The late night knock at the door awoke Habila Adamu and his wife and son. When he opened the door, he found Boko Haram gunmen. Here's his story:
The late night knock at the door awoke Habila Adamu and his wife and son. When he opened the door, he found Boko Haram gunmen. Here's his story:
In spite of Boko Haram attacks, Christian brothers and sisters in Northern Nigeria continue to serve Jesus. This week Ray and Denise Thorne share how God brought them together in ministry—through disappointment and heartbreak—to serve Him and to serve persecuted believers. We’ll hear how they met widows of martyred Christians in Nigeria, encouraged women who'd been kidnapped and abused by Boko Haram fighters and met a faithful Christian miraculously sustained by God even after being shot in the face with an AK-47, and how he encouraged his son to forgive the attackers.
Ray and Denise’s stories from our persecuted family in Nigeria will lengthen your prayer list and encourage your faith.
Earlier this week VOM's Todd Nettleton was a guest on In the Market with Janet Parshall, aired nationwide on the Moody Radio Network.
In the 30-minute interview with Parshall, Nettleton shared updates about the persecuted church, including a recent VOM team visit to Nepal, an update on Nigeria ahead of next week's presidential elections there and a piece of possible good news from Turkey.
Please click here to listen to this interview (a new window will open; Nettleton's interview begins at about the 28:30 mark). We are thankful to Moody Radio and all of our media friends who help VOM share the stories of our persecuted family.
You can also hear Todd each week on VOMRadio.
A 15-year-old girl can dream about her future again after a harrowing escape from her abductors. The teenager survived seven weeks in the custody of Islamic terrorists Boko Haram, who kidnapped her in October from her home in northern Nigeria.
Near noon on Oct. 29, 2014, Boko Haram militants ambushed Mubi, the city where Abigail lived with her family. The teenager’s mother, Rebecca John, was away visiting her sister when her daughter and a group of others were captured by Boko Haram militants. Abigail’s brother, Lucky, was also abducted. Their mother would spend the next two months wondering if either of her children was alive. As Abigail was dragged away from her home, she “saw so many corpses of men.”
Through this attack, Boko Haram conquered Mubi and established their claim on the city. They renamed the city “Madinatul Islam” or City of Islam, and added the city to several cities the militant group has captured in an effort to establish an Islamic caliphate in northern Nigeria.
In the raid, the men were killed, while women and children were abducted and taken to a large house. That evening, the kidnappers fed their captives and treated them well. After breakfast the next morning, one of the Boko Haram members “started preaching Islam to us,” said Abigail.
PLEASE PRAY FOR NIGERIA in the days leading up to national presidential elections on February 14.
The day’s lesson was suddenly interrupted when a Nigerian military jet dropped a bomb close to the building. A second jet could be heard in the distance, so the terrorists forced Abigail and the others into the main room of the building. Moments later, the house took a direct hit. One of the Boko Haram members was killed, in addition to five women and a child. Many of the hostages were injured by flying shrapnel.
“Those [kidnap victims] who were not affected by the bomb managed to escape,” Abigail said, but she was badly injured. She was taken by her captors to a clinic, where she saw one woman have her leg amputated and she received minor treatment for her broken arm.
After treatment, Boko Haram moved Abigail to a new location. As she recovered, “They did not try to Islamize those of us who were injured, although they kept preaching to us and gave us Muslim names. My name was changed from Abigail to Zainab.”
At about the same time Muslim radicals were massacring the cartoonists in Paris, Boko Haram was levelling the city of Baga, Nigeria, killing an estimate 2,000 people. I was very angry and outraged at the horrific scale of murder of innocent people of all ages. Although the massacre in Nigeria was not specifically targeting Christians (as far as I know), as a Christian I am deeply troubled by the indiscriminate killing of human beings. I prayed for justice, for the international community to stop these atrocities that grow bolder as each day goes by, and to bring those killers to justice. Where was the sign of international unity against the massacre in Nigeria?
My feelings raise an important question—is my prayer legitimate for a Christian? In the Old Testament King David and others prayed what has been called Imprecatory Prayers—prayers that God would curse and even kill their enemies. Such prayers are not appropriate for Christians and I did not pray that kind of prayer, even though deep down inside I may have thought about it! Imprecatory prayers can be for justice and fairness, which are entirely appropriate for a Christian. The desire for justice and fairness comes from God, while revenge comes from Satan, since it is a warped and evil expression of the desire for justice.
The desire for justice and fairness comes from God, while revenge comes from Satan, since it is a warped and evil expression of the desire for justice.
The most familiar New Testament imprecatory prayer comes from the martyrs around the throne of God in heaven, asking God, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, will You judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on earth?” (Revelation 6:10) In a sense, while they had won the victor’s crown and gained heaven, they were still not completely satisfied because justice had not prevailed. That makes me think that our yearning for justice is not out of line but is something that will be satisfied by a just and righteous God.
I find myself wondering how best to respond to such grievous events that tear at our hearts. I think the first level of response is to cry out to God what we feel in our hearts. We can lament and mourn the loss of valuable life. The second level would be to pray for the survivors—the families of those killed and also for the persecutors, who are lost forever if they never respond to the light.
A third level of response would be to support the families of martyrs, widows and children who are left behind. The number, as you can imagine, grows every day. Pray for VOM staff members who travel to difficult areas to provide help and give encouragement to not only widows and orphans but to the church that seeks to have a witness in such a hostile areas. Pray for their safety.
A fourth level of response is to contact national and international governmental agencies who are seeking to curb these atrocities. It is also extremely important to pray for them as well, since many have to go into harm’s way to accomplish their task.
Ultimately it will take the intervention of God in a mighty way to stop this evil. We can pray for revival among believers and for God to touch the hearts of the perpetrators of evil and turn them from their ways. May God give us the grace to face these days with optimism that God will have the last word and it will be justice combined, of course, with mercy.
May it be soon!
Roy Stults, PhD, is the Online Workshop Coordinator and Educational Services Coordinator for The Voice of the Martyrs. He graduated from Olivet Nazarene University (BA and MA), Nazarene Theological Seminary (M.Div.), Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (Doctor of Missiology), and The University of Manchester (England) with a PhD (theology). A Vietnam veteran, Dr. Stults served as a missionary for 19 years and pastored U.S. churches for eight years. Prior to joining VOM, he was a Professor of Religion at Oklahoma Wesleyan University.
A conference for VOM front-line ministry workers in northern Nigeria was relocated last week amid concerns for the safety of the workers and their families. Violence by Islamic extremists, including several suicide bombs set off in nearby cities and a massive attack in Baga, Nigeria where nearly 2,000 were reported to have been killed, raised security concerns.
The conference, set to begin on Jan. 12, was for Christian leaders who serve in the northern states of Yobe and Gombe, both states currently under a barrage of attacks by the Islamist Boko Haram group. The Boko Haram insurgents have killed thousands of Christians since 2009.
After attacks in the cities of Damaturu and Potiskum in Yobe state on Jan. 9, 10 and 11, the training conference was moved to nearby Bauchi state. “Thanks to the Lord,” said a VOM worker, “most of the ministers we invited were able to make it out of Yobe to attend the training.”
Photo: Abubakar Shekau leads Boko Haram in its brutal pursuit for an Islamic state in northern Nigeria.
On Friday, Jan. 9, residents of Yobe’s state capital were forced to seek safety when the sound of heavy artillery weapons erupted in the southern section of Damaturu. Nigerian security personnel launched an attack against Boko Haram insurgents who have occupied pockets of the city since Dec. 1. Explosions and sporadic gunfire were heard for hours.
Sixty miles to the west, police officers in Potiskum arrested a member of Boko Haram on Jan. 10 when he was discovered in a stolen vehicle. The suspect and the stolen car were transported to the divisional police headquarters for inspection. When officers opened the car’s trunk, it triggered an explosion that killed two policemen.
The next day, an attack by suicide bombers in Potiskum killed at least seven people. Two young females entered a market areas strapped into suicide vests and set off explosives just seconds apart. In addition to seven killed, 48 people were wounded. A VOM contact reported that the explosion occurred in front of an evangelical church.
Moving the meeting to Bauchi made it possible for the front-line ministry workers to attend training in relative safety. However, just as meetings concluded, several leaders from Gombe began receiving phone calls from family members. While they were meeting, a suicide bomber drove a motorbike into a crowded area in Gombe and set off an explosion that injured 20 people. Though no deaths were reported in the Jan. 13 attack, one pastor was notified that a church member was affected by the blast.
These front-line workers returned to their homes in Yobe and Gombe fully aware of the increase of terrorist attacks around them, but strengthened and equipped for more ministry through the training conference.
Please pray fervently for Nigeria and for our Christian brothers and sisters there, especially in the days leading up to the February 14 presidential elections in that country.
This story originally appeared on Persecution.com.
In my role as VOM’s media spokesperson, I’ve developed working relationships with many members of the media, particularly Christian media staffers who regularly share stories about our persecuted family. We often share information and stories back and forth, and bounce ideas off of each other.
So it wasn’t unusual to have an email from a Mission Network News anchor in my email box this week asking, “Have you heard anything about this?”
I clicked on the link, and almost couldn’t believe what I was reading. In the past two weeks, there have been four female suicide bombers deployed—reportedly by the radical Islamic group, Boko Haram—in Northern Nigeria. Three of them were successful in blowing themselves up. One of them was apprehended before she could explode the vest she was strapped into. She is 10 years old.
It is mind-boggling to me that anyone would willingly serve a god who would ask his followers to strap explosives onto 10 year old girls. But that wasn’t even the most disturbing part of the article.
The most disturbing thing was the speculation—unconfirmed at this point—that some of the suicide bombers may have been girls and young women kidnapped in recent months by Boko Haram, or that Boko Haram is actively training and planning to use kidnapped girls in this way.
The speculation raises so many questions: are the girls being indoctrinated so deeply into radical Islam that they willingly choose to offer their lives in this way? Are they being forced through threats or violence? Are they so distraught at their situation—there are reports of forced conversions and sexual abuse of Boko Haram captives–that they see blowing themselves up as the only means of escape? Do they see death as more desirable than continuing life in captivity?
There are also questions about how Nigeria’s government will respond. There are reports the government knows the general area where the kidnapped Chibok girls are being held, but considers a rescue operation too dangerous. If it is proven that kidnapped girls are being turned into suicide bombers, it demonstrates clearly the depths of evil to which Boko Haram is willing to go, and it may change the safety calculations dramatically. Rescuing kidnapped girls—even if it risks their lives—suddenly takes on new import as it may also save the lives of potential future bombing victims.
It seems that most secular Western media has moved on from the story of the Chibok girls. Perhaps the 15 minutes of fame for #BringBackOurGirls is ticking to an end. But the story is not over; it may be even getting more horrible.
In an earthly sense, we ask what we can do about this terrible tragedy. We can call our congressmen and senators and remind them of the case and tell them that we still care.
But in the spiritual realm there is a powerful weapon all of us can wield: prayer. The thought of kidnapped girls—some of them my Christian sisters—being forced to become human weapons drives me to my knees on their behalf. Lord God: rescue these captives! Give them strength and courage. Protect their hearts and spirits even as their bodies suffer. Give them strong minds and remind them of Your truths.
I invite you to join me in prayer for our sisters and for the entire nation of Nigeria.
The Voice of the Martyrs is providing help to several young women who were previously kidnapped by Boko Haram and later escaped. You can give online to support our work in Nigeria, which includes helping these girls.
Todd Nettleton has served with The Voice of the Martyrs for 16 years. He’s travelled to more than 20 restricted and hostile nations and interviewed hundreds of believers who’ve faced persecution for their Christian witness. As VOM’s principle media spokesperson, Todd has done more than 2,000 interviews with media outlets ranging from Moody Radio to the BBC and Los Angeles Times. He is the principle author of Restricted Nations: North Korea and was part of the writing team for four other VOM books.
Trauma is a part of life. This truth may be even more apparent in the hostile and restricted nations where VOM ministers. These are very difficult places to live—especially for a Christian.
As I travel around the world to meet face-to-face with those who have experienced persecution, I continue to be amazed at the miracles that happen at the intersection of trauma and faith.
One miracle that we see often at this intersection is the miracle of forgiveness. Earlier this year, I was in Nigeria. I met with widows who still live in the same villages where their husband’s murderers live. I interviewed amputation victims who are learning to forgive, and I prayed with girls who’d been kidnapped and abused by Boko Haram and forced to marry Muslim men at the tender ages of 16 and 19.
In many of these encounters, the theme of forgiveness surfaced. It is difficult to imagine forgiving someone who has wounded you so deeply. Without Divine help, it is impossible to forgive like this—that is why it is miraculous!
And God frequently uses forgiveness as a path to healing.
In one part of Nigeria, I interviewed a boy named Nankpak, who was orphaned by Muslim extremists. His mother, his pastor father and his two younger siblings were killed, some of them in his presence.
But what an incredible transformation has taken place in this young man! He is learning to forgive and I witnessed firsthand how God is using this boy as a leader among his peers. Miraculous!
In a city in Northern Nigeria, I met with Israel, the victim of a radical, traumatic AKA (Above-Knee Amputation). This young man worked at his mother’s Kerosene shop and was taught by her to be loving and kind to everyone—Christians and Muslims alike.
One day, a Muslim man came by. Many Muslims in this market are called “hawkers” as they carry wares on their heads and try to sell them. This man asked Israel to watch a box for him, and Israel agreed. The box contained a bomb and Israel’s leg was blown off.
As he adjusts to his new prosthetic leg, Israel said that he has forgiven his attacker. He said, “Actually, based on Christianity, I can forgive them. It is only because Christ died for everybody. That is the only reason…just because of Christ, I can forgive.” Miraculous!
As Psalm 34:18 reminds us, God is near to us at our point of deepest pain: “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” It is often in this place of darkness, this apparent cul-de-sac of pain, that we witness miraculous interventions.
May God grant us the grace to be able to stand with those who are suffering and may we keep our eyes open for the miracles that happen at that intersection!
Click below to watch and listen as Nankpak tells his story in his own words.
Dr. Jason Peters serves in VOM’s International Ministries department, traveling frequently to meet with our persecuted brothers and sisters around the world. He has ministered in 35 countries, as diverse as Cuba, India, Nepal, Saudi Arabia, Burma, Sri Lanka, Colombia, Kyrgyzstan, Bangladesh, Thailand, Indonesia and Nigeria. Before joining VOM’s team, Jason was a faculty member of the Air Force Chaplain Corps College, where he directed Crisis and Trauma training. He also completed a one-year residency at a Level I Trauma Center and has utilized his experience as a trauma responder to offer practical and spiritual assistance to those who are suffering. Jason and his wife, Kimberly, along with their five children, consider it a great honor to serve alongside the persecuted church.
VOM’s Todd Nettleton was interviewed by a reporter from Mission Network News earlier this week for a story about persecution in Nigeria. Here is the resulting story:
Nigeria (MNN) — There’s good news and bad news coming from Nigeria regarding al-Qaeda-related Boko Haram.
What does this group of Islamist extremists want? Todd Nettleton, a spokesman for The Voice of the Martyrs USA, answers, “They want Nigeria to be an Islamic state, so they are trying to eliminate the so-called ‘Western culture’ or ‘Western thought.’”
As a result, adds Nettleton, “Boko Haram targets churches, they target Christians, as well as government installations, as well as schools, as well as other places that would represent–in their minds–the West.”
Most recently, more than 300 teenagers (#bringbackourgirls) were abducted from their school in the town Chibok on April 15. Nettleton says the latest news is a mixed bag. “One of the Nigerian military officials said, ‘We do know where the girls are, but we can’t tell you. And no, we can’t go in with a military-styled assault and free them because that would probably result in killing too many of them.’”
Police say 53 escaped on their own and 276 remain captive. Although a senior U.S. defense official could not independently confirm the reports of the girls’ finding, the news provides a ray of hope.
On another note, Nettleton says, “[There are published reports that] there was a deal in place to exchange the kidnapped girls for releasing Boko Haram prisoners. However, the deal was nixed by Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan.” The motives for scuttling the deal are unclear.
Yet, the human interest aspect of the situation has shed light on the insurgency. “The international community is finally, finally, finally paying attention to what’s going on in Northern Nigeria with regard to Boko Haram attacks,” Nettleton notes, confirming the United Nations has imposed sanctions on the terror group. The Boko Haram will now be added to a list of al-Qaeda-linked organizations subject to an arms embargo and asset freeze.
Will it make any difference? It might be more of a symbolic act, considering this is not a group that operates in the normal channels. “They are kidnapping people for ransom, they are robbing banks, they are stealing vehicles rather than working through the financial system in such a way that it can be traced or really that these sanctions will have a direct effect on the way that they do business.”
While the government has yet to end the mutiny, they have begun to station police and set barriers at church entry points, preventing a number of attackers from reaching their targets. But that also means the situation has directly had an impact on outreach. “It affects everything the Church does in Northern Nigeria because the simple act of holding a worship service potentially is a case of being targeted by Boko Haram.”
VOM provides tools for evangelism, medical care for riot victims, and job training for widows and other affected Christians. “We have direct connections with the churches in northern Nigeria. Part of our work is to come alongside them and encourage them, give them the message that the world is aware of what’s going on here, and that there are Christian brothers and sisters who are praying.”
Nigeria is Africa’s most populous country, with nearly 115 million people, and approximately 470 languages are used in the country. Yet, more than half of the population has not heard of salvation through Jesus Christ. Nettleton says that’s exactly why there are those who are still sharing God’s story. They’ve told Nettleton, “‘Our calling didn’t change because there was risk and danger. Our calling is still to serve the Lord. Our calling is still to reach out to the people around us, to share the love of Christ with them.’”
The VOM team is providing aid, medical help, and more. Recently, “We’re now helping eight girls who have been previously kidnapped by Boko Haram and subsequently escaped or been released. We’re helping to provide them with recovery and a safe place where they can heal.”
But Nigerian Christians also need more resources, both for their personal growth and to share with others. Nettleton acknowledges financial needs, “but I think the first and most important thing for people to do is simply to pray for our brothers and sisters who are in Nigeria who are facing these challenges, because they live in an area where Boko Haram is so active and where they have specifically said, ‘We don’t want Christians to be here.’”
Each week VOM staff members and those volunteering with the ministry gather for a time of worship and prayer. We pray for specific requests from our persecuted brothers and sisters around the world. We pray for VOM projects to assist these brothers and sisters. And we pray for the requests of VOM readers from around the US who ask us to pray for specific needs in their lives.
Today one of my colleagues shared stories and testimonies from a recent visit to Nigeria and meeting with Christians who face persecution at the hands of radical Islamic terrorists from Boko Haram in that nation. And at the end of his presentation we had a special time of prayer for the girls kidnapped last month by Boko Haram.
On each chair was a special card with one of the 180 names that have been publicly released of those kidnapped girls. We were invited to pray specifically for the person whose name we held in our hands. Some of them are Christian girls being pressured to convert to Islam by their captors. Some (15) are Muslim girls, reminding us that Muslims also suffer at the hands of Boko Haram. And we know that not all the names have been released publicly, so we pray for those “known but to God” also being held captive.
And finally we were invited to remember the Biblical mandate to pray for those who persecute, and we prayed that God’s spirit would move mightily among the Boko Haram fighters and that many would be reached with the saving message of salvation through the shed blood of Christ. “The Apostle Paul was the Boko Haram of his day,” we were reminded. “Until the love and the grace and the blood of Christ reached out and saved him.”
We pray that God will raise up more “Pauls” out of the “Sauls” that are currently persecuting Christians as part of Boko Haram.
Will you join VOM staff today in linking up with our brothers and sisters in Nigeria through your prayers?
Todd Nettleton has served the persecuted church and VOM more than 16 years. He has been interviewed more than 2000 times by various media outlets. He's the author of Restricted Nations: North Korea, and served on the writing team for FOXE, Extreme Devotion, Hearts of Fire and other VOM books.