We’re sitting with Kwate, an elderly widow, in the afternoon sun just outside her home. She has lived through all three Boko Haram attacks on her village.
In the first attack, Boko Haram came at night, calling villagers out by name. No one is sure where they received the names, but they used this tactic to appear friendly to pull villagers out of their homes and expose them.
“Before I came out, the [attackers] pushed my husband and locked him in the room. I kept shouting and screaming, and they kept shouting and screaming too,” Kwate says.
In the commotion, Kwate saw an opportunity to escape and she slipped away from the attackers in the darkness. She hid behind a woodpile. She points to the woodpile outside of her home, walks over and shows us how she crouched down to hide her face. “They looked for me and didn’t see me,” she says.
But as Kwate hid, the members of Boko Haram set her house on fire—with her husband inside.
Kwate walks us to the back of her property, where there’s a pile of burnt corrugated steel. “This was where they killed him,” she says, “and this is the door where they pulled him inside the room.”
Later, Kwate tells us more about her life and the struggles she faced from the trauma. She keeps folding her hands over one another. They are strong and rough from years of farming the Nigerian soil. When we pray together, she reaches out and holds our hands. The warmth is unmistakable.
“In the afternoon, I am normal and happy, but when night comes, and I remember what happened to my husband, I began to cry. I never blamed God at all. What pains me is that they burned him. They could have killed him so that I could see his body instead of burning him and leaving me with nothing to remember,” she shares through tears.
Kwate attends the Open Doors trauma counseling sessions in her village. “There is a woman who comes every Sunday, she will even come tomorrow. All the widows whose husbands were killed, we read the Bible and pray together. The trauma healing has really helped us,” she says.
As for her enemies, her husband’s killers, she takes a long pause and says, “I can forgive them, I have forgiven them.”
The Nigerian culture is all about survival, and Kwate’s needs are great—as an elderly widow, she’s doing her best to continue to provide for herself. “I still go to farm, and the little I get, I am feeding myself,” she says. “Please pray that God will help me, as I continue to farm and fend for myself.”
As we prepare to leave, Kwate adds one crucial thought, “Since God did not allow them to kill me, he spared me and is helping me. I will continue to praise him.”