Daouda, an Open Doors worker in Cameroon, visited Sharifa* last year, shortly after an extremist group that is located primarily in Northern Nigeria kidnapped and murdered her husband. Sharifa was so heartbroken and traumatized she could hardly speak. She stared blankly into space, clearly struggling to come to terms with the attack and its devastating result.
Sharifa recalled with pain that afternoon of July 24th when suspected an extremist group that is located primarily in Northern Nigeria militants arrived at their village of Balgaram in the extreme north of Cameroon. The militants caught the family at home. Some of the older children managed to get out of the house, but Sharifa and her younger children could not escape before the militants arrived. They watched helplessly as the attackers bundled Jean Marcel into a car and drove away after hearing that he was a pastor. Not long after that terrible moment, they learned that he was dead.
The family then fled their home with only the clothes on their backs. Though the local community received them with love and clothed them, their emotional state was hard to watch. Of all the children, the oldest daughter most fully understood the magnitude of their loss. “She was drowning in her tears,” reported Daouda at the time.
Open Doors (OD) has remained in close contact with Sharifa and the children since that tragic day. A month after Jean Marcel’s death, OD helped with clothing, millet, sugar, dried fish, cooking oil and soap. Still distraught over the loss of her husband, Sharifa was nevertheless overwhelmed by the gifts. She thanked OD sincerely for the support: “I think you have accomplished what the Bible says; that you should mourn with those who mourn, and rejoice with those who rejoice.”
As welcome as were the physical gifts, she was most touched to hear of the many believers around the world who have been praying for her. “I thank those who are with us in prayers. I do not rejoice as much over the things that have been given, as I rejoice over the fact that Christians worldwide are praying for my burdens. I am comforted knowing that people worldwide are praying for us. May God bless you! It is clear: God supports anyone in distress.”
A month later, Daouda returned to tell Sharifa that OD was offering a scholarship to the children. Thanks to the faithful support of our friends around the world, all seven school-aged children were registered in different primary and secondary schools for the 2014/2015 academic year.
Douda recently visited the family for a fourth time and found it hard to believe the difference in this woman. “Sharifa was very happy to receive me. She was at the door to welcome me, and took care to ask how I and the other team members have been doing.” Her countenance was a striking contrast to our first visit when she could hardly speak.
This time, Daouda carried a very special gift for the family—letters written by loving supporters from around the world. Sharifa was overjoyed when she saw the letters and asked Daouda to wait for the children to return from school so that they could open the letters together. “It was so good to see her so happy and beaming with joy when she got letters! Sharifa was very happy and grateful for those who have been thinking of her since her husband died and for the prayers in particular.”
Daouda had encouraging news about the children too. “They were more open. We discussed many things.” With wide smiles, they testified that they have enough to eat every day—something they would not have expected in the days following the death of their father. “I was very happy with this, because they looked happy and healthy,” said Daouda.
Sharifa is also very thankful for the support she is receiving from the local church. Her faith has been strengthened, and it has been so good to see that she has not lost hope. She has opened a prayer room in her home, and Christians in the neighborhood gather there regularly for fellowship. In addition to her church activities, Sharifa also intends to start a rice farm with land acquired from her mother, and to start trading in dry fish, millet and ice blocks.
“I am really grateful to God for Open Doors; for all you have been doing for me and my family,” she said.
*Pseudonym used to protect her identity
Father, thank You for the clear presence of Your Spirit at work in Sharifa’s life; for the way You have sustained her and her family through the work of Open Doors and the local church where she lives. Continue to comfort her and grant her inner strength to establish her life in the absence of her husband. Comfort her children and continue to bring spiritual and emotional healing from the trauma they have sustained. We pray for their hopes to start a rice farm and begin trade; guide and equip them. Where Satan would have used their circumstances to destroy their faith, You have instead strengthened their trust in You. “You turned their wailing into dancing; You removed their sackcloth and clothed them with joy, that their hearts may sing Your praises and not be silent.” We thank You and praise You. In the name of Jesus, their everlasting hope and joy—and ours, Amen.