Escape from a Boko Haram Camp
*Representative photo used to protect identity
Surrounded by hundreds of armed terrorists and threatened to be ‘slaughtered like an animal’, 37-year-old mother of three Rahila found herself in the dark shadow of death when she was captured by Boko Haram insurgents. Her courageous faith and subsequent miraculous deliverance are a living testimony of God’s power.
In the town of Dutsen Kura in northeastern Nigeria, Rahila had boarded a public bus. She was the only Christian in a group of about ten Muslim passengers. They had barely commenced their journey when an armed group of young jihadists blocked the road.
Upon seeing them, Rahila began to chant: “Blood of Jesus, blood of Jesus.” One of the fellow travelers urged her on, believing Jesus would save them all from the jaws of death!
The bus driver wanted to make a detour, but Rahila told him the insurgents would only open fire on them. All they could do was stop.
The terrorists caught up with them and ordered the passengers out of the bus. Rahila was terrified and continued to call on the name of Jesus. This made the jihadists laugh and ask whether she was a Christian. She boldly answered, “Yes, I am.”
The terrorists wanted to know if there were any police officers or teachers among the travelers. When they couldn’t find any, they let all the other travelers go but forced Rahila back onto the bus. They told her that they were taking her to the forest where she would be doing Aiken Allah (Allah’s work).
She pleaded with them to let her go, because she had three little children who were all dependent on her for survival ever since her husband went missing in the incessant Boko Haram attacks. They were not interested in listening to her pleas and continued to drive deeper into the forest.
When they arrived at the camp, Rahila saw a fearful sight. “I almost fainted when I saw the hundreds of people including men, women, and children all armed. Some of the children were dragging their weapons because they were too heavy for them to carry.”
After her arrival, she was shown to a tent in another part of the camp and told to go in. But when she refused, a man emerged and tried to force her into the tent with him, likely to rape her. But she continued to resist even when he threatened to “slaughter her like an animal”.
By the providence of God, another leader stepped in and promised to take her aside and get her to renounce Christ. Rahila remained defiant and continued to publicly show her faith in Christ by kneeling in prayer and calling on Jesus to either rescue her or give her the grace to die while standing firm in the faith.
Rahila’s room was becoming a sanctuary for her and a place where she could commune freely with Jesus. But her defiance was wearing out her captors’ patience.
One morning, Rahila was taken to another tent within the camp and told that she was to be the wife of the man inside following meetings with the Boko Haram leaders a few days later. Rahila told him she didn’t accept his proposal, but when he threatened her, she realized it would be best to play along.
When the man left for the said meeting a few days later, Rahila had an idea. She found one of the man’s other wives and appealed to her to have compassion. She told the woman she was so worried about her three children and that she was willing to fetch them and bring them back to the camp to be with her. To Rahila’s utter surprise, the woman had compassion on her and promised to discuss it with her husband. Astonishingly, he agreed to let her fetch them, but only if she promised to return to the camp within two days. Before he allowed her to go, he forced her to eat Debino dates, which Boko Haram always serve to new initiates.
Then he told a motorcycle driver and some soldiers to take Rahila to the edge of the forest. He even offered to give her travel money, since she was now his responsibility.
They started the journey that evening. At about 2 am, the motorcycle driver dropped her off under a tree with directions on how to get out of the forest. Rahila spent the rest of the night napping under a tree before starting her trek.
After many hours of trekking, Rahila came across a Muslim household. Unsure how they would respond to her and fearful of giving them too much information, she told them that she had been separated from her children in an attack. The Lord granted her favor, and they sympathetically took her to where she could catch a bus.
Rahila was very thankful for her escape, but she was still in trouble. Something she had been given to eat was making her very sick and she suspected that it was the Debino. It was poisonous, and she needed a blood transfusion right away.
For Rahila, the thought of escaping only to die of the poisoning was heartbreaking. Thankfully, a few days after her escape, Open Doors met her in a displaced peoples’ camp and was able to help her get good medical care. Physically, she is doing much better. Open Doors is staying in close contact with her to help her process the trauma of her experience, too.
We rejoice with Rahila for the Lord’s deliverance, but cannot help but remember that thousands of other women, men, and children remain trapped in Boko Haram camps. We continue to pray for the Lord to bring deliverance for them, too.