July 2, 2015 by Janelle P

Boko Haram has been wreaking havoc in northern Nigeria for years. The United Nations Office of Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) says that by March 2015, Boko Haram-related violence had internally displaced more than 1.2 million people in the northeast region and 47,276 in the northwest and north-central regions. The violence has caused 168,000 people to flee across the border to Niger, Chad and Cameroon. It is also estimated that since January 2014, 8,700 people have died in 360 Boko Haram related incidents.

Amnesty International estimates that at least 2,000 women and girls have been abducted by the group, including the group from Chibok, whose abduction on April 15, 2014 grabbed the attention of the world.

The Nigerian army recently reported that it had rescued hundreds of women from the militants’ camps in the Sambisa Forest. Open Doors traveled to Yola to encourage the Christians among them. The women say they faced terrible violence while in captivity. They were forcefully Islamized and married off, and faced constant brutality and starvation. “They spoke harshly and incoherently at times,” Open Doors worker Isaac reported from Yola.

Many were sick and malnourished. The state of the children was particularly heartbreaking for Isaac. “The smaller children are in a pathetic state as a result of the starvation at the hands of their captors.”

About 34 of the women and children in one of the refugee camps were Christians. An impromptu prayer meeting was organized and Isaac had a few moments to hear some of their stories, to pray with them and to deliver a few emergency relief items just as a reminder that they had not been forgotten.

All of the women he met had been taken by force from their various communities in Adamawa, Borno, and Yobe states. They had spent from one month to over one year in the camp.

Even among the Christians, Isaac picked up some level of aggression. But the majority of them just seemed relieved to be free.

All of the women had a hard time expressing the intensity of their ordeal. One of the women told Isaac, “I really don’t want to recall the gory incidents I witnessed in my seven months with the insurgents.”

Martina Paul, 32, mother of five, told Isaac, “It was like living in hell for all of us believers. It is difficult to describe what it is like to be left in the hands of the enemies of Christ.”

“The insurgents came to our village at night. I was in the room with my husband and the kids. We said our prayers, went to bed and woke up to the sound of explosions and gunshots all over the village. We heard cries of other people in the village, shouting the name of Jesus. The insurgents broke down our doors and entered. We were also shouting, calling on the name of Jesus. They told us to stop calling on Jesus, but we persisted. My husband embraced me and the kids, all the while calling on the name of Jesus. The attackers drew him away and shot him in front of us and then set the house on fire and went away with us to the forest. I was pregnant and pleaded with them to spare us, but they took me and the children captive.”

Martina delivered the baby after five months in the camp. But the insurgents killed her child because she praised the name of Jesus after he was born.

The military rescue operation did not come a day too soon. They thank God for sparing their lives. In the midst of the harrowing tales of suffering and trauma, they testify that the Lord heard our prayers for them —not only in the rescue, but in His sustaining grace to them as they faced each day’s brutality in the camp. They are thankful for worldwide Christians’ prayer and support.

“I wish my eyes could see the people who sent this support to me,” said Racheal John, 25. “I don’t know what to say. One thing I will never forget about this gift is that I have brothers and sisters who care for me and who prayed for my rescue. The Lord will shower His blessings on every single one that contributed to this support.”

Nigeria is ranked #10 on Open Doors’ 2015 World Watch List of the worst persecutors of Christians.

Compiled by Jerry Dykstra. For media inquiries, contact Christine Cape at 404-545-0085 or Christy Lynn Wilson at 770-401-9842.

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