week of stories; mealtimes included the soul food of women sharing their lives and realities to listeners with ready hearts. Happiness told of the work she and her husband started which now sends out teams to unreached people. Cecilia described 28 days of darkness, incarcerated and interrogated for teaching children about Jesus. Her cellmate was a demon possessed woman who could only be restrained by four men. But Cecilia, temple of the Holy Spirit, brought this woman into the Light although they saw no day in their prison. Marta and Fem’s stories of coming out of Muslim families both reminded us of the cost Muslims pay to live free in Jesus.
The worship hymns above all reflected the rustic simplicity. To God be the Glory, Standing on the Promises, and I Know Whom I Have Believed—sung from our hearts, tears flowing and hands outstretched, hymnbooks not needed here. The words are already part of our journey.