In a country where terrorists and kidnappers operate uncontested, efforts by native missionaries to tend to victims of violence also involve safeguarding workers’ lives.
“For the past seven years or more, our missionaries in the field around Nigeria have been sleeping with one eye opened, while others have lost fields and homes, including relatives, to terrorism and herdsmen’s attacks,” the leader of a native ministry in Nigeria said. “These happenings have made it very hard and extremely frightening to do missions where the unreached people are located.”
More than 2.3 million people are internally displaced in Nigeria, while another 311,000 displaced have made progress toward a sustainable solution, according to Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre figures. Another 550,000 people have fled to Cameroon, Chad and Niger, according to the U.N. Refugee Agency.
Most of the Internally Displaced People (IDP) have fled attacks by Islamic extremist group Boko Haram or raids by heavily armed, Muslim Fulani herdsmen.
Many of the displaced are in remote areas where the native ministry is working with unreached people. Taking advantage of the chaos and isolation in these areas are bandits and kidnappers, magnifying the dangers for workers providing aid and the gospel to unreached people in areas isolated by rivers and mountains or lacking in communication services.
“Hoodlums have taken advantage of these to settle among the people and cause extreme privation in the areas,” the ministry leader said.
Muslim Fulani herdsmen seeking grazing lands among predominantly Christian tribes have made the north-central areas of the country very volatile, he said. Some of the ministry’s most effective church planting and humanitarian work has taken place in the area, including water and boreholes in three villages and a school for the children. Workers have also distributed more than 1,000 audio Bibles in Hausa and other languages.
“We have serious work ongoing there, and the herdsmen have caused so much damage to the area,” he said. “The greatest challenge remains security for the area and for our missionaries. We have suffered losses there – some missionaries killed, and one is still missing for the last three years. We have no idea what happened to him.”
Some reportedly backed by outside terrorist groups, Muslim Fulani herdsmen have killed more than 10,000 people, he said.
“Islam seems to be contesting this zone as they do not wish to see a predominantly Christian zone in the north,” the ministry director said. “This angers them, and so they have sponsored so much killings and church destruction for this reason.”
Villages Wiped Out
In the northeast, Boko Haram bombings, gun attacks and kidnappings have nearly wiped out communities where native missionaries were proclaiming Christ.
“There is no village in one state anymore, as staying in any village is suicidal,” the ministry leader said. “We have over 32 missionaries here, and seven of them have lost their villages with all the converts and entire villages either killed or displaced.”
Workers have followed the displaced to camps for IDPs, he said.
“We cannot just watch while our members and those we have gone to reach continue to remain in Internally Displaced People’s camps – we need to show our love,” he said. “Our missionaries with children have no accommodation but keep managing with IDPs in the camps or share rooms because of the difficulties.”
The ministry needs to resettle its own workers as well as displaced villagers who have lost their farmland and are dependent on food aid, he said. The ministry plans to build four ministry bases in safe areas to resettle their workers and help IDPs obtain huts or small homes in safe areas where they can resume farming.
“It has become daily to help people with food and medical issues, as they have none,” he said. “Your prayer can help in this.”
The ministry has secured two safe places where it plans to resettle people and needs borehole wells for drinking water – one with an overhead tank would cost $3,000, while a solar-driven borehole would cost $8,000, he said. They also need assistance to reconstruct destroyed church buildings and provide school fees for displaced children.
Compassionate Aid for Displaced People
“We will love to help the children, as their parents presently have nothing to help their families,” he said.
In the northwest, Islamist attacks and kidnappings have depleted some districts of nearly all their villages, the director said.
“The government has sent air force and military to the area, but nothing happened – almost all villages in some local government areas have been displaced as people escaped for their lives,” he said. “Although our villages here have been attacked, none of our bases have so far been destroyed, except that our people must change strategies and resettle some people and some bases for security reasons.”
Native missionaries in the region are providing water and education, he said.
“On the whole, our people are afraid, and there is tension in places,” he said. “We have built well over 12 churches with over 1,000 converts, and we must pray nothing upsets this gain.”
Motorcycles are needed in these areas to help communities as they try to protect themselves against attacks that could come at any time, he said.
“We have worked tirelessly in these areas saving former Muslims in difficulties and persecution and rescuing them, as many are not safe to stay after conversion,” he said. “Your prayers and support for these trials in northern Nigeria cannot be replaced by anything. Let God help His people.”
Workers must purchase large amounts of rice and other staple foods, baby food and formula, diapers, women’s hygiene and health care items for individuals and families, he said.
“We have taken many to places of refuge and empowered many by settling them, providing shelter, food, and clothing,” he said. “The ministry has helped ensure the people are healed of the trauma and shock from all that has happened to them.”
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