Martina Paul is a 32-year-old mother of five from Northern Nigeria. Up until recently she had been held captive by Boko Haram militants – a group opposed to anything but an extreme view of Islam who are waging war in Northern Nigeria. This is Martina’s story…
“The insurgents came to our village at night. I was in the room with my husband and the kids. We said our prayers, went to bed, and woke up to the sound of explosions and gunshots all over the village. We heard cries of other people in the village, shouting the name of Jesus.
“The insurgents broke down our doors and entered. We were also shouting, calling on the name of Jesus. They told us to stop calling on Jesus, but we persisted. My husband embraced me and the kids, all the while calling on the name of Jesus. The attackers drew him away and shot him in front of us and then set the house on fire and went away with us to the forest. I was pregnant and pleaded with them to spare us, but they took me and the children captive.”
She gave birth after five months in a Boko Haram camp, but the militants killed her child because she praised the name of Jesus after he was born.
Martina is just one of an estimated 2,000 women and girls who have been abducted by the militant Islamist group Boko Haram, including the over 200 girls who were taken from a school in Chibok in April 2014.
But Martina is one of the lucky ones; in May she was rescued when the army made major breakthroughs in the Sambisa forest, and ten Boko Haram camps were cleared from this stronghold, freeing hundreds of women and children.
“To God be the glory. We have been rescued by God himself,” Martina says.
Thousands have been taken, many of them Christians, like Martina. In the midst of their harrowing tales, they say that the Lord has heard our prayers for them — not only in their rescue, but in His sustaining grace to them as they faced each day in the camp.
Elizabeth says: “I was very close to God in secret prayer. I could feel God’s presence. He assured me that I will be reunited with my people one day. This is the day.”
Another, Waliya Samiyu (25) says: “God never disowns his people. He never let me down. My friends lost their lives in my presence. I went through hardship. I was raped. I saw hell. But I clung to God who knows me. I cried to Him day and night.
Open Doors workers in Nigeria have been meeting with some of those who were rescued, taking with them gifts, prayers and messages from Christians all over the world.
Racheal John (25) says: “I wish my eyes could see the people who sent this support to me. I don’t know what to say. One thing I will never forget is that I have brothers and sisters who care for me and who prayed for my rescue. The Lord will shower his blessings on every single one that contributed to this support.”
Vilita John (15) says: “I will remember this gift for as long as I live. The items might be spent, but the words that accompanied the gifts will remain forever in me. To God be the glory.”
While we praise God that these women and children are now free, we know that they will continue to need our support and prayers for the hard road ahead. Dr. Fatima Akilu, who is in charge of Nigeria’s counter-violence and extremism program and is caring for around 300 of the recently rescued women and children, told the BBC: “Recovery is going to be slow, it’s going to be long… It’s going to be bumpy.”
The rescued women and children have been moved to military barracks to avoid attack from the insurgents, but it is unclear how long they will remain there.
The future is also uncertain for orphaned children; one 10-year-old girl called Alisa saw Boko Haram kill both her parents, and was then in a Boko Haram camp for seven months. But she hasn’t given up hope. She says: “I don’t know what to do. I have no one to help me. But I am sure that if God allowed my parents to be killed, He will take care of me. I look up to Him. The way He rescued me shows that He has something for me in this life.”
We support people who are beaten, tortured,
imprisoned, falsely accused, and hated simply for following Jesus.