Open Doors first met Esther (20) in a settlement for internally displaced people (IDP) in Maiduguri, northern Nigeria in 2017. Since then, layers and layers of her story have gradually been unfolding: her terrifying capture by Boko Haram in Gwoza, her three-year horror-filled captivity, her daring escape and the harsh judgment she and daughter Rebecca faced from the community and her family after their return.
A letter-writing campaign for Esther and Rebecca has been running for several months; Open Doors worker Hanna* visited her recently to deliver some of the letters we have received from supporters so far, including one from an unexpected and astonishing corner – a letter from UK Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt.
Hanna says, “When I handed her the printed letter and explained who it was from, she kept looking at it in confusion, and eventually asked, ‘How does he know me?’
“‘Christians all over the world have heard your story and are so concerned about you. They are praying with you,” I explained. This caused her face to break out in a big smile as she held the letter tightly to her chest. It is impossible for me to describe the joy on her face as she read the letter, realising that people care so much about her.”
Esther immediately replied with a hand-written note:
Dear Sir, I was shocked when the team visited me in Maiduguri to deliver a letter from you. I count it a privilege, thank you so much. God bless you in Jesus’ name. You care for me with words of encouragements. I feel loved. God bless you. Please continue to pray for me and Becky. Thank you and God bless you. Esther.
But that was only the start. Hanna and the team had brought with them a huge bag full of your letters and cards!
She says, “As we handed her the bag of letters from supporters, [Esther] could hardly believe her eyes. ‘What’s this...’ she wondered, and then, ‘OHHH! Beautiful cards!’
For the next little while she kept opening the sealed envelopes to read her letters; Becky sat beside her, playing and eating her biscuits. Esther read the letters aloud and showed Becky some of the colourful drawings by the children. She was positively overwhelmed by the realisation of the huge amount of care and love believers around the world have shown towards her.
“Thank you for these words of encouragement! God bless you,” she says.
Hanna says, “As we concluded our visit with Esther, I was struck by the stark contrast between the rejection from her own people and the love and care she receives from the worldwide Body of Christ. It is offering her a sense of belonging. Thank you everyone who has taken the time to write to Esther – your beautiful encouragement is strengthening her and filling her with hope. It is helping her to realise that she indeed is not alone!”
‘I BELIEVE GOD HAS GOOD PLANS FOR MY LIFE’
Hanna reports: “When we arrived at the college in Maiduguri where she has been accepted to study Physical Education, Esther was elated. She was just on her way back from Bible study when she noticed us. She ran over and hugged us, smiling non-stop.
‘I have been fine!’ she excitedly told us. ‘But, to be honest, it has not been a smooth journey for me. I am finding it difficult to cope with the studies after being out of school for such a long time. But I am determined to continue till the end. God is helping me. Had it not been for his grace I would have stayed behind like many other girls and lost hope. I believe God has good plans for my life,’ she said.”
Esther’s relationship with her grandparents is still complicated. Her step-grandmother in particular doesn’t want Esther and Becky around. Now, while Esther attends college, Becky stays with Esther’s aunt in a local IDP camp. She is not sure what she will do during school breaks, since there is no space for her in the camp.
Over the past two years, Open Doors has remained closely involved in Esther’s life. Local partners have provided her with practical assistance and trauma care and invited her to a unique art advocacy programme.
You can continue to send letters and cards to Esther and Rebecca until the end of August 2019.
- Give thanks that Esther has been admitted to college; please pray for the Lord’s continued help to her in her studies
- That Esther continues strongly in the faith; pray that He will continue the work He has started in her life and lead her into a deeper knowledge of Christ
- That the Lord will soften her family’s hearts towards Esther and Becky.
*Name has been changed for security reasons