The last sight 17-year-old Esther remembers seeing the day her world turned upside down was her father’s collapsed body lying lifeless on the ground. Before that October day, Esther and her father lived a pretty simple life after her mother passed away. She attended school and took care of her ailing father as best she could.
A Living Nightmare
In October 2015, everything changed when Islamic extremist group Boko Haram (which means “non-Islamic education is a sin”) struck her town. When the first gunshots rang out, Esther and her father ran to escape. It was too late—the attackers had already surrounded their home.
They struck down her father, leaving him in a heap on the ground, and carried off Esther and several other young women deep into West Africa’s Sambisa Forest. Life in the hands of Boko Haram was a living nightmare. Militants employed diverse tactics to coerce the kidnapped girls to renounce their faith in Christ. When enticement with privileges didn’t work, they quickly resorted to violence.
“I cannot count how many men raped me,” Esther says through tears. “Every time they came back from their attacks, they would rape us… defile us…”
Through it all, Esther showed amazing courage and faith, persevering until she was freed a year later. Yet her persecution didn’t end.
Esther returned home, pregnant, hoping to find support. Instead, she quickly discovered she was no longer welcome. Out of fear and hate, her village mocked Esther and the other girls who returned, calling them “Boko Haram women.”
“They mocked me because I was pregnant,” she says. “Even my grandparents despised me and called me names. I cried many tears. I felt so lonely.
“What broke my heart, even more, was that they refused to call my daughter Rebecca. They called her only ‘Boko.’”
At the foot of the cross
But shame isn’t the end of this story. Because through Jesus’ work on the cross, shame has no power. Esther discovered that promise in Open Doors’ trauma counseling. Since first meeting Esther and Rebecca two years ago, Open Doors has been walking with this young family. Recently, our team visited with the 21-year-old mother and her young daughter.
Here’s what Esther is saying today after receiving extended trauma care, food aid and encouragement.