The Nigerian military’s gunshots sounded like salvation. Like the sunrise after a stormy night, The gunshots and news of a quickly advancing group of soldiers filled captives in the Boko Haram camp with a mixture of confusion and fear, but most of all, joy– as Boko Haram terrorists were quickly sapped of their power and, in turn, their captives were filled with the strength to move. These captives, mainly women with children (both born and “adopted” alike, as many are orphans), had what only could’ve been divine strength as they boarded packed rescue vehicles or carried their malnourished children, walking in the military’s tire tracks. Sadly, these tire marks, as so many other roads they had tread, were filled with grief. Aside from suffering incredibly high temperatures and swollen feet, many of these women fell into fatal danger, setting off landmines that killed three and severely injured many more. Apart from these ugly, heartbreaking events, more bereavement was had when 10 women were crushed by an armoured personnel carrier and others died from stray bullet wounds. And, in what is possibly the saddest news of all, some women never got to take this road to freedom. Defiantly refusing to flee with their captors, members of Boko Haram stoned the women, killing many before the Nigerian military started chasing them off like cowards into the Northern Nigerian wilderness. There is no doubt about it: the roads these incredibly strong– yet incredibly broken– women have walked have been filled with unfathomable pain and trauma.
As disheartening as it may sound, their walk on these nightmarish roads are far from over. While the immediate hell of being in captivity has now ended, and they lie in refuge receiving mental, emotional, and physical care for their wounds, their “road to recovery” is just beginning– something that may take an equal amount of, if not more, strength to walk down. This truth is poignantly expressed by Maryamu Adamwu a survivor herself.
“I know I was dead, my existing now is just a mere shadow of life as nothing moves me.”
As only shadows of the people these women used to be, many, if not all, of the women and children who underwent these horrendous experiences will continue to deal with unthinkable damage– lacerations borne deep on the surfaces of their very hearts and souls.
There is no sugarcoating the reality of what has happened to these hundreds of women and children, or to all women, for that matter. In godless societies, women have always been treated horribly; and in this present world of greed, lust, and incredulous sin, women have become objects, worth only what they can do to please or allure men. In the eyes of Boko Haram, these women are purely “infidels”: worth as much as a “sex machine” or maid to fulfill their wants (source). But in the eyes of Christ, these women– like every woman ever created– are precious, their worth invaluable; not for what they can do, but simply for who they are.
At the core of it all, women are created in the very image of God Himself, and unlike what many believe today, women are not inferior to men in intelligence, ability, or inherent value. As Genesis 1 clearly states, both men and women were created equally in the image of their Creator (Genesis 1:27). Yet, it is not only what we were created to be that makes us valuable; it is how we were created to be. Psalm 139, one of the most well-known psalms of all time, describes the process of how we were made as “fearfully and wonderfully” and describes mankind, one of the works of God, as “wonderful” (Psalm 139:14). Clearly, women are apart of those works; although women were not the first in mankind to be created, they were not created with any less thought, amount of God-like nature, or special care.
Women are not only created equally; they are loved passionately by their Creator in human flesh, Jesus Christ. As images of God, we all bear pieces of Him; yet, it is only Jesus that was the Perfect Image of God, not marred by sin. Being God’s perfect image, Jesus, in all of His gospels, had many beautiful, personal interactions with women: from the women at the well in John 4, to the group of women who followed Him along with the disciples as documented in (), women, no matter the social stigma that surrounded them, were important to Christ. Jesus Christ, the Son of God Himself, sees all people, women included, from the perspective of their Creator and, in a way, Father. If He, being God, was truly God, He would not look at women with lust, though He was tempted to (Hebrew 4:15); He looked at and cared about their hearts, seeing them as people made in His very Image. In Jesus’ mind, all of mankind holds little pieces of Himself, therefore making them invaluable and passionately loved. It is no wonder, then, that Christ would see all of us– women and men alike– as worth breaking His very body and shedding His blood over to heal and redeem (Ephesians 5:25).
Love Changes Everything
If this is true– that the Creator of each one of these formerly captive women loves them enough to give up His own life (Ephesians 5:2)— It changes everything. It means that these women, though walking roads of suffering, are not walking alone (John 14:18). It means that their deepest wounds, once incapable of receiving healing, can find complete healing and redemption in the Savior’s love (Psalm 147:3; Isaiah 53:5). It means that they are no longer “infidels,” or “objects”; they are dearly loved children of the Most High… no longer “Desolate” or “The Land God Forgot,” but “Hephzibah: My Delight is in Her.” (Isaiah 62:4).
Because, in the end, only Christ’s Love and Salvation changes our very souls, something made clear in the last portion of Maryamu Adamwu’s own words.
“But now that I am here, I confirm that I am a living being. I thank God that I am alive. I thank God.”
Pray for the 219 Chibok schoolgirls who are still in captivity, somewhere. Pray that their families and loved ones would not lose hope, and would see Christ’s amazing show of salvation here as a reason to hold fast to their hope. Pray that Christ would continue to strengthen, comfort, and give peace to their families, who are no doutbt going through deep turmoil over the loss of their daughters.
Pray for the women who have achieved freedom; pray they would come to know Christ, the One who truly sets them free and heals their wounds. Pray they would come to Him and, in the process, recieving healing and redemption of the deep spiritual wounds they still have.
Pray for their continued care, physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. Pray that Christ would bless them with real, lasting comfort and peace as they recieve this care.
Pray for their care providers; that they would have everything they need in every way (monetarily, spiritually, emotionally, mentally and physically) to treat these women and their children.
Pray for the many children who are malnourished and orphaned. Pray they would come to know Christ, and would have their needs met as well, both now and in the future.
Pray for the Nigerian military and government; pray that Christ would continue to grant them success according to His will and would give them wisdom and insight for fighting Boko Haram in the months ahead. Pray that President Jonathan would make good on his promise; that incoming president Buhari would come to know Christ, and would lead the country to further healing in His name.
Lastly, pray for the many people deeply impacted by Boko Haram. Pray for peace in general in their communities; pray they would seek Christ’s peace and not bitter revenge or paranoia, as they have in the past few months.
Do you know Jesus?
All of us– whether we even believe in Him or not– are images of God (Genesis 1:26-27, NIV). This means that in the beginning, God gave us qualities that are like His: We have a conscience and sense of Justice, and we yearn to be intimately Loved and Known by others, among many other qualities.
Yet, instead of being the God’s clear and perfect images, as He initially created us, we chose to be our own image. We believed we were better off without God, and we set ourselves up as kings of our own lives, “masters of our destiny.” In the process, we became marred; refusing the One we were created to Know and Love, we became empty, degraded, perverted versions of the people we were created to be all along. We chose self over Love, and lost all knowledge of what Love was, insteading being puffed up by pride. Instead of being in the very likeness of God, we chose to be the very likeness of the Earth and it’s creatures. Simply put, we only had ourselves– a dark and hopeless state indeed.
Yet, God never gave up on us. “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ,” saving us “by grace” (Ephesians 2:4-5, NIV). Because our efforts in reconciling with God were futile outside of God’s power, He saved us Himself.
Read more about the Love and Power of Christ— who, by believing in Him alone, continually makes us the people we were meant to be– here.