September 2, 2015 by Janelle P

Days after several suicide bomb attacks in the far northern area of Cameroon, Open Doors workers visited the towns to witness the devastation and support the suffering Christians. The town is trying to pick up the pieces. Recovery will not be easy – people’s lives were altered forever. While there are stories of miraculous survival, there are also stories of excruciating loss.

The first attack took place on July 22. Two female bombers blew themselves up at exactly the same time in two separate areas of Maroua. One explosion occurred in the middle of the market and the other close to the densely populated neighborhood of Quartier Barmaré. Initial media reports indicated a death toll of at least 13, but by the end of the day, workers stated that at least 20 people had died. Then, on July 25, a girl, around 12 years old, detonated a bomb at an area called Pont Vert and killed 19 more people.

Though it has not formally claimed responsibility, it is assumed the extremist group Boko Haram is behind the attacks. The group has been fighting to establish an Islamic state in Nigeria. Their insurgency, which gained momentum in 2009, peaked in late 2014 with the declaration of a caliphate around Gwoza in Adamawa state in northeastern Nigeria. It has killed an estimated 12,500 Christians in Nigeria alone and has displaced as many as 500,000 Christians. The violence has spread across Nigeria’s borders to Cameroon, Chad and Niger, prompting the formation of a regional force to fight the extremists.

Open Doors workers visited Maroua a few days after the blasts to witness the devastation they caused. The pictures the team sent back showed broken walls and gaping roofs.

But the damage to people’s lives was harder to communicate. The people of Maroua seemed to be in a daze. The hospital was overcrowded with people seeking assistance. Outside, family members were milling around, anxiously awaiting news about their loved ones.

Anna Marafi

Anna Marafi is one of those who did not survive. Anna had gone to the market to collect a school uniform for one of her children when the suicide bomber detonated the explosive that fateful Wednesday. Emergency workers rushed Anna to the hospital, but she died just as they got there. She was in her forties and leaves behind a husband, two daughters and a son.

Open Doors workers visited them at their home. They were received by Anna’s husband Luke*, her sister Maria*, and her 17-year-old daughter Ada*. There was a deep sadness hanging over their home. Their faces told the story of the terrible loss they were trying to come to terms with.

“We explained that we were there to bring condolences for their loss and to let them know that there are people praying for them,” reported Amora*, one of the visiting Open Doors team members. “We told them that we understood their loss is not easy but that we would pray for God to help them. I asked if I could pray for them and if they had specific needs. Anna’s sister asked us to pray that God would give them strength. We all bowed our heads while I prayed that God would comfort them and help them to be strong during this trying time.”

Robert Tschoupia

Every time church elder Robert Tschoupia looks at his pregnant wife and young son, he thanks God for sparing his life. “I am so thankful to God. I cannot imagine my wife being a young widow. God forbade that.

Robert was reclining in front of his shop when the blast occurred. He saw two of his neighbors being propelled into the air by the force of the explosion and they died on the spot. The sight of their broken bodies is something he will never forget.

“Some planks fell on me and a stone also hit my head. I was bleeding, and it was difficult to stand up,” he recalls.

Around him people were running to get out of the market. Robert called for help, but no one came to his rescue. “I called to God for help…I begged God to help me and He did.”

Somehow Robert received strength to stand up. Another Christian, Nahum, who was trying to flee the scene on his motorcycle, saw Robert and rushed over to help him and then drove him to the hospital. “Nahum was soaked in blood, completely soaked in my blood, but he didn’t abandon me. Even at the hospital. I thank God for sending Nahum to help me. I am so grateful to God.”

Robert’s miracle is still continuing in his recovery. He is now able to walk normally and even go to the hospital by himself for check-ups.

*Names changed for security reasons

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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