Somali Refugee Becomes Missionary in Residence
By Larry Hoop

Osman Jama and his twin brother, Mohammad, were born in 1988 in Mogadishu, Somalia, at that time the heart of peaceful culture. But in 1991, the Somali government collapsed, and the nation descended into a civil war. Early in the fighting, a bullet grazed Osman’s head while he played in a park. As the fighting continued, his family was given 30 days to leave their house. While packing, they could hear what his parents told him were “fireworks” — only later did he learn that they were gunshots fired at innocent Somali residents. His family made their way down the coast by boat to a refugee camp in Kenya. On the trip, the boat capsized, and his brother drowned.

After three months in the refugee camp, his family was able to come to the United States, eventually settling in Mankato, Minnesota. At age 6, Osman enrolled in Muslim school, where he began to memorize the Quran in Arabic, excelling to the point that after 10 years he was asked to teach younger students at his mosque. 

His high school lab partner, Adam Banfield, became his best friend. Adam, son of a Baptist pastor, invited him to the church’s youth group. After one particular meeting where Osman “corrected” the youth pastor about the lesson in Genesis 22 (the Quran says Ishmael, not Isaac, was to be offered by Abraham), he was given a Bible. He read through the Old Testament, marking the “mistakes” where it contradicted the Quran. But when he came to the gospels and read Jesus’ teachings, he started to question his own understanding of Christianity and his own beliefs. He began to meet with Adam’s dad, Dave, to seek answers to his questions. They met every Friday for three years. 

Osman found Pastor Dave to be very different from the imams in his mosque. When he questioned them, they always said, “Look in the Quran.” Pastor Dave wasn’t afraid to say “I don’t know,” and then help Osman to search out an answer to his questions. In August 2007, Osman dedicated his life to Christ. A few months later, his family found his baptismal certificate. Eventually, they disowned him.

While earning his bachelor’s degree, Osman sensed a calling to reach international students. He joined Cru, through which he led events and studies with students worldwide for three years. He now serves as missionary-in-residence at North Cincinnati Community Church, a PCA congregation in Mason, Ohio, and ministers through Global Service Network to encourage individuals and churches to welcome “the stranger.” He also partners with MNA’s Refugee and Immigrant Ministry as a church mobilizer.

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