Christians chased from their homes by Boko Haram cling to the hope of the Gospel in the midst of exile
A group of women sit in a tent on the edge of the Sahara Desert, just 13 kilometers from their homes in Nigeria. They fan themselves as they talk about why they’re here.
Eight months ago, they were going about their regular morning routines. Saude was showering. Fatimati had just sent her children to school and was eating breakfast. Then they heard it—in the distance as first, but it slowly came closer. Gunfire.
They thought at first that it was just soldiers, but the truth spread quickly. Boko Haram had arrived.
The women ran. Fatimati collected her children from school and left them locked in the house with her mother-in-law. She thought they would be safer there.
The women knew that their best hope was to cross into Niger, but that meant crossing the river. They hesitated, but only for a moment. Behind them, they saw Boko Haram gunning down dozens of people. Without knowing how to swim, they waded into the water.
Saude watched her husband drown in front of her. She waited in neck-deep water for six hours until someone from Niger brought a canoe to her. Fatimati was separated from her husband and didn’t find him until they arrived in Gagamari refugee transit camp, right across the border.
After two weeks had passed and Fatimati hadn’t heard from her mother-in-law or children, she made the 13-kilometer journey back to her home. She found that Boko Haram had taken her family hostage. They then took her captive as well. But, miraculously, after eight days, they were all freed. Fatimati led them back to the refugee center, where they’ve been living for eight months.
Their story is a common one. Since 2009, Boko Haram has terrorized people in Nigeria, leaving them no choice but to flee. The Islamic extremist group has displaced around 2.3 million people and killed 20,000.
Word of Life Fellowship
Abdoul* (name changed for security) is another Christian from neighboring Nigeria who is now living out his faith in Niger. His previous ministry in Nigeria focused on traveling to places where others didn’t go to share the Gospel with people who otherwise wouldn’t have heard it. He had a motorcycle to aid him in his work because he said a car was too big to get into the places he wanted to go.
When Boko Haram lit his village on fire, he and his congregation made the same journey that Saude and Fatimati had made. They swam across the river, praying that they would make it safely. Three of them were killed as they tried to escape.
Since then, the 300 members of his church have dispersed—some live in the Nigerien bush, some in a town called Diffa. They have no church building, although Abdoul hopes to one day have the funds for one. He tries to visit his members and to continue his ministry, even without any means of transportation other than his own two feet.
Despite his circumstances, Abdoul doesn’t hate the radical Muslims who chased him from his home and tried to ruin his ministry. He still wants to share God’s love with them. In Niger, where the population is around 98 percent Muslim, he spends his days trying to help Muslims in dire situations—by sharing food and buying medicines.
“We want to help them get life, to save them, to get Jesus Christ as a Savior,” he said. “That’s why [we want] to reach them with the Gospel.”
Samaritan’s Purse has helped Abdoul and his congregation by giving them food and other necessities. With his basic needs met, Abdoul can focus solely on his ministry. He doesn’t plan to stop until all the Muslims in Niger have been reached.
“We continue with the Gospel,” he said. “We don’t stop. Life is difficult, but we continue.”