A Conversation with the Chibok Fathers
I’m greeted by the warm air and blazing mid afternoon sun as I step off the plane in Jos, Nigeria. A short time later, I’m sitting down with the fathers of the kidnapped Chibok girls, hearing their stories firsthand.
A year and a half ago, 276 schoolgirls from Chibok, Nigeria, were kidnapped by Boko Haram. The story garnered international media attention and ignited the popular “Bring Back Our Girls” campaign.
Today, much of the media attention has faded – but the girls remain missing. And in the aftermath, their families struggle to survive.
The fathers of the girls share with me about the challenges of daily life in Chibok. The area remains isolated and incredibly dangerous. The families are still facing the risk of violence by Boko Haram, and each night the men of the village sleep outside their homes, seeking to protect their wives and children as the first line of defense against an attack.
The stress and agony they are living with is enormous, and I can see it on their faces. Each of these men lost a daughter more than a year ago, and today they wonder, “Where is she? Is she alive? What is happening to her?”
One father tells me, “Sometimes I can feel okay, when I am with my family or with my church, but when I am alone, it all comes back.”
He puts his head in his hands, saying softly through tears, “I miss her, I miss her, I miss her.”
He says that one thing he needs desperately right now is prayer, adding, “With prayer, everything is possible.”
For me, one particularly unforgettable moment unfolds as one of the Chibok fathers pulls me aside to tell me about the impact of Open Doors trauma counseling.
“This ministry has been calling us, counseling us, treating the women, giving us food, and ministering to us,” he says. “Not once, not twice, not three times, many times over.”
Open Doors is one of only a handful of organizations helping the Chibok families. The area where they live is remote and dangerous, and access is difficult. We’ve been privileged to be able to access these families, and provide them with practical supplies, trauma counseling, and even letters of encouragement from Open Doors supporters around the world.
Faced with a seemingly unending nightmare, I can see that these fathers are somehow, miraculously, confronting fear of the unknown with faith.
When asked, “Where do you think your daughter is?” one Chibok father has a simple answer. “She is in the Lord’s hand.”