Joy Amidst the Pain: Meditating on the Real Reason for Christmas

This coming February, Nigerians will line up at the polls to vote for their next president– or to reinstate their current president, Goodluck Jonathan. The APC (All Progressives Congress) is making sure promises that if their candidate, Muhammadu Buhari, wins the election, there will be such change that 2014 will be their “last Christmas in bondage.” Problems such as lowering oil prices, the devaluation of the naira (the country’s form of currency), government and military corruption, and the Boko Haram’s terrorist insurgency have caused Nigerians to lose confidence in Nigeria’s social and government institutions. Amidst such major problems, it can be hard– almost impossible– to have a joyous Christmas in Nigeria, especially in Northern regions.

This Christmas, countless Nigerians are grieving their loved ones, suffering economic downturns, and living as displaced people in places such as Maiduguri, Chad, Cameroon, and Niger. Because of the government’s failure to serve their people, Nigerians are outraged and looking for any ounce of hope to get them through this depressing holiday season. Yet, among reports of worsening developments, there is a cause for joy: the true meaning of Christmas, Christ’s birth, expresses that God has become Immanuel, or “God with Us.” Continue reading

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A Quick Update

Hey, beloved people! Thanks for reading through this blog and continually having those in Nigeria on your hearts and minds in prayer to our Lord.

At this point, I have no new updates about Daphne’s medical situation (for those reading for the first time, Daphne’s situation is unrelated to that of the Chibok Girls, but it is VERY dear to my heart, and so I asked for prayer. For information on who Daphne is and her story, read here). In prayer, the Lord brought to mind her ex-boyfriend, whom I’ll call W, as well as her mother, father, sister, and close friends, all of whom, to my knowledge, do not know Christ. Please be praying that the Lord would use this horrible pit to soften their hearts to His gospel, convict them of their sin, and bring them to Him– whether for the first time, or to know Him once again– in all, to know the wonderful reconciliation of accepting Christ as their Personal Lord and Savior. Pray that as they accept the Lord into their hearts, He’d give them such peace, such revelation, and such comfort and transformation that it would completely change their attitudes towards the things of Him, themselves, each other, and this world. Pray they’d experience His nearness. That they would see His sweetness, His raw, “I’m not leaving you here” love, His kindness, His mercy– and that it’d bring them to Himself. Pray that He’d work in and through them to proclaim His praise. For, no matter who they’ve been, “…God’s kindness is intended to lead [people] to repentance[.]” (Romans 2:4b). 


Bracelet-making update: Along side using alphabet beads to spell out the messages of these bracelets– those being “Hephzibah: My Delight is in Her,” “Isaiah 62,” and “Bring Back His Girls” or “BBHS” — I’ve started to use small, ceramic square beads to write out the messages as well. 

 As promised on the Bracelet page of this blog, I’m posting many pictures of them below. Though these bracelets are ultimately not about fashion or style, the ceramic bracelets look more grown up, have allowed me to paint them more uniquely and thoughtfully, and allow me to say more on each of them.

The Lord has completely blessed me with being able to thoughtfully create such beautiful things for the people of Nigeria. Please be praying that as I continue in doing the Lord’s work, He’d open up doors to those in my community and church to help me create, as well as share, the bracelets with the world around us. Also pray that I’d have much guidance, clarity, and confirmation on what the Lord’s will is concerning how I proceed in this. Praise the Lord!! He’s doing such amazing things, guys. I’m so excited for what He’s going to do next. 🙂 

Pictured above: The front of one bracelet. Text reading "Hephzibah 267," with a bird/dove flying in flight underneath.

Pictured above: The front of one bracelet. Text reading “Hephzibah 267,” with a bird/dove in flight underneath.

Pictured: The front of one red bracelet. Text reads, "Isaiah 62 | Bring Back His Girls"

Pictured: The front of one red bracelet. Text reads, “Isaiah 62 | Bring Back His Girls.”

The front of one bracelet. Text reads, "Isaiah 62 | Bring Back His Girls."

The front of one more simple, boyish bracelet. Text reads, “Isaiah 62 | Bring Back His Girls.”

Pictured: The front side of one bracelet. Text reads, "Hephzibah: My Delight is in Her".

Pictured: The front side of one bracelet. Text reads, “Hephzibah: My Delight is in Her”.

Bless the Lord for all of you. I’m continuing to pray for all of you, those I’ve met and those who’ve followed online… may the Lord bring you to know Him through His kindness and mercy and through the knowledge of His son, Christ Jesus. May you deeply desire to know Him through His Word, and may you be rooted in it as you gain all spiritual wisdom and insight into what He wants for your life. Be so blessed. I love you all.

The Women of Gwoza, Nigeria’s Youth, and the Nigerian Military: Fighting Against the Darkness

We, as humans, were never created to experience death. Yet, in the town of Gwoza, lives have been ripped apart by it.
Darkness seems to reign. Hands hang limp.  Blood runs heavily. People are both literally and metaphorically crushed.

After being asked one question, “Will you convert to Islam?” Men and children are beheaded, slashed, and shot down where they stand, sit, and lay. Their wives, mothers, and sisters– those beautiful young girls and women, loved and cared-for members of their households and communities, are violently raped, beaten, and gagged after being “married” to their husbands’ murderers. Then, bound, shrouded in the darkness of black hijabs, they are told by their captors and rapists, “You are Muslim now.”
The blood flows. The tears dry them out. The bruises become dark; the bones wither. Their spirits sink as low as the mass graves of their loved ones. In days, their lives become full of nothing but bitter heartbreak and unimaginable horror.
But the Lord knows and loves these people passionately. Many of these forsaken, beaten, bound, “converted” women, if not most to all of them, know Christ as their Personal Lord and Savior, and according to Voice of the Persecuted, over 300,000 Christians were displaced from the predominantly Christian Gwoza and it’s surrounding states as the Boko Haram infiltrated the community.
Because of this fact, there is still hope.  A God who sees, knows, and loves His people, who is “close to the brokenhearted [and]… rescues those whose spirits are crushed,” affirms and assures the hope of His people that He will be near to them during this time. Not only this, but they have the promise that “all things will work together for [their] good,” according to Romans 8:28. Because our God is a good, sovereign, loving God, their faith and rest is in His power– His complete willingness– to REDEEM the lives of these broken, crushed women.

Because our Lord is a God of unbelievable redemption and amazing second chances, He not only will comfort and redeem these people; He can use them to bring others to Himself. Hallelujah! How great is our God!

To be quite honest, I don’t know what to write or how to in the face of these tragedies. How can one do justice to telling the truth of the horrendous acts being committed? How can one capture the voice of a nation dying under the dark powers so disgustingly at work within it?

In conclusion, be strong in the Lord [be empowered through your union with Him]; draw your strength from Him [that strength which His boundless might provides]… For we are not wrestling with flesh and blood [contending only with physical opponents], but against the despotisms, against the powers, against [the master spirits who are] the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spirit forces of wickedness in the heavenly (supernatural) sphere. Therefore put on God’s complete armor, that you may be able to resist and stand your ground on the evil day [of danger], and, having done all [the crisis demands], to stand [firmly in your place].” (Ephesians 6:10a, 11-13, AMP)

The truth is, no one can fight against this; it must be Christ. I cannot, and do not, fight this war on my own. Whether I am writing on this blog, creating prayer bracelets, or telling others of what is going on in this country, I, in my own strength, am insufficient to fight against the powers of darkness that exist so heavily around us. And as I hear about civilian youths fighting alongside the Nigerian military against BH, the Nigerian military lacking in weapons, training, and morale, and these dear men and women dying for their faith all over the world as BH, Hamas and ISIS persecute Christians, the truth becomes more and more clear: Contrary to the world’s popular belief concerning the Boko Haram, Hamas, and ISIS, we are not fighting a war against mere flesh and blood. As the passage in Ephesians proclaims above, we are fighting a spiritual battle against an enemy that is, in fact, deceiving and destroying not only those persecuted, pillaged, and lost by Islamic terrorism, but the human terrorists so vehemently hated themselves. Therefore, we must rely upon the power of the Holy Spirit to move in, through, and around us to defeat the enemy who is fighting so hard to destroy. We cannot fight only with mere weapons, no matter the lack or the abundance of them. Ultimately, we must fight with prayer, with fasting as the Lord calls us (Matthew 17:21), and with spreading the word to raise awareness– awareness not only of the plight of these people, but of the enemy’s spiritual schemes and attacks. As Ephesians 6:18 states, we must “keep alert and watch with strong purpose and perseverance, interceding in behalf of all the saints (God’s consecrated people)” (Ephesians 6:18, AMP).

With all of this in mind, let us pray for our beaten and wearied kidnapped sisters in the BH’s camps, as well as in the town of Gwoza. Let us pray that the Holy Spirit would move powerfully within the towns of Gwoza, as well as the surrounding towns within the Borno, Yobe, and Adamawa states of Nigeria. Pray that the God of all comfort would speak to these women in their distress, keep them under the shadow of His wings, and would work in and through these women and these situations all over the world to bring members of Boko Haram– as well as the members of ISIS and Hamas in the Middle East and Syria– into a personal relationship with Himself. May He create in them such rest, such strength, and such faith in Him, that they’d proclaim His name boldly, illuminating such darkness with His perfect light.

Pray that the youths fighting against the BH with the Nigerian military would come to know Christ as well, and that by His guidance and strength alone, they’d continue to fight against the BH with boldness. Pray for the Nigerian soldiers; that though they may be lacking weapons, the Lord would show Himself strong through them in defeating the BH according to His will– and that no matter if they have proper weapons or training, their strength and resolution would be found in Him alone as they call upon His name. It is only by the power of Jesus that these dark forces can be extinguished. 

We were never meant to experience death, but with Christ, death is already defeated. We must be aware of the enemy’s schemes, putting on the full of armor of God, completely confident in the fact that He has already won the war against sin and death, and that His salvation will soon be seen in the lives of these people! Please continue in faithful prayer and solidarity with our fellow brothers and sisters around the world facing the darkness.

The People of Northern Nigeria: Fed, Clothed, Housed, Healed

Home.  I reflect on how many times I’ve longed for it in the past. As a child on her first day of school, scared; as a tired traveler, after a long road trip; as a distressed teenager, needing to be alone with the Lord in my room. I think of how many times I’ve come to my bed, my kitchen table, my sofa, to find rest and sustenance– both spiritually (bible studies, family prayer times, listening to the radio) and physically.  It is a word that conjures up images of comfort, safety, family, and even bonds to one’s personal identity.

Home is a place that houses the material possessions we hold dear– more than that, it holds our precious memories. Home is supposed to be a place where we can be our absolute selves, a place where we can “tell it like it is.” The thought and feeling of having no where to go at the end of the day can fill a person with a sense of worthlessness; It’s the thought that says, “I’ve got no where to go– nowhere that wants me, nowhere I belong.” To be violently pushed out of your earthly refuge can weaken one’s spirit in a way not much else can.

According to reports made by many different news centers in Nigeria, over 650,000 people have been displaced due to Boko Haram’s attacks on their villages, government institutions, and homes since last May. In particular, the town of Buni Yadi in Yobe State and the towns of Gwoza and Damboa in Borno State were seized by the Boko Haram in early August, after the Boko Haram were pushed out of their militant headquarters in Maiduguri. These raids have caused close to 6,000 fleeing men, women and children to be displaced into the surrounding states and capitols (see sources at bottom of article).

To respond to this surge of haggard, hurt, desperate individuals in their states and towns, the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) has reported that emergency relief has been provided in the surrounding towns of Madagali and Mubi, with emergency relief attempting to be given to those displaced in the mountains surrounding Borno and Yobe state. Although attempts have been made, the Boko Haram’s violent and consistent activity in those areas make it almost impossible to provide any food, water, or relief for the people in brush and mountain regions. These people have gone over a week without food or water at a time, wasting away, terrified by the men waiting for them to leave their hiding places.

Elsewhere, Chibok girls who have fled the Boko Haram have reported being raped on their journeys back home, by men who’ve decided to ruthlessly take advantage of their desperate, vulnerable situations. As the UN has worked with these girls to reintegrate them into society, care packages called “Dignity Kits” have been provided to supply the girls’ basic needs, such as water and sanitary napkins. Additionally, health screenings have been set up have been set up to prepare for any more returning girls.

What is the reoccurring theme here? That men, women, and children who’ve called these places home have had their lives, their dignity, and their very basic necessities ripped away from them in petty acts of violence, both sexual and physical. What happens when every earthly image of comfort and belonging you have becomes suddenly non-existent? Suddenly forbidden to abide in?

The believer is reminded, in such a horrific time, that we ultimately abide in Christ. 

If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” (John 15:7, ESV)

I do not ask you to take them out of the world, but I do ask you to keep them safe from the Evil One… I sent them into the world, just as you sent me into the world.
I pray not only for them, but also for those who believe in me because of their message. I pray that they may all be one.
Father! May they be in us, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they be one, so that the world will believe that you sent me.
I gave them the same glory you gave me, so that they may be one, just as you and I are one: I in them and you in me, so that they may be completely one, in order that the world may know that you sent me and that you love them as you love me.
Father! You have given them to me, and I want them to be with me where I am, so that they may see my glory, the glory you gave me; for you loved me before the world was made.
Righteous Father! The world does not know you, but I know you, and these know that you sent me.” (John 17:15-16, 20-25, GNT)

In a world where over 650,000 people– people with hearts, with dreams, with stories– are told they have no earthly home, they NEED to know the comforting truth: that there is a God who longs to be their home, no matter their earthly address.


Please pray with me, as this displacement continues, that first and foremost, these people would be touched by the love and complete security of knowing Christ as their Personal Lord and Savior during the darkest times of their lives. Pray that as they’d know Christ, they’d receive the supplies necessary to quench their hunger and thirst– spiritually, emotionally, mentally, and physically. Pray for those who are administering this emergency relief, that they’d be touched by the love of God and would share this unspeakable joy– even a midst sorrow– with those they are taking care of.
Pray that as hands are held, needs are provided, and hearts are heard, there would be healing and restoration happening in the people of Northern Nigeria. Pray that they’d find earthly shelter, refuge, and security– and that it’d ultimately bring them to find THE Home, Christ, so that none of them would be spiritually homeless.

Sources:
http://www.ndtv.com/article/world/boko-haram-takes-over-another-nigeria-town-witnesses-official-579765?curl=1408671738
http://www.vanguardngr.com/2014/08/thousands-receiving-aid-boko-haram-siege/?
http://www.christiantoday.com/article/raf.planes.to.look.for.missing.chibok.schoolgirls/39823.htm?
http://www.punchng.com/news/boko-haram-overruns-police-academy/?
http://www.aljazeera.com/news/africa/2014/08/boko-haram-seizes-another-nigerian-town-2014821151552714624.html
http://www.punchng.com/news/un-rehabilitates-escaped-chibok-girls-2/
http://www.nation.co.ke/news/africa/Nigeria-soldiers-mutiny-over-Boko-Haram/-/1066/2425838/-/j7dkcj/-/index.html?