There was a day when not long ago when Christian farming communities in northeastern Nigeria were self-reliant. But the violent rise of an extremist group that is located primarily in Northern Nigeria has changed all that.
One local family’s farm was big and productive enough to provide for all their needs and even give work to others. When an extremist group that is located primarily in Northern Nigeria attacked the village, militants set the property and family home on fire. Sadly, the father was still inside and he eventually died from the injuries he suffered.
As the oldest of seven, responsibility for providing for the family fell to their daughter, Rhoda. “Life has not been easy for us. Things are very, very difficult now,” Rhoda acknowledges. After the fire, the family wasn’t given time to grieve. They had to quickly move away from the village and settled in a larger town nearby, where they began searching for a way to survive.
Over time, the family’s food supply food became scarcer and scarcer. “Some organizations did bring help to people,” Rhoda recalls, “but the Muslims just shared it among themselves.”
Thankfully, help was on the way however.
With the help of the local church, Open Doors identified the most desperate of families to help with at least two months of food aid. Rhoda’s family was among them.
Distribution Sites Supported By Open Doors
At a distribution site in Yobe, she falls in line with thousands of other tired and desperate men and women who wait to receive their designated portion: 100kg of maize, 50kg of beans, and financial assistance to pay for other living costs.
Each of these distribution centers is a massive operation. Staff and volunteers take care of the logistics and organization, transporting and organizing bags of food to make them ready for distribution. Security personnel scan the crowds for suspicious people that might be associated with an extremist group that is located primarily in Northern Nigeria who are known to infiltrate sites like these to cause even further destruction.
But the challenge is not only from outside. Despite being assured there is enough for everyone present, people often become paranoid that the rations will run out and they will be left empty handed. The doubts are contagious and regularly lead to pushing and shoving.
But thankfully the wait does not last forever and Rhoda eventually finds herself at the front of the queue to receive her family’s share. The emotions of this situation are so intense that words get stuck in her throat. But gratitude is written over her face as she signs for the food with tears running down her cheeks. She hugs the nearest worker warmly and then accompanies the young volunteer who offered to drag the heavy load they put on a cart through the dusty streets to her home.
Despite Her Circumstances, Rhoda Is Grateful
Once back at home, Rhoda immediately grabs some kindling she keeps at the fence and starts the fire to get a meal going. She and her sister take turns fanning the flames, hurrying the beans and maize. This is the best meal they have had in a long time.
With her eyes fixed on the fire as it sends its plume of smoke into the sky, Rhoda can speak more easily about what this aid means to her. “When God says: ‘Never will I leave you nor forsake you,’ He was talking to me. Who am I that you send help to me? I am speechless. You are indeed angels sent by God to wipe my tears away.”
The relief aid helped Rhoda take a long and hard look at her own heart. “It is true that even in the heat of the crisis, gunshots and persecution Christians could still show love to unbelievers. But I hated Muslims and swore never to help them even if they are at the point of death because they always deny us any support. But this support I received through OD is unconditional and it has helped me to alter my previous hatred for Muslims. I have now found a new perspective.”
How to Pray for Christians in Nigeria
While some find help through organizations like Open Doors, Christians like Rhoda face persistent exclusion from aid, which leads to malnutrition, anxiety, and sometimes depression. Many feel demoralized, forced to be beggars in their own homeland. However, thanks to the generous support of readers, Open Doors has been able to provide relief aid to 15,000 desperate families in this area.
Open Doors invites readers to pray for the morale of families like Rhodas. Ask God to provide not only food and security, but a means to earn money and reclaim their place as productive members of society. If you’d like updates on incidents in Nigeria and other places that are hostile to Christianity, you can also click here to get emails sent directly to your inbox.