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02/21/2024 Nigeria (International Christian Concern) – Saendo’s heart condition cast a relentless shadow over his life. The 16-year old’s days were a silent battle against the restless grip of his ailment.

“I used to think I would hide and die in one corner of my house,” Saendo confesses softly. “I was relegated to a dark corner, laying there and waiting for death to come snatch me with its cold arms, and that would be the death of me.”

He lies on the barely padded mattress on the floor, surrounded by a few household essentials, piling up in the corner. Drapes hung around the makeshift sleeping space, illuminated by a small burlap curtain covering the window and filtering out most of the light. A small line of clothes hugged the wall, just enough for the eyes to entertain.

NIGERIA’S UNENDING TURMOIL

Over the past five years, Nigeria’s Benue state has suffered gruesome attacks by Fulani militants, forcing approximately 1.5 million people from their ancestral lands into IDP (Internally Displaced People) Camps. Saendo is one of 2,000 children residing at the Abagena IDP Camp in Benue State, which population exceeds 10,000 IDPs. His family was forced to flee their home after Fulani militants invaded his home.

Nigeria, a nation torn by decades of violence, faces the harrowing reality of constant turmoil. The central Middle Belt region, where these clashes over resources, ethnic differences, and religious disparities prevail, embodies the epicenter of this unending turmoil. For Christians, it’s a daily struggle for survival amid disproportionate killings and kidnappings, transforming their homeland into a perilous landscape – and often leaving survivors with no place to call home.

The ones spearheading these attacks, the Fulani militants, have become radicalized by extreme Islam, to wipe out Christianity from the region and establish an Islamic caliphate. Members of the group are ruthless and uncompromising, killing tens of thousands of Christians and leaving more than three million homeless over the last 20 years.

NURTURING HEARTS AND MINDS

Many of the displaced were previously farmers. But years in the camp with no land or opportunities have forced these people into lives of obscurity. It’s common for women to go into town to trade sex for a meal to bring home. Crime runs rampant, especially in the camp where Saendo lives. School-aged children wander the streets begging for food.

“Currently, the rate of education is very low, considering that when the children wake up in the morning, they are looking for work, food to eat, water to drink, and to find firewood,” said Daniel*, an ICC staff member.

Two years ago, ICC equipped volunteers to travel to these camps, which led to ICC opening a Hope House for kids who called the IDP camp home. For the first time in many of these children’s lives, they had the opportunity for something more. ICC provided basic school supplies, such as whiteboards, markers, books, and lesson materials, as well as food and water.

“Hungry children whose parents can’t afford proper meals can now eat good food every week,” said one of the volunteers. “Children who have never been to school have been given the chance to be educated, which has given them a sense of belonging. Older women who were not opportune to be educated have been given a second chance as four have become dedicated pupils.”ICC’s Hope House offers more than an education lesson and a meal. It offers children the chance to learn about the Bible and grow their relationship with God.

“Our intention is to get these children educated and to bring them to the knowledge of Christi Jesus because our country and continent depends on what we can do with and for these children today,” said Daniel. “We conduct our Bible study every Friday and one of our central goals is to lead them to know Christ despite the place where the situations of life have put them.”

SAENDO’S MEDICAL JOURNEY

One of the situations Daniel found himself in was during the beginning stages of Hope House when he met Saendo and another classmate.

“We were moved by the pains and sufferings that two of our students were going through life-threatening health challenges: one with heart disease and another with a cancerous wound on his leg,” said Daniel. “We took them to the hospital. The one with the wound had a series of surgeries before being discharged.”

Saendo was told that his condition had progressed too much to undergo surgery. He was treated for other health complications to make him comfortable.

“He was discharged and regularly goes to get check-ups,” said Daniel.

Both boys had lost their fathers and were being taken care of by their mothers who were facing their own challenges, making it impossible for the boys to receive the medical care they so desperately needed. Saendo was born with a heart condition which has deteriorated due to his family’s inability to afford medical care.

“I personally could not hold back the pain when I came across the kids in these conditions, and therefore arranged for these interventions. I am still monitoring them and giving necessary support,” said Daniel.

ICC has helped Saendo with monthly medical and basic care. Since then, he has begun to feel better. Our volunteers describe him as nearly a new person.

“I lack the words to properly express my joy and gratitude to God and ICC for giving me life,” said Saendo. “Right now, I feel a great deal of hope. I have never felt love and care like this in my whole life. I am really surprised that people I have never seen took up my treatment and footing every single bill for me and are providing food support for me and my family. I am so grateful because I now really feel better in my body.”

SHARING THE LOVE OF CHRIST

This is the boy who originally described his life as being “relegated to a dark corner, laying there and waiting for death to come snatch me up with its cold arms.”

Instead, Saendo, along with many of the other children at Hope House, was snatched up with the love and mercy that only comes from the Lord.

“Our prayers to God are to give these children and their parents a Christ-like heart through this school. In the face of the persecution that they are going through, we hope to make them leaders after God’s heart as shining testimonies of the love and forgiveness that Christ has shown to the world by dying on the cross. We pray that God would help us make a community school after Christ’s heart,” said Daniel.

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