Ruth in Nigeria was a teenager when Islamic militants Boko Haram kidnapped her and held her captive. Eventually she managed to escape – with a young son, and pregnant with another baby, after being forced into ‘marriage’. Here’s her story, and how Open Doors trauma care helped her on a path to healing.
Ruth was only 14 years old when Islamic militants Boko Haram attacked her village in Adamawa State, north eastern Nigeria. She was getting ready to play with her friends when a large group of men came on motorbikes. Their aim? To cause great distress and destruction to Christian villages, destabilising communities of believers.
Boko Haram terrorists often kill men and burn down houses and churches – but women are often kidnapped and assaulted. This form of persecution targets the perceived vulnerabilities of women and girls – and thus undermines the whole Christian community.
Ruth was told that she would receive better treatment and more freedom in the camp if she denounced Jesus and became a Muslim. “I refused to deny Christ, and I kept crying and praying to God to rescue me,” she says.
Eventually, Ruth decided to tell the persecutors that she had become a Muslim. And her situation did ‘improve’ – in the sense that she was given a room to herself, and had more freedom, even though it also meant being married off to one of the men. Secretly, Ruth kept praying to Jesus.
“My decision took away some of my physical suffering, but I was still miserable. When we were taken for salat (prayers) I would recite Psalm 23 in my heart. I still wanted to believe that Jesus was my good Shepherd.”
Now with one child and another on the way, Ruth kept looking for a way to escape, until eventually she found an opportunity:
“Every time I washed my clothes at the stream, I tried to figure out a way to escape,” she says. “That day, God showed me a way and He gave me the courage to run. I place Samaila on my back and fled. I didn’t look back.”
Despite all she had experienced, Ruth knew God was faithful.
Whilst Ruth’s mum and siblings were delighted to see her, her dad was conflicted that she had returned with a son and pregnant with another child – the fact his grandchildren were fathered by a Boko Haram soldier was a source of shame and pain:
“My father began to treat me as an infidel because of my son and the child in my womb,” says Ruth. “‘I don’t want to see you or this boy anywhere close to me,’ he said. Those words broke my heart!”
Thanks to your gifts and prayers, and God’s grace, this isn’t where the story ended. Ruth and other survivors of Boko Haram abductions attended an Open Doors trauma healing programme in Nigeria.
Patience*, an Open Doors trauma care worker, recalls seeing the change: “Where she took little notice of Samaila before, we started seeing her lovingly patting him on the head and even laughing and playing with him. This brought tears to our eyes. It was a miracle unfolding in front of us. This showed us the power of God’s Spirit and His Word, and the impact of the truths she learned in the trauma programme.”
Ruth has also had her second baby now: a little girl called Ijagala – she’s in the picture above. And the impact of the trauma care is still strong. “My pain is healed!” Ruth says. “I have learnt to forgive the people that mocked and insulted me. I have forgiven my father.”
And it’s not just Ruth who received healing in her family. When Ruth returned from the programme, she brought home a workbook – her father started reading it. To her surprise, he too found healing as he read and understood that Ruth and her children were innocent victims of other people’s persecution. It’s caused a huge change in the way he treats his grandson.
“Today, my father carries Samaila around in his arms and takes him for walks,” says Ruth. “This is something I never imagined possible.”
Ruth’s message to Open Doors supporters is this: “Thank you so much for the opportunity to attend [the Open Doors] seminar. It has brought back peace to our home.”
Thank the Lord for bringing healing and peace to Ruth and her family
For God to thwart the plans of Boko Haram and other Islamic militants.
For other women and girls and their families to find healing from the trauma they’ve experienced
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