In South Africa many Somalis are the owners and operators of small shops called spazas. These little stores sell everyday items like cigarettes, candies, pop, and soap. These stores are in the poor townships of South Africa where the big box stores don’t go. Places like: Khayelitsha, Sterkstroom, Mapobane, and Dunoon.
Spazas are a main source for Somalis who are in South Africa legally but do not have work permits to get normal jobs: so many Somalis open up small convenience stores in the townships. But work there is dangerous. There are many robberies and death of spaza shop owners.
In fact, the South Africans have a name for such Somalis – they call the makwerekwere which means: you are a foreigner who just wants to make money in our country. And South African poor people get pretty angry at the financial success of the Somali spaza shops to the point where the spaza shops get robber, looted, burned to the ground, and their Somali owners are beaten or killed.
Don’t tell them where the money is
During these robberies the Somali owners will never tell the robbers where the money is hiding, where the safe is. The refuse to hand over their cash: these owners believe that not telling the robbers where the money is – is worth dying for.
“Don’t be afraid of what you are about to suffer. The devil will throw some of you into prison to test you. You will suffer for ten days. But if you remain faithful even when facing death, I will give you the crown of life.” – Revelation 2:10
Jesus also said:
“Therefore everyone who confesses Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven. “But whoever denies Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven.” – Matthew 10:32-33
Don’t deny Jesus
Jesus has given us eternal life through the forgiveness of our sins through His blood; and the new birth that comes through His Spirit. This all happened when we believed that Jesus died for our sins and accepted Him into our hearts.
Jesus only asks that we do not deny Him. He never said we have to tell everyone we meet about Him; He didn’t say we have to run up and down the streets shouting at the top of our lungs that we believe in Him. He said do not deny me.
That means that is someone asks you to your face: do you believe in Jesus; or if they ask: are you a Christian? Then dutifully we need to say we believe in Jesus. We cannot deny Him. But that does not mean we have to tell everyone about Jesus if they do not ask us directly.
Jesus said: “I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.” – Matthew 10:16
We have to be wise but we cannot deny Jesus.
The real thing
Another meaning for a spaza shop is “not the real thing”. Spaza shops are like imitation stores; they are small, in very poor neighbourhoods where houses are like tin cans. The very word spaza means an imitation of the real thing – and Somalis are willing to die for the shops; they are willing to die for something that is earthly and temporary; they are will to spill their blood instead of telling the robbers where the money is.
And we as Christians have the real thing: we have received eternal life and blessings for our soul in this world through the new birth and the Holy Spirit. We have something worth living for and worthy dying for. So we need to commit in our hearts that we will not deny Jesus and that we will live for Him.
May God grant us the power and the strength through the Holy Spirit to admit, acknowledge and tell our persecutors that we believe in Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour in our time of trouble and persecution.
In Revelation 19:10 it says: “I am a fellow servant with you and your brothers who hold to the testimony of Jesus. Worship God.” For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.”
Proclaiming the name of Jesus to someone who asks may very well bring suffering, persecution, or death to us. But we have something worth dying for and even if we die we will live forever. We will in fact never die because we have been given eternal life.
So be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the righteousness of God through the Holy Spirit and live for Christ. Seek the Lord while He may be found.
Look upon heavenly things
Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.” – Colossians 3:1-3
We have already died to this world and we are living in the world and kingdom of eternal life. We have the forgiveness of our sins and peace in our souls. Let us give thanks to God as we serve Him and proclaim His death until He comes. Amen.