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[vc_row][vc_column][vc_custom_heading text=”” use_theme_fonts=”yes”][vc_single_image image=”99594″ img_size=”full” add_caption=”yes” alignment=”center”][vc_column_text]09/24/2019 Washington D.C. (International Christian Concern)“Israel is a hunted sheep driven away by lions. First the king of Assyria devoured him, and now at last Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon has gnawed his bones.” – Jeremiah 50:17

The continuous and relentless attacks led by Boko Haram and Fulani militants have pushed Christians in Nigeria’s Middle Belt region to the brink. Responsible for hundreds of attacks and deaths every year, these groups rob entire towns of their voice and livelihood. Unwilling to be silenced, survivors share their testimonies.

………

Helen, a widow, and a mother of four, is currently living at the City of Refuge, a refugee home for widows and orphans in Jos, Nigeria. Here, women receive business training so that they can better care for their families once they leave. Orphans are also given access to crucial nutrition, education, and medical care. International Christian Concern (ICC) visited and met with Helen to hear the incredible and heart-wrenching story that ultimately led her to City of Refuge.

Like many others, when Boko Haram attacked her hometown of Mubi, Helen, her husband, and their four children fled for safety. Thankfully, they were able to escape before the terrorist group captured the whole town. They fled to Murgumba, a small town on the Cameroonian border, with plans to stay with Helen’s sister in-law.

Narrating the ordeal, Helen reflected, “It took us days, without food, and we had to use bush paths to stay safe from Boko Haram.” They were not able to move openly as they fled for their family’s home, hiding as much as possible, as Boko Haram insurgents sought to capture those they had driven out. She added that they were “greatly relieved when they finally reached their destination.” This relief, though, was short lived.

Helen explained that while her family found safety with her sister-in-law, they did not find comfort. Her sister in-law, a devout Muslim, lived in a compound occupied by other Muslim families and was embarrassed by her relatives’ different faith. Helen said, “They referred to us as pagans and infidels and would not let our children mingle with theirs. They confined us to one room with little food, like prisoners. All we could do was pray.” Despite this poor treatment, Helen and her family stayed with her in-laws for several weeks. Clinging to their faith, they endured.

Then word came that terrorists from Boko Haram were searching for Muslims sheltering Christians. According to Boko Haram, Muslims committing such acts are worthy of death. Upon learning this, Helen’s in-laws, who had been pressuring her to convert, now forced them to make a decision. “At this point, we were emotionally exhausted and had made up our minds to leave the house, to die or to live, but never to convert to Islam.”

Helen said that her family left the house together one night, but split up while they tried to find another safe location. Boko Haram insurgents relentlessly roamed the area for any whom had escaped their grasp. The family feared that if they were found together, Boko Haram would kill her husband and take the women and children captive.

Shortly after splitting up, however, Helen heard sporadic gunfire. Despite her fears for her husband, she continued moving forward, because “such sounds had become familiar.

Then, one particular gunshot caused her immense and indescribable agony. She recalled, “One gunshot rattled me. It sounded so strange. I felt something had gone wrong. My heart started pounding very fast. It was like half of my body was chopped off and I suddenly felt empty. I couldn’t control my tears as the thought of my husband overwhelmed me.”

Helen lamented when her fear became a reality upon confirmation of her husband’s death.  Left with four children to care for on her own, she willed herself to be strong and fearless. “Converting to Islam would have given me some [short term] comfort, but I had my trust in Jesus whose comfort is everlasting.”

Over the coming weeks, God showed His faithfulness to Helen and her family on multiple occasions. Boko Haram captured two of her children, twice while trying to get drinking water. Each time, though, they were later returned to her. “The miraculous returns of my children were signs that God was with us,” Helen exclaimed, hopeful in spite of their desperate situation.

After this, Helen decided to return to Mubi. She was tired of roaming the hills and her family was being attacked by Boko Haram regardless. However, when they tried to return, she discovered that her hometown was now fully under the control of Boko Haram.

Helen and her children spent the next three days in the outskirts of Mubi, without food or water.  By God’s grace, Helen recounted, they met a wounded Nigerian soldier, who crept into the town market each night, which was controlled by Boko Haram, where only Muslims could trade. Each night, he would bring them the food and water that they needed to survive.

A few days later, the Nigerian army recaptured Mubi and Helen was reunited with her extended family. Mixed emotions consumed her upon this reunion, as her household was missing an integral figure, and she could not give her husband a proper burial. “My only pain and regret today was my inability to bury my husband. His body lays bare in the mountains, under rain and sunshine,” Helen grieved.

Now, several years later, Helen is safe and learning new skills. She expressed gratitude to God for sparing her life and those of her children. Grateful to the management of City of Refuge for caring for her and her children, Helen has a newfound hope for her family’s future. Her prayer is that one day she will return home once again, no longer part of the scattered flock, empowered to independently nurture her four children.[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text css=”.vc_custom_1569345098379{margin-bottom: 0px !important;}”]

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