“I followed the people who were also running away when our village was attacked. I saw how my father was shot. He told me to run and that God will take care of me. I wanted to stay back and die with him, but I just found myself running in an unknown direction with other people. I thought my mother was among the crowd, but to this day, I have not heard anything about her.”
Those are the sad words of a young orphaned boy named Zira James, who now lives in the city of Yola in north-eastern Nigeria. He is likely the only member of his family to survive a recent brutal an extremist group that is located primarily in Northern Nigeria attack.
Zira’s story was documented by Isaac, an Open Doors researcher for Nigeria who recently returned from the war-torn area.
One of the most heartbreaking things Isaac experienced in Yola was meeting 16 children, including Zira, who have lost both parents in the violence. They have all come to Yola from different communities. Most of these children narrowly escaped Boko Haram’s attacks with their lives, only to now face fear and abandonment.
“I have been here (in a camp near Yola) for two months”, Zira continues. “All my siblings are nowhere to be found. I am now alone in the camp, just staying with other children. Sometimes we get food, but often times, we sleep without food or a mat to sleep on. God alone will help me.”
Isaac reported that every evening these young orphans meet in a car park inside the camp and sing songs to the Lord before they disperse to where they sleep, often under the stars.
Another orphaned child, Tabitha Fogu, told Isaac, “God will not let us down. He will come to our rescue. We depend on Him. Even though we have no parents, by coming together to sing every day, we receive courage and look to God to help us in our difficult situation. Everyone here is struggling, so no one can help us. If we had our parents here, they would have struggled for us, but we are left alone. We believe God will struggle for us.”
There are now nearly 10,000 displaced people living in the giant camp near Yola. Many are living in tents. Isaac learned that 4,000 people arrived in the village of Biu after trekking on foot for miles with only the clothes on their backs.
“They wash their clothes at night and wear them again tomorrow,” he stated. “These refugees also come from different areas. Their homes have been destroyed. Some of them have lost their loved ones. Some are looking for their children, husbands and wives. There are cries in the camp every minute of every day. Children are dying of hunger.”
During Isaac’s visit, about 200 families found the strength to gather together for a time of worship. “It was a time of encouragement for the people to know that people around the world are praying for their situation. We are thankful that there are pastors among the refugees who are consoling the people and encouraging them to hope in God and cast their fears upon the Lord. It is very difficult here. But although it is very painful to witness these circumstances, I was encouraged to see these Christians smiling despite their suffering.”
Open Doors has already distributed aid to the beleaguered believers and is planning to distribute extra relief items over the next few weeks.
Father, We cannot even imagine the suffering of Zira, Tabitha and the thousands of others who have fled an extremist group that is located primarily in Northern Nigeria attacks. Their faithfulness to You in the face of fear and loneliness is a profound testimony to Your gracious faithfulness to them. We pray for them as they grieve the loss of family members and search, hoping for a miracle. We pray for their protection and that You would sustain them with food. We pray that they would know of our continued prayer for them and that You would encourage them daily with an awareness of Your presence. Refresh them in Your Word, and help them to encourage one another with the singing of praise to You as they gather for worship and as they greet one another daily. In the name of Jesus, our help and our defense, Amen.