Mother’s Day is a fantastic opportunity to celebrate the mothers in our lives, whether biological, adopted or spiritual. Motherhood is not easy – and for some persecuted Christian women, becoming a mother has required extraordinary courage and faith.
Ijanada from Nigeria is a 20-year-old mother of two. When she was just 14 years old, Boko Haram kidnapped her and took her to a camp, where they married her off to one of the fighters. Her son Luka was born to her during her time in captivity; after four years, pregnant with her daughter Warasini, she managed to escape. And yet, despite the trauma she faced, Jesus has redeemed her, her children and her story.
‘All I kept thinking of was my family’
When Ijanada was brought to Boko Haram’s camp as a teenager, she was immediately targeted for her faith.
“They threatened me, saying if I didn’t denounce Christ, they would kill me,” she says. “The fear of being killed made me denounce my faith.”
She was enslaved and eventually married off. Forced marriage is a gender-specific method of persecution that Christian women face; they are vulnerable both for their faith and their gender. She doesn’t like thinking back on those times, for obvious reasons, but she experienced a great deal of hardship. “I faced so much suffering, hunger, maltreatment and pain. All I kept thinking of was my family and the memories we shared before I was kidnapped.” She truly knows the cost that can come with following Christ.
One night in 2018, while Ijanada was about two months pregnant with her daughter, she woke up around midnight and saw an opportunity. “They had all gone out for an attack,” she remembers. “They left me, and I was alone in the room with my son. I took Luka and started running into the forest without turning back!”
The next morning, Ijanada came across a soldier, who took her to Bama, a town about 70km southeast of Maiduguri, where other rescued victims were kept. She spent four months there until she was able to contact her family. Praise God, she was finally able to - Ijanada’s father came to collect her and bring her home.
“My family members were so happy to see me, and they welcomed me and my son,” she says.
‘Everything that God makes is beautiful’
What worried Ijanada the most about returning was her church’s reaction to her confession that, out of fear for her life, she had become a Muslim. Thankfully, her church was understanding and able to counsel her.
Three months after being back home, Ijanada gave birth to her daughter. “I called her Warasini. It means ‘I never knew I would come back home’. I gave her this name because of the grace God showed me and the power He demonstrated by bringing me back home.
“I never once hated [my children], because everything that God makes is beautiful. I love them just as I love myself. Honestly, I feel that there is nobody on earth loves me like God. And knowing this gladdens my heart.”
Undoing the damage
Although Ijanada’s family and church welcomed her and her children, the same could not be said for her community. Fatigued by living in constant fear of their lives and superstitiously believing that children fathered by Boko Haram soldiers carry seeds of the group’s hatred, rebellion and radicalism, many communities keep children like Luka and Warasini at a distance. “I was not welcome. Most people kept mocking and insulting me,” Ijanada recalls. Social exclusion can be a very damaging aftermath of the trauma and persecution Christian women face.
“Luka is isolated and always lonely. When I call and ask him what the matter is, he cannot say. But Luka doesn’t eat well and is not putting on weight as he should.”
Ijanada is determined to undo the damage. “Every time he is insulted, I hug him and tell him it’s okay, don’t worry.”
‘I am free of bitterness’
Thanks to your prayers and support, this brave mother was invited to a trauma care programme run by Open Doors partners.
“I found new life here,” Ijanada says. “As well as the prayers, they encouraged us and taught us about genuine forgiveness and how to let go… I learned how to forgive those who have offended me and have forgiven those who have mocked me, because they don’t know what they are doing.
“If I hadn’t attended the seminar, I would have still been full of bitterness and unforgiveness. I didn’t understand the importance of forgiveness, but now I do, and I have let those feelings go. I am free of bitterness and unforgiveness.”
To you, Ijanada says, “I want to say thank you. May God continue to open doors for you. May God continue to grant you wisdom to reach out to many others. I have been touched and I have forgiven.
“Please pray for me. I want God to raise my children so they will become useful. Also pray for God to provide for my dad, so he can send me back to school.”
Let's give thanks to God for all the mothers in our lives - and for mothers around the world, like Ijanada, who are raising children in especially difficult circumstances. Ask that God will clothe them with strength and dignity, that they may be able to laugh at the days to come. (Proverbs 31:25)
- For Ijanada and her children, for God’s continued healing in their lives. Please pray that she will be able to go back to school and complete her education
- For Open Doors partners in Nigeria and elsewhere as they continue to run trauma care programmes for Christian women persecuted for both their faith and their gender
- For all women who are still being held captive by Islamic extremist groups in Nigeria; in particular, for Leah Sharibu and the missing Chibok girls. Pray that God will make His presence known to them and that He will bring them home to their families, as He did for Ijanada.
*It costs £346 to provide trauma and spiritual healing in all areas of her life. Anything you can give towards this will help to bring hope and restoration.