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.