In Chibok, Families Won’t Celebrate Until All Missing Daughters Are Free

April 13, 2018 by Lindy Lowry in Africa

[Esther Joseph is one of the still-waiting parents praying for her daughter’s return.] 

Four years ago, few people had ever heard of the dusty town in northeast Nigeria called Chibok. But all that changed overnight on April 14, 2014, when the Islamic extremist group Boko Haram abducted more than 230 young girls from Chibok Secondary State School. The hashtag #bringbackourgirls flooded social media as the world cried out against the injustice and tragedy.

Today, these “girls” are now young women in their 20s. Half are out of captivity, in school and trying to lead a normal life. Half are still missing. Recently, our team in Nigeria traveled once again to Chibok to visit and pray with parents of both returned and still-missing daughters. One message continued to surface. While they praise God for the release of many, Chibok won’t celebrate until all its daughters are free, they said. Here, our on-the-ground team shares their experience and recounts their conversations with parents of whom we have come to know as the “Chibok girls.”

Four years ago, few people had ever heard of this dusty town and her people. But that changed overnight on April 14, 2014, when Boko Haram militants stormed the now-notorious Chibok Secondary State School where 275 girls had gathered to take an exam. They abducted more than 230 of them.

Rescued and Released

Some 47 girls would escape before, during and shortly after the attack. More than two years later, other girls would make it out alive. Since May 2016, half of the kidnapped girls have found their way out of captivity in numerous ways:

Some of the girls who escaped before, during or shortly after the attack on the school went to the United States to continue their education. Another group of 24 received scholarships to study at the American University of Nigeria.

The released Chibok girls now attend school in the Nigerian city of Yola. Our team reports they are doing well spiritually. Almost all were baptized after their release, publicly declaring their intention to continue walking with Christ.

Mary Yakuba’s daughter was released.

Mary Yakubu is one of the fortunate mothers who welcomed her kidnapped daughter home. “I am more than happy,” she says. “My daughter is alive! And now she is released! She is in school now.”

Still Waiting–and Praying

But Yakabu’s joy is tempered with the sorrow and disappointment of those parents whose daughters are still missing. These mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, are still waiting, hoping, and praying to be reunited.

Pastor Ayuba Muta is still waiting. His family is a picture of the mixed fate that epitomizes Chibok. Two of his daughters were kidnapped. One is free; the other remains a captive.

“…By the time I heard the news that my daughters were kidnapped, I became so worried thinking I would no longer see these girls,” says Ayuba. “Open Doors counseled us some time (ago), and I felt very comforted. I began to surrender all things to God.”

Pastor Ayuba has one free daughter and one daughter still in captivity.

Ayuba continues to pray for the return of his other daughter, trusting in God.

“What is impossible with man is possible with God,” he says with the tenacity of a leader who has devoted his time and energy to serving God’s people. “I trust God that one day, my other daughter also will be released. I ask the world to continue praying for us.”

Bearing the Cross Together

Yakubu Nkeki Maina, who has become the local spokesperson for the Chibok parents, is one of the parents who has his daughter back—though he lives as if he doesn’t.

“We are still in pain,” he says. “Though some of our daughters are back, we cannot celebrate their return in the presence of our colleagues whose daughters are still missing. It will be like a provocation to our brothers and sisters.

Yakubu Nkeki Maina: “We must bear the cross together.”

“We must bear the cross together and keep the faith and hope that God gives us a reason to celebrate together when all the daughters are back … These parents of the girls that are yet to come … really, they fear somehow that maybe their own will not come. Some of them are losing hope.”

Esther Joseph, also a waiting mother, tries to suppress her sobs. “My daughter has not yet come back,” she says. “I am in sadness. I need your help. Help me by praying.”

Falmata gestures with her hands the desperation she feels in her heart over the loss of her daughter. “Christians, join us in prayers so that our girls will be released safely, like the others that are safe now. We pray for them day and night. We cannot sleep … Pray for us, you fellow Christians. Unite with us in prayer. Ask God to bring our girls back home safely.”

Falmata is still waiting for her daughter’s return.

Yana Galang, the leader of the Chibok mothers, is also still hoping for a miracle.

“We have seen half of the girls. But half are still missing,” she says. “Always I’m thinking of my daughter. I always need her close to me, like my other daughters. I still have hope that one day I will see her. …We ask the brothers and sisters to pray for us so that we will see the remaining girls.”

Raising Hope in Dapchi

Although the Chibok parents have walked through deep waters during the past four years, they pulled themselves together and traveled almost 200 miles to visit heartbroken parents in the town of Dapchi, where, in a similar situation, Boko Haram kidnapped more than 100 girls in February.

Still grieving, Yana Galang shared her experience with Dapchi parents.

“We wanted to go there, sit, listen and talk to one another,” Yana says, knowingly. “Share with them our experience in managing life as traumatized parents whose daughters were still in Boko Haram’s hands. Some parents of freed Chibok girls were also in the delegation to strengthen the faith and raise the hope of the Dapchi parents that their daughters would one day return home safely.”

[Since their visit, all but one of the Dapchi girls in captivity was released on March 21. Leah Sharibu still remains because she will not renounce Christ and turn to Islam.]

‘God Has Used You to Change Our Story’

Over the past four years, your support has enabled Open Doors to walk closely with the parents of the kidnapped girls from Chibok. Through local partners, we have conducted trauma programs and provided financial support for their medication and food. We have also generated prayer for them and launched a letter-writing campaign to send them encouragement through email.

“We have seen the result of your prayers,” Yakubu says. “We have seen Him answer your prayers. God has used you to change our story. Your letters have been our closest companions. When we feel like we are finished, we derive new strength from your words. We are eternally grateful.”

Parents pray during a trauma counseling seminar April 2016.

Praying With Chibok Parents