Alim, a former child soldier, now follows Jesus.

Anissa stems from generations of fierce rebel fighters, the eldest daughter of a rebel commander.

And this unlikely pair are married.

Their marriage was arranged before they graduated college, and its early years were plagued with constant disagreements. Anissa mocked her husband’s faith in Jesus, but she loved him and did not want him to be martyred.

Alim and Anissa live in Ummi, a town where Team Hope has been building bridges of trust through education, economic empowerment and community health for about 20 years. The residents of Ummi belong to an unreached people group of 1.4 million people, 99.9 percent of them Muslim.

Throughout our years of friendship, Anissa has consistently resisted the Word of God. She enjoys teaching, and has even taken pride in reading a Bible story at a community event, but genuine heart changes have never been visible — until now.

A big step forward

ummi-woman

The SEND team initially connected with women in Ummi, but the outreach has expanded over the years.

Our team held a free medical clinic in Anissa’s hometown, and the tangible care and love of Jesus impacted her deeply. After the clinic, we asked Anissa’s family if we could begin a Bible study together. She finally agreed.

Anissa has started sharing with her family members the stories of God from the Bible passages we study. She and her husband have entered into deeper conversations and planning for their family, based on what they have learned about God through the stories of Jacob and Joseph. She’s started to acknowledge her own sin and to recognize the consequences.

She’s even thinking beyond her own family — mentioning that a mutual friend of ours does not know about Jesus and should hear about him. We were surprised that she would make that connection, even though her own heart has not yet yielded to Jesus.

Bridges of trust

Anissa’s story demonstrates the significance of building bridges of trust into communities — even when those bridges are slow to erect. For years, Team Hope workers have engaged Ummi women, teaching them to craft and sell purses, scarves and other accessories to support their families. They have empowered these women, who have been denied access to education, by teaching them to read and write. They’ve traveled by foot from home to home, meeting felt needs and sharing Bible stories.

After two decades of this house-to-house approach, God has provided a plot of land in a central location of Ummi where we plan to build a community center, giving us a continual presence in the neighborhood.

The community center will include outdoor gathering spaces and safe rooms where women and children can gather for literacy and livelihood classes, public health education, parenting classes, values meetings, and other programs.

Most importantly, the Ummi Community Center will be a welcoming refuge for neighbors and friends like Anissa to come and have real, spiritual conversations and to discover Jesus through the stories in his Word.

As we wait for the completion of the community center, bridge-building efforts continue. We’ve recently held classes with the religious leaders and spouses of the women we work with, teaching organic farming and goat-raising principles and including Bible stories in the lessons. This is the biggest gathering of men we’ve ever seen in Ummi.

Please pray for Ummi — that men, women and entire families would come to know Jesus as Savior and share his Word with their extended families until the whole community of Ummi has heard!

To contribute financially to the Ummi Community Center project, please click here.

 

Learn more about the unreached