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Nigeria: Your letters show Mercy she's 'not alone'
Earlier this year, Open Doors launched a letter-writing campaign for Mercy James in Nigeria - a victim of Boko Haram, who was abducted from her hometown and held in captivity for over five weeks. Read below Mercy's story and how your letters have provided her with joy.
At just 22 years old, Mercy had experienced more horrors than many of us experience in a lifetime.
"My first day was like hell," she told us, recalling her first day as a captive of Boko Haram. "I cried all day and all night. I prayed like never before and asked God to give me courage."
Mercy's town had been attacked. In the panic, she lost sight of her father and fell into the hands of the Islamist militants. For over five weeks she was held in captivity, during which time Mercy was beaten, made to attend Islamic rituals and forcibly married. But despite this, Mercy trusted in God to rescue her. And, in time, He did.
When Open Doors met Mercy last year, she had been left to live in an internally displaced people's (IDP) camp. She was destitute, injured and deeply traumatised, which is why Open Doors sought to help her with counselling, medical expenses, income generation and encouragement through your letters.
Now 23, Mercy forms a much more hopeful picture. "The transformation has been so radical, that was hard to recognise her," wrote an Open Doors worker.
Today, Mercy does not live in the IDP camp but has been taken in by a foster family - within the context of distrust and isolation often experienced by former Boko Haram captives, this is an extraordinarily fortunate situation.
Also, Mercy is feeling much stronger now - a serious injury that she'd sustained to her leg during an aerial bombardment has healed. And with the support of Open Doors, Mercy has started a tailoring business, which is doing well.
"The sewing machine and monetary support I received helped me a lot," says Mercy. "I started up my own business and now have a shop. A lot of people bring their clothes for me to sew; I can now cover my needs and those of my (foster) family."
Open Doors, together with international visitors, went to see Mercy in order to pray with her, encourage her, and deliver the all-important letters.
When she saw the letters, Mercy burst into joyful laughter. "I am so happy because I know that I am not alone and that other believers out there are praying for me."
As well as the letters, the volunteers delivered one item that immediately caught her eye. It was a bracelet. "I was deeply touched by the bracelet I received," she told us. "Though it's just a bracelet, it has a deeper meaning. All the colours on it speak about Psalm 23."
"I am overwhelmed and my heart is filled with joy seeing Open Doors here again. Words cannot express the joy and peace I have. All I can say is, may God continue to bless your charity and all those who are out there praying for us in northern Nigeria.
"For other believers who are being persecuted because of Christ, I have this to say: though you walk through the valley of the shadow of death, fear no evil for God is with you. If God delivered me, He will do the same for you."
You can still write a message of support to Mercy James - the deadline is 30 November 2016.
To support other persecuted Christians in Africa, visit the letter-writing webpage for the latest writing campaigns, or send a donation to support believers with trauma care - a gift of £46 can provide a trauma awareness session to comfort a church leader and equip them to comfort others.
- Thank the Lord for Mercy's trust in Him and for how far she has come in the last year
- That Mercy would continue to heal following her ordeal and that her life would be blessed
- That women still held captive by Boko Haram would know the comfort of God and would be freed from their control soon, both physically and emotionally.