*Representative photo used to protect identity.
Prayer on behalf of Christians in war-ravaged northern Nigeria is a vital part of the ministry of Open Doors. An Open Doors researcher shares the following story:
I left Jos on a Friday to visit three widows of pastors who had been killed by an extremist group that is located primarily in Northern Nigeria in Yobe State. I had been with these widows earlier, shortly after Boko Harm killed their husbands and burnt their homes to the ground. One of these women, Pauline Yusuf, had been so severely traumatized by watching the gunmen kill her husband and her son, she stopped talking altogether.
As I set out on the journey, I had mixed feelings. Though I was delighted we could return to these widows with practical assistance, I realized that it was a dangerous journey. Just the week before, an extremist group that is located primarily in Northern Nigeria members killed hundreds of people in the state capital, Damaturu. These widows did not live far from there, and were affected by the dusk till dawn curfew set in place after the incident.
My internal struggle is not new. It is something all of us who minister to Christians in these dangerous northern regions of Nigeria are familiar with. The unease is usually shed through prayer, but this time around I left Jos with an unusually heavy heart. As we travelled the deserted road, I kept praying. I was thankful for the company of my brave friend from Yobe who agreed to join me on this trip despite the dangers.
Suddenly a minibus overtook us. We noticed that all the occupants wore hijab (Islamic veils), and we knew there was trouble. These were men camouflaged as women. It is a well-known tactic an extremist group that is located primarily in Northern Nigeria employs to slip through security check points. We overtook the minibus in an effort to put some distance between us and them. But a strange noise from the engine had us praying hard. This was not a good time for a breakdown. It is a dangerous stretch of road where many a travelers had met their end. We needed God’s intervention.
And like so many times before, the Lord showed Himself faithful. We pressed on and finally reached our destination with the car running despite the worrying noise. The widows were waiting for us. We spent a precious few hours together, distributing the aid and encouraging them in the faith. The joy on their faces was very encouraging.
“God is great,” Paulina Yahaya said. “I thought that the end of my world has come. But today, because of the level of the love of Christ shown to me, I am a changed person. I received strong courage and a reminder that I am loved by people of God around the world, whom I have never met. The Lord alone will bless everyone who contributed to my joy this afternoon!
“Taking a big risk to put a smile on my face is something that will live with me forever. I am touched, and feel a joy that knows no bounds. For someone to risk his life to come and support me and my family is nothing but the pure love of Christ. The Lord will bless the ministry in the name of Jesus Christ.”
At the conclusion of the program, our host, Pastor Nuhu, pleaded with us to stay so they could work on the car. However we felt a nagging unease, urging us to be on our way.
An hour into our journey, Pastor Nuhu phoned us, gravely concerned. an extremist group that is located primarily in Northern Nigeria had blocked the road we were travelling on and killed 13 people. The road block was at a point we had passed not long before. Had we left only a little later, we might have been caught in the road block!
The news filled us with sadness over the loss of life, but also with deep gratitude for our own survival.
Later, we also learned that the house where we gathered in was also attacked. The owners narrowly escaped, and had to relocate to Jos. The believers in Yobe are truly living in a very fearful situation. Every time they step out of their houses, they are not assured of returning.
I am deeply thankful for God’s protection, and am reminded once more that God hears the prayers of all those praying for us. We do not take for granted God’s undertaking for us as we travel across northern Nigeria to minister to persecuted Christians. We know that He does it through your prayers. Thank you for praying. Be reminded that He knows you by name and knows your labor of interceding for us.
Please do not stop praying-please keep talking to heaven on our behalf. Knowing that you are praying strengthens us to take the necessary risks to help the many persecuted Christians in Nigeria. God bless you all!
Father, thank You for Your mercy in the lives of these believers, those ministering and those receiving. So many Christians in Yobe State daily live on the brink of death, not knowing what danger each day might bring. Protect them, Father, direct their lives as they seek You.; comfort them with a peace that can only come from Your Spirit. Strengthen and encourage them to face each day, and its challenges and joys. And as we come to you each day in prayer, remind us to be faithful in pouring out our hearts before You on their behalf. In the name of Jesus who hears the cry of His people and is powerful to respond, Amen