Finding Healing in Nigeria: ‘For the first time since the attacks, she sang and danced’

June 17, 2019 by Lindy Lowry in Africa

“I learned about the wounds of the heart. When you have lost your loved ones, what you go through and how you get healed from those wounds.” –Margret, survivor of a Fulani militant herdsmen attack on her village finding healing in Nigeria

If I hadn’t attended this program, I don’t know how my life would have been. I have seen the love of God.” Aisha, survivor of sexual violence in Nigeria

“All my trauma has left me. I am healed now. My life has become normal as it used to be because I got peace of mind.” –Rebecca, also an attack survivor.

They are the stories of healing from open wounds and deep scars. And they are coming from one place–the new trauma care center Open Doors recently built in northern Nigeria. Here in The Shalom Center, persecuted and traumatized believers like Margret, Aisha and Rebecca have discovered a safe place and community where they are finding both emotional and spiritual healing in Nigeria.

Rauta, the center’s hired staff counselor explains: “When the center started, we expected people to come and find healing and peace in their hearts from the trauma they have experienced.”

Watch what’s taking place at The Shalom Center.


Every year, Open doors provides trauma care training to 2,000 to 3,000 Nigerians in churches close to where they live. But sometimes the trauma is so severe that survivors need to receive care in a secluded environment, away from their homes. That’s the purpose of this new trauma care center as believers find healing in Nigeria.

The Shalom Center opened its doors on March 1 and has already put its purpose into action, serving both women and men. Peter* is one of the church leaders who recently came to the center to be trained in trauma response. What he didn’t realize was his own need for healing.  

“My encounter with [the course] broke me right from the first day,” he says. “My whole traumatic timeline was right before me—all laid out. I was able to make sense of how trauma has affected different areas of my life.

“Suddenly, I saw Scripture in new light, clearly indicating how God understands my pain and brokenness and how He has been in my situation. I saw how God sees me. He understands it and offers hope and healing. The course led me and my brokenness straight to the foot of the cross.

“I’m willing more than ever to be made whole.” 

The Healing Power of Community

At the center, all activities center around community, doing things together: eating breakfast, doing devotions, attending training sessions, enjoying tea breaks, gathering for meals, taking part in prayer time, enjoying free time and even helping to keep the environment clean.

A look inside the center reveals 10 bedrooms, counseling offices and a kitchen/dining area. Five staff members (a cook, three security men and a trauma counselor) are helped by able and committed volunteers who do counseling and other jobs to keep the center running.

“This includes making sure that all are cared for emotionally and are trained, have a bed to sleep in, are fed, and have all necessities from soap to tissues to make them comfortable during their stay,” says Rauta, the team counselor.

Preparing to Welcome Survivors

In its first few weeks, the trauma care center initiated several trainings to help prepare the team to welcome survivors of attacks:

A caregivers/facilitators retreat. The goal of this gathering was orientation for volunteers and to experiment with what life at the center would be like.

Training of Trainers (TOT) for theological institutions and the same for lecturers and other workers from selected theological institutions in northern Nigeria. Fifteen institutions were represented and even returned in May to lead another session on classic trauma healing. They’re teaching trainers to refer survivors from the field to the center. And when survivors return home, these trainers will be there to receive them and offer continuous care and support. 

Trauma Response (TR1) for church leaders. The course educates pastors and church leaders, helping them learn to identify their personal trauma, seek healing and get equipped to help others. Most participants said that prior to the workshop, they were not aware of their own personal trauma.

Mourning Into Dancing

Over the last two months, survivors of terrorist attacks traveled to the new center, where they were able to share their story and begin their healing. Staff in the center describe some of what they’ve seen already:

A women’s clinic saw 15 survivors from four states across northern Nigeria come for trauma healing: Prior to the program, they were quiet and reserved. Every woman kept to herself except for those that came from the same geographical area. However, after going through the healing sessions and each woman sharing her story, there was tremendous change.

Every evening for about an hour before bedtime, they sang and danced. Many said they thought all hope was lost but their hope was rekindled. One woman shared that she had lost many people in her family, including her husband and son. Many bad things had happened, and she wondered what would become of her life. She sang and danced for the first time after the attack. She went home a changed person. The women were so excited that they promised to share what they learned with their friends. 

Other clinics welcomed 21 men and seven females from Kajuru and Kagoma in southern Kaduna State where Fulani militants have ravaged Christian villages, brutally killing and burning homes. Unable to return home, many are living in internal displacement (IDP) camps since fleeing their villages.

This was the first time they had a few conveniences like a clean environment, a good meal, and a bed to sleep in since they left home. One man saw his young daughter hacked to death in front of him. He shared: “I have been feeling numb since then. I have not been able to grieve and process my pains. During the program, I broke down and cried for the first time. That night, I slept well without any bad dreams for the first time.” 

On the day they left, they were changed people sadly returning to the IDP camps. Their families are there, so they went back home as ambassadors to help bring the message of trauma healing to other displaced families and communities. 

At the end of three months, staff and volunteers at The Shalom Center continue to fine tune the experience. Says Rauta: “Things are not running as smoothly as we would like them to yet, but we feel so confident and joyous that we’re heading in the right direction and are in line with God’s will.”

Living Again in the Wake of Violence

When trauma is dealt with, restoration and growth can take place. Victims begin to live again, not simply survive. It’s part of the impact that happens when Christians stand with persecuted believers.

Your support is strengthening the church in Nigeria to stand strong in the fire and, ultimately, be used by God to storm the gates of hell. Christians like Aisha, Margret, Rebecca and Pastor Peter and many more.

As you extend compassion to men, women and children, you equip and empower them to rebuild and hold tight to their faith. And to bring Jesus back home or to internal displacement camps. In short, you’re building the Kingdom in Nigeria.

Aisha shares: “… Even when I go back home, I want to show this love to the people around us.”

For Rebecca and others who have seen so much pain, the center became a lifeline: “All I want to say is thank you God. I came with burdens that made my life unbearable. I came with a heavy heart. But here in this place, I have begun to experience healing in my heart.

“My prayer is that women who are traumatized like me and are not here today, may God grant them peace like he gave me.”

Pray with us in this new endeavor for healing in Nigeria

Please pray with us for The Shalom Center as survivors of trauma come and find healing.