‘I won’t turn back’: The astounding courage of Christians in Nigeria

March 2, 2022 by Christopher Summers in Persecution updates

Pastor Andrew walks the dirt path, just wide enough for two people, toward his church in Guyaku, Nigeria.

There are tall grasses on his left, waving in the morning breeze, and there’s a large outcropping of boulders on his right.

Entering the church, he’s greeted by women wearing colorful dresses with blooming flowers and bright patterns, their heads wrapped in traditional scarves called geles. The men wear a mix of Western clothing and long sokoto shirts that come to the knees.

featured in presence magazineWhen worship begins, the church comes alive with clapping, rhythmic Nigerian choruses, steel drums and heartfelt dancing. The music thrums and pours out the square windows and into the radiant morning light.

This time of worship might seem normal, but it wasn’t long ago that Pastor Andrew thought his church would never worship again.

In 2015 the extremist group Boko Haram violently attacked the Christians in Guyaku, killing several believers and burning all but six of their houses. And Pastor Andrew’s church was reduced to rubble.

“I lost hope that we would come together to worship God again because our church was destroyed,” he shares.

‘Boko Haram is attacking Guyaku!’

On the night of the attack, Pastor Andrew remembers the church treasurer running into his home, frantically yelling, “Boko Haram is attacking Guyaku!” When Pastor Andrew stepped into the night, there were already rows of houses on fire.

“Fire was consuming the entire village,” Pastor Andrew says. “We ran for our
lives and went to hide [in caves] under the mountains.”

As he hid with other believers from Guyaku, Pastor Andrew whispered a prayer for his congregation—but it wasn’t what you might think. “During the time of the attack, my prayer for my members was that God would strengthen their faith,” he says. “And even if they were abducted, that they would not deny Christ but hold firmly to their faith.”

Like Pastor Andrew, many Christians hid in caves and waited out the long night, hoping and praying their loved ones had survived. When morning finally came, everyone cautiously left their hiding places and tried to locate family members.

When they entered Guyaku, the scene was devastating. The heavy smell of smoke rose through the air, and homes continued to smolder. Boko Haram had stolen their possessions, and what they couldn’t take, they burned.  

“The persecution was so much that I never imagined we would come together again to worship in the church,” Pastor Andrew says. “We lost everything.”

Pastor Andrew stands near the ruins of his old church

Pastor Andrew stands near the ruins of his old church

Finding the strength to rebuild

Pastor Andrew and the other church leaders tried to encourage their people to trust in the Lord, rebuild their homes and remain in Guyaku. But many of the Christians, now homeless, fled to nearby towns. 

However over time, as the remaining Christians began to repair their homes and resettle, more believers returned.

At one point, Pastor Andrew knew it was time to gather again as a church. The village was still largely in ruins, but they were able to cobble together a gathering place from among the wreckage. “I called the attention of some of the church members, and we brought all our burned zinc [roofs] together and some sticks to make a worship place,” he says.

And it was under that makeshift roof of burned zinc, walls thatched with sticks from the forest and log benches balanced on rocks, that God resurrected the church. Boko Haram had intended to destroy the Christian community of Guyaku—but God wasn’t finished with Pastor Andrew’s little congregation just yet.

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Partnering together for hope

As soon as Open Doors heard about the attack, we rushed to help the church with emergency relief, food aid, trauma widow counseling and the support needed to rebuild.

“After the attacks, you were the first to come and help each family with food support,” Pastor Andrew says. “Not only did you give us food, but you also brought trauma healing teachings to us. We organized various groups in our region, and you came down to us to teach us.

“We received both spiritual and physical support from you.”

Pastor Andrew’s experience represents the stories of thousands of Christians across Nigeria who risk their lives to call themselves Christians. Today, more Christians are killed for their faith in Nigeria than in any other country in the world. Violent attacks by Boko Haram and other Islamic extremist groups are common in the country’s north and Middle Belt—and are becoming more common farther south.

For persecuted Christians, the needs are significant across the country. Your prayer and support go toward helping Christian leaders, like Pastor Andrew, pick up the pieces and rebuild after deadly attacks.

Boko Haram’s objective is clear—to wipe out every Christian presence in the region—but, through your help, God is rebuilding these communities stronger than when they started.

Congregants leaving their new church building

Congregants leaving their new church building

‘I won’t turn back’

“If you had not come here with your support and trainings, I don’t know how the Christians would have been,” Pastor Andrew says. “But God brought [Open Doors] at just the right time.

“My heart is filled with joy to express my gratitude,” he adds. “If there were a word greater than ‘thank you,’ I would have said it. But, because of you, they are living hopeful, thinking of the kingdom of heaven.”

Today, the Christians of Guyaku have a new church building, and their congregation is even larger than it was before the attack. What Satan sought to destroy, God multiplied.

After the church service, Pastor Andrew walks down the steps of his new church and back into the Nigerian sun as he greets many of his congregation. Then, with a broad smile, he shakes hands—holding his Bible close to his side.

When asked if the attack has weakened his resolve or made him fearful of following Jesus and leading his people, Pastor Andrew gives a simple but powerful reply: “Come what may, I won’t turn back because I know there is a reward that awaits me.”

Listen to Pastor Andrew share his story below.

To discover more incredible stories like Pastor Andrew’s, click here to download Open Doors’ free magazine, Presence.

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