Mary (name changed) was a courageous young woman from Nigeria who boldly shared her faith with Fulani militants after they kidnapped her during a raid on her church. We are sad to report that, shortly after we received her interview, Mary passed away due to an unrelated illness. Mary’s family have told us that they wish for her story to be shared so that other young women like her will be seen and heard.
This photo shows the real Mary, who knew the power of prayer: “I want the brothers and sisters around the world to help us and pray for Nigeria.”
Mary was only 20 years old when she was kidnapped from her village in northern Nigeria by Fulani militants. “We were having Sunday service, then we heard a gunshot,” she remembers. “Everybody started running. Some were falling down. They attack Christians because we worship Jesus and they want us out of this land.”
In the chaos, the gunmen killed several people, including Mary’s uncle. Mary was running away but heard her sister calling for her. “I didn’t know if I should turn back for her or keep running,” she says. She chose to run back for her sister, but one of the militants stopped her. He forced Mary and three other women to go with him. “They said if we didn’t go with them, they’d kill us.”
Mary and three other women were held in the camp for 54 days. During that time, they were forced to cook for the militants – but were given animal food to eat themselves. They also suffered repeated sexual violence at the hands of their captors. But despite her situation, she could feel God’s presence: “I don’t know where it came from – God gave me this strength and boldness.”
The militants demanded a ransom for the safe return of the women to their homes – but it was a huge amount that the villagers couldn’t afford. It’s a tactic used to destroy the futures of young people like Mary. If a ransom is paid, there’s no longer any money available for schooling. Without the hope of a future, it can be difficult for a young person to stand firm in their faith.
The strength of Mary’s faith and her faithfulness in prayer even led her to share the gospel with some of the militants in the camp. She felt compelled to ask them: “Do you really not know that what you are doing is wrong?” Apparently, nobody had ever asked the question before. “They said yes, they know that it is wrong, but there is no way they can stop it. I said there is a way you can stop it. If you give your life to Jesus, He will forgive you – and you can stop all these things you are doing.”
Although they weren’t receptive, she sowed the seeds of hope for redemption.
Mary’s family eventually raised the money to release her. She returned home burdened with the trauma of her experiences: “Every night, I had dreams of what happened to me in that place. I didn’t have peace of mind. I couldn’t be around people. The pain wouldn’t end.”
“I came to this place to heal. It has really helped my life. I can’t thank God enough... I really appreciate God for the people He used.” Mary
That’s when, thanks to your prayers and gifts, Open Doors local partners stepped in with support at the trauma care centre. Mary was able to spend time with trauma counsellors, who helped explain what trauma was and how to respond biblically, helping Mary understand her true identity as God’s loved daughter.
“I came to this place to heal,” says Mary. “It has really helped my life. I can’t thank God enough – for the peace He brings into my life. I really appreciate God for the people He used.” Open Doors partners also helped Mary and her family with emergency relief to pay for necessities and helped to pay for Mary’s schooling.
Mary knew the power of prayer – and asks for us to pray for her and all Christians in Nigeria. “I know it is fulfilment of the Bible – He said, because we are His children, that the world will persecute us,” she says. “The world will deny us because we are not of the world. We are of heaven. We are the children of God. That is why the world is persecuting us.
“We are facing many problems, many challenges in our daily lives. I want the brothers and sisters around the world to help us and pray for Nigeria, that the Lord will intervene and let His peace rain upon this earth.”
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