Nigeria (ODM) — Over the next few weeks, Open Doors team members will be traveling to some of the most dangerous areas of northern Nigeria such as Yobe, Gombe, Kano, Taraba, Bauchi and Plateau states to bring emergency relief to Christians affected by Boko Haram attacks.
The relief consists of helping restore burned down homes and churches, medical assistance, financial assistance, food and clothing, school fees for children, and special help for widows of Christians killed by Boko Haram–an Islamic terrorist group targeting believers and attempting to make all of Nigeria an Islamic state.
What follows is the verbatim report from the team's first three days:
Day One: Pastors in Yobe and Widows in Bauchi
All of us consider it a great privilege to be part of the team. Our mission is to bring relief aid enabled by the faithful Open Doors supporters from around the globe to Christians affected by Boko Haram activity in recent months. And as we deliver the aid, we want to encourage the believers to stand strong, inform them about the source of the gifts and remind them that the larger Body of Christ is concerned about their situation and are praying for them day and night.
Our first stop was the home of Boko Haram, Yobe, in the northeast where we planned to deliver aid to the handful of pastors who had resolved to stay despite the constant hostility and insecurity they face. From there we would backtrack to Bauchi where we were planning to deliver aid to widows and spend the night.
We did not expect an easy day. We had close to 500 miles to travel today, so we started the journey as early as possible. We asked God to go ahead of us, and [we] set out.
We had covered only 75 miles when we met a Nigerian army convoy deploying soldiers to Yobe and Borno. They would not allow us to pass, so we were forced to fall in at the back and keep to their excruciatingly slow speed. Fierce looking security men stopped and searched our vehicle at every check point dotted along the road.
Because of the continued insecurity in the region, we had asked the pastors to meet us in a secluded area. When we finally reached the place at around 2 p.m., the pastors were waiting silently in the scorching sun. We were welcomed warmly, but noticed on their faces signs of fatigue. The months of insecurity and concerns over the safety of family and church members had left their mark.
As we delivered the aid, there was time for some formalities and an official expression of gratitude: "It is hard for us to express our gratitude for your concern and care even at the risk of your own lives. Even apart from the relief you brought, your presence alone makes a big difference."
We had the opportunity to encourage the pastors in their decision to stay: it is important for the preservation of the Christian testimony, to which we received an encouraging reply.
"We trust God and believe that the prayers of the saints around the world will keep us. We trust the Lord for protection. He is helping us, and He has been using Open Doors to strengthen us. It is our sincere prayer that God will strengthen you, and we continue to pray for you as you are praying for us."
With warm handshakes and smiles the pastors greeted us as we departed.
The team left for Bauchi energized. We had quite a way to go still. We arrived in Bauchi around 6 p.m. and had a brief meeting with widows to distribute relief aid there. At around 9 p.m. we called it a day. Please keep praying for us to be an encouragement to the people we meet, even if we can spend only a few minutes together.
Pray for our safety on the roads as the atmosphere remains tense.
Day Two: Gombe Deliveries
The team left Bauchi after a breakfast and headed to Gombe, one of the volatile states in the northeastern region of the country. Our plan was to minister to the six widows whose husbands were killed in a drive-by shooting by Islamic militants as the men sat outside a family home in the Jerusalem area of Gombe earlier this year.
Between Bauchi and Gombe there were many checkpoints once again, and soldiers and police stopped and thoroughly searched our vehicle at every one of them. The two-hour trip took four hours.
We had heard that the atmosphere in the city was very tense, so we decided to avoid the city as far as possible and reached the destination using an alternative route. The widows were very happy to see us, glad that their prayers for our safety were answered.
After we talked with the women for a few minutes, we headed for the market to buy bags of rice, spaghetti, and other food items. On return to the venue, we gave them some money toward rent, school fees for children, and clothing.
There were tears of joy as the women rained blessings and words of gratitude on us.
"God has brought you to come to my aid. He alone knows my situation. I didn't have the courage to say what I was going through these days. This God I am serving is wonderful. I am extremely grateful for the gift of love you shower on me and my family. May the people that contributed to this gift be blessed in Jesus' name," shared Jummai Adamu, a mother of five.
"I have learnt from this day that God never forsakes His people. This God knows our situation even when nobody else knows it. I will forever give thanks to Him. I will trust Him all the more. You have given me a song today. The Lord is good, I bless His Name," said Esther Amana in tears after collecting her gift.
After the distribution, we prayed for the widows and their families. We prayed for God's comfort and provision for them. We would have loved to stay longer, but we needed to be off. After praying for us, the women sent us on our way.
As a team, we felt that it was such a blessed day.
We planned a quick stop at a restaurant before setting out. At the diner, we met one of the workers, a young man by the name of Danladi Usman who was a victim of an attack by Boko Haram. More on him later.
Day 3: Providential Meeting with Danladi
In our previous impact story on the Project Endurance Deliveries, we promised to tell you more about a young man named Danladi Usman.
We noticed Danladi as he worked at the restaurant where we had a quick lunch before continuing our journey of Project Endurance deliveries. Like many other Christians in northern Nigeria, Danladi has had a hair-raising encounter with Boko Haram fighters. When the young man started telling us his story, it was hard to get all the details of the experience, but what was clear to us was the fact that Danladi was still traumatized.
He told us how Boko Haram rebels attacked him and his father at their home. His father was severely injured and lost a limb. Danladi's hand was almost severed in the attack. The young man told us how they had spent all of the money the family had on medical bills. He needs follow-up surgery but cannot afford it.
Still, he remains thankful. "I am grateful to God Almighty. He did not allow those people to kill me. It was really a miracle. And I am thankful for this job. My employer took me in out of compassion to help my family, and I make ends meet."
Danladi's employer, a Christian, has opened up a chain of diners to help keep Christian youths employed.
"I took this challenge to start this business and employ Christian youths to have something to do," the Christian says. "It pains my heart to see Christian youths falling prey to our persecutors. I have the privilege to employ about 150 youths in different restaurants located in two states. I had a lot of pressures from Muslims to put me out of business. They accuse me of selling pork, which is a lie. But God vindicated me in all these things. Keep praying for us, brothers, to persevere in our circumstances."
Now aware of the needs of Danladi, Open Doors plans to channel some relief to him. But right at this moment, we resorted to the one thing we can do, the one thing we are always encouraged to do: pray!
We lifted up Danladi to the Lord and asked Him to make a way for the young man. We thanked Him for the opportunity he has to work, knowing that in their area, this was an opportunity only a handful have.
We left the restaurant refreshed, thanking God for the providence of meeting two Christians who were in need of encouragement.
We had one more stop to make before we could call it a day. We visited the family of a Christian policeman killed in the recent violence in Bama in Borno State. The widow Rakiya Nuhu, and mother of six, had no words to thank us for the help we brought. She only cried uncontrollably. We prayed with her and then it was time to go.
We arrived at the guesthouse after the long and incident-full day to the news that the government had called a state of emergency in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa. We lay down our heads, trusting the Lord for our safety.