‘No Small Work’: Refugees and Terrorists Coming to Christ in Northern Nigeria

June 19, 2014

Northern Nigeria is experiencing a rash of attacks by insurgents who systematically destroy villages, marketplaces, and schools. Local gospel workers are ministering to refugees and to the militants who are becoming soldiers for Christ.

“I think we would have been overwhelmed in the mission field long ago if you were not here for us.”

That nod of thanks was expressed to Christian Aid Mission this past week by the director of a Nigerian ministry who has fought long and hard in the trenches of spiritual warfare. He has experienced his share of both victories and defeats. His life has been threatened. The ministry´s headquarters was forced to relocate because of insurgents that are terrorizing the countryside. Challenges abound, but he never gives up the work God has entrusted to him.

Families displaced by violent attacks on their villages are pouring into crowded displacement camps or crossing the border into adjoining countries. Using funds provided by Christian Aid donors, the ministry is delivering supplies to some of the refugees. However, travel to the camps is becoming increasingly difficult and dangerous.

The ministry leader sent the following report to Christian Aid June 13 detailing the hardships–and the harvest–experienced by Nigerian missionaries:

“For the past two months, the world and particularly believers have stood with Nigeria and with our Northeast region where we live. The insurgents have destroyed virtually everything within their reach. Women and men alike are being captured and taken into the forest, where it seems the military has been unable to rescue anyone thus far. The increasing number of men, women and children in the refugee camps is mounting to millions in three countries. We believe we must do our best to help them, even at risk to our own safety. We ask God´s people to send materials and resources to enable us to salvage the lives and souls of people trapped in this ugly circumstance.

The killing continues, and this week alone at least six villages were invaded and burned down by insurgents. This has happened without any challenge from the military, and these men are committing their evil deeds daily. More families are streaming into the refugee camp where we bring aid. Unfortunately for two weeks now, we have not been able to visit again due to intense fighting in the region. The military would not guarantee our safety on the more than 80-mile journey to the first camp. The road itself is littered with military road blocks. The insurgents have attacked some of these stations and killed the military personnel.

We are playing it safe for now. We have been able to repatriate some people, including children and ex-insurgents who left the rebel group and repented of their crimes. We have been training and feeding them at two of our stations–the School of Missions and our convert care center. Thank you for your support. To handle these crises is no small work.

We have to do the following as part of our added ministry activities:

  1. Take responsibility to work in a refugee camp with over 300,000 people. We help provide food, medicine, and other services to some of the refugees, although not without difficulties
  2. Strengthen those who accept Christ so as to empower them spiritually and physically
  3. Resettle families to enable them to continue their lives after attacks on their villages
  4. Help traumatized people who witnessed the killings
  5. Provide education for their children

Serious challenges

The rainy season is beginning in the Northeast, and this is the time farmers plant crops. There will be an impending crisis, even if the insurgent attacks decline. Many of these farmers are in refugee camps, and they have decided not to return to their farms for fear of an attack by the rebels. In some cases, those who went to their farms to begin planting did not come back alive. The situation is serious, as it means that next year there will be massive famine in the land if care is not taken now. We are thinking of helping some of them by renting land in a safer location where they can raise crops while they wait to return to their villages.

Our field staff

Two weeks ago we rescued some of our staff in two eastern states due to the killings. None of them was affected but they had to evacuate. Now the hostilities have diminished, and we are already thinking of moving our missionary brothers back to the area. They will go, but their wives and children will remain behind. We will travel there to assess the situation and then begin the move.

Member care

Our missionaries need care and support. They have been traumatized in some cases. The Lord has helped our brethren recover from this pain of running and escaping from dangers, sometimes leaving their hundreds of converts behind. This is terrible for a missionary.

Audio Bibles bring the gospel to remote Nigerian villages.

“The Treasure” Audio Bibles

We were able to give out 45 of "The Treasure" audio Bibles to Muslims who were ready to hear. Some of them assured us we shall hear from them when we come back. Pray for one new convert who accepted Christ after listening to the Gospel of John. This is a great tool for reaching Muslims.

Testimony of a convert

It is impossible to think Banga* could be saved. He was the one who championed the attacks on two villages. He cries now when he remembers killing innocent people. I am personally working with him to help him overcome the trauma. He stays with one of our mission friends who takes care of him.”

Urgent needs

*name changed