‘We will not repay evil for evil:’ Finding hope in Nigeria

March 24, 2020 by Christopher Summers in Seeds of hope

Reverend Marcus Abana is a pastor in northern Nigeria. His community suffered devastating attacks by Boko Haram: churches were burned; villages ransacked; men and women murdered. Reverend Marcus recently told us about the traumatic effects the attacks have had on the Christian community in his city, how believers found renewed hope to rebuild and what he would say to his enemies—along with a special word of encouragement about persevering through persecution.

Today, Open Doors is helping Reverend Marcus build a new church building for his growing congregation. We’re also supporting the local Christian community through microloans, vocational training and trauma counseling.

Hear Reverend Marcus in his own words:

The rumors came true

Before Boko Haram attacked us, we were living in peace with one another, in the church and in the markets, even in school—our children were all living in peace and very happy.

In 2014, we heard rumors of Boko Haram nearby. When they came to our town, they destroyed the villages, burned down the churches, ransacked homes and killed men and women. Our people fled and deserted the villages and the church stopped meeting. Also, Boko Haram burned down all the churches in nearby Mubi, but none of the mosques were destroyed.

After several months, Boko Haram left our town and I returned. There were very few of us. Some came late at night and entered their homes.

Dealing with trauma

A destroyed church in Rev. Marcus’ home city.

A destroyed church in Rev. Marcus’ home city.

When Boko Haram attacked, everyone’s heart was frightened. We were all full of trauma. When we came back, some of the churches had blood on the walls. Anyone who saw it or heard about it didn’t want to go to church anymore.

The attack put a lot of fear in the hearts of many. People thought if they went to church, they might get attacked too. So many people didn’t return to the church at the time. And with all that happened, the spiritual life of many became very weak. When you walk with the Lord and these things happen to you, there is great disappointment, fear and loss of trust and hope. Honestly, at that time, my spiritual life was shaken as well. I was so scared. Truly speaking, my faith was shaken.

But still, the Word of God kept reminding me that anyone who puts their trust in God won’t be forsaken. At that time, I was pastoring at another town, quite far from here and I was transferred to the hottest zone —near Mubi where Boko Haram camped. I began to visit the church members in their homes, but still only four members agreed to come to church. And that was how we began to worship again—until the members finally came in a larger number.

Finding hope and encouragement

When people gradually started coming back to the church, Open Doors came and hosted a seminar on trauma healing. They gathered pastors and members and kept encouraging and teaching us.

Gradually, people began to come back to their senses. Open Doors also distributed food for many, because no one had food stored—not only food but also financial support. You kept encouraging and training us. Because of these teachings, a lot of people became encouraged and strengthened to stand strong and they returned to the church.

Today, the church is full, and the greatest source of our encouragement came from you—through your teachings, encouragement and the support you have given.

We can’t quantify our gratitude, and only God can reward you. You have really strengthened our hope in God. On behalf of my congregation we are sending our appreciation to you.

Also, you have drilled two boreholes for us to provide clean water, which we never had and it’s functioning well. We know that is the love of Christ in you that has led you to extend this love to us—which we have never experienced.

A message for Boko Haram

If I were able to speak with a member of Boko Haram today, I would tell them we will not repay evil for evil. I would tell them what they are doing will not take them anywhere and they should repent, come and follow Jesus Christ. What you have done, we won’t pay you back, just turn back to Christ. All that you have done: You killed people, you looted people’s property; you destroyed houses and burned churches, but God is willing to forgive you all your sins, that is the good news I have for you today.

How Open Doors helps

Open Doors’ help to Rev Marcus’ church is part of an integrated program we initiated in 10 villages affected by Boko Haram and other violence to help them function again, through:

1. Discipleship training (advocacy, books, leadership training, persecution preparedness training, and youth and children’s events.
2. Facilitating emotional and social care (trauma counseling training, trauma support groups)
3. Supporting increased income (vocational & skills training as well as business grants to vulnerable youth and children
4. Facilitating basic services (boreholes for water wells, restoring schools, clinics, churches & homes)

A word to Christians around the world

Something that I want believers all over the world to know, if any hardship like this ever comes your way, do not feel discouraged but count it pure joy. Persecution will keep coming. And remember, persecution did not just start with you; it has happened in the past and is still happening. And anywhere persecution arises, the gospel is being spread more and more.

Before Boko Haram attacked, we were weak, but after this we have become very strong in the faith. We do not pray that God will take away the hardship, but that God would give us the grace to be able to stand. The Bible tells us that whoever endures to the end will receive a crown of righteousness. This is the message I want to send to Christians around the world today.

Before the attacks from Boko Haram, our Church had 200 members. Today, we have between 300 and 400 members. Some of the small churches in our region that could only hold 100 members have built bigger churches and hold 500 members.

Since our Master Jesus went through this suffering, we also who have become His followers, will go through it, but at the end we will be victorious.

A special prayer request for their village

We have some challenges we are facing in our community. Our young ladies who have lost hope are being enticed by Muslims with material things. We have gone to court, and the village head for cases of Islamization and the abduction of some of our girls. In most cases, these Muslim young men give our young women clothes, food and plenty of money—and later force them to convert to Islam. This has really been a problem to us. Please pray for our young women.

*This interview was transcribed and lightly edited.

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