Nigeria | 09 June 2023

Ayuba, after his father was killed by Boko Haram: "I have learned to leave everything at the feet of Jesus"


Show: true / Country: Nigeria / Nigeria
Ayuba* vividly remembers the day that Boko Haram came to his village. Where he lives in the north east of Nigeria, this is a danger that everyone knew could happen: violent attacks by Islamic militant groups are increasing and there is the constant threat of attack. But nothing could truly prepare him for the day it became a reality. That day, 20 April 2020, is forever emblazoned in Ayuba’s mind. He was only 20 years old – on the cusp of adulthood, a time of adventure and excitement for many, but which looks radically different fom Ayuba because of his decision to follow Jesus.
Boko Haram begin their attack

“Around 6pm, word spread that Boko Haram was approaching our village,” he remembers. “My dad called me to go back home. I wanted to go out again, but he said I should remain at home.”

It wasn’t long before the situation escalated. Only a few hours after the rumors started spreading, Boko Haram was in the town.

“Usually when we hear one gunshot, we know it’s the soldiers – but when the gunshots become rapid, we know it is Boko Haram. We heard one shot and thought it was the soldiers, so we just remained at home,” says Ayuba. The soldiers are supposed to be peacekeeping forces, and usually don’t cause alarm. But, in this attack, some of the Boko Haram militants were dressed in soldiers’ uniform. Ayuba started to realiZe that the attackers were very close when he saw that a beer parlor had been set on fire.

“By 10pm, people had started running for their lives, because Boko Haram had arrived in our community. One of our neighbors came across to our house. He confirmed that the people were truly Boko Haram and not soldiers – and that they’d killed a man standing outside the building they set ablaze.”


Fleeing the village

That’s when the family knew they couldn’t wait anymore – Ayuba and his brothers and sisters fled. “We began to run for our lives,” he remembers. “We ran until we crossed a river behind our village.” He hoped that his father was following behind, but there was no sign of him.

Not knowing what was going on back in the village, Ayuba and his siblings waited together and prayed. “I started crying, but someone with us cheered me up and asked me to pray rather than cry. I did, and I told others to stop crying – and to pray, instead. When we finished praying, we slept there by the riverbank until morning.”

Ayuba’s father had initially been hiding at his sister-in-law’s house. There are a lot of Christians in Ayuba’s community, but there are a lot of Muslims too. His stepbrothers and stepsisters from his father’s first marriage are all Muslims, and so are his mother’s sister and his grandmother. So when Boko Haram burst into the house where Ayuba’s father was hiding, he was the Christian that they singled out. Ayuba tells the story based on what he heard later from his relatives.

“They grabbed our father and took him with them. He kept asking what his offence was, but they did not reply. They brought him outside and put him on his knees.”

The militants demanded that Ayuba’s father read a passage from the Qu’ran, as a test to see if he was a Muslim. But he didn’t try to hide his faith in Jesus. When they asked him if he was a Muslim or a Christian, he replied ‘Christian’. That reply was all the militants needed to hear to kill him. They beheaded Ayuba’s father on the spot.

You have given and You have taken

In the morning, not yet knowing what had happened, Ayuba and the others made their way back to the village. “Everywhere was silent,” remembers Ayuba. “When we approached our house, I could see three bodies on the ground. I recognized my father by his clothing. I dropped to my knees by his side and prayed.”

Even in that moment of grief, Ayuba was able to give thanks to God. He said, “God, I am grateful – You have given and You have taken. May my father rest together with You.” His words echo Job’s in Job 1:21: “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.”

Ayuba’s father wasn’t the only person whom Boko Haram had killed in their attack on the village. “About nine of them were slaughtered, all Christians,” he says. “I went inside to bring a cloth to cover the bodies. I called my brother and asked him not to bring our siblings, but they followed him. They started crying and, as I was still standing there, I also burst into tears.”

Restoration at the trauma centre

This wasn’t the end of the threat, though. Ayuba learned that he and his family were still in extreme danger from the Islamic militants. He says: “A few weeks after the attack, Boko Haram sent a list to our village – a list of people they are coming to kill. And my name was on it.”

He wanted to stay where he had buried his father. And he wanted to take revenge – he even started carrying a knife. A man in the village had helped Boko Haram identify their targets, and Ayuba was determined to kill him. “It was all I could think about,” he says. But eventually he was convinced that it would be best for him and his family to move to another village. From there, a local pastor was able to arrange for him and his siblings to move further south, about eight hours’ drive from their village.

The pastor also recommended Ayuba get trauma care from Open Doors partners, at the Shalom Centre. When his father was murdered, Ayuba was at an age when persecution can have a particularly damaging impact on a young believer’s faith. Being a young Christian in his community, he took on a lot of responsibility – his life looks radically different from that of other people his age. And now, he is the breadwinner for his family. This sort of persecution can decide the path they choose to follow – as well as making it much harder to pay fees for schooling, the young person might decide that following Jesus is too hard where they live, and opt for an ‘easier’ path. Trauma care is a powerful way to ensure this doesn’t happen – instead, it can help a young person to heal and to understand the love and sovereignty of God, even in the face of persecution.

“I’d had trauma healing for teenagers before, so I knew what it was about,” says Ayuba. “But this time we were there for three days, and I started to understand that I am not the only one going through such things. Worse has been done to others – their parents have been killed and a lot more – but they are still able to live a normal life.”

Learning to forgive

Ayuba found the trauma care transformative. When asked what the biggest lesson was that he learned at the trauma care centre, he says, “Forgiveness.” Before the counselling, he was determined to avenge his father’s death – but, at the trauma centre, he handed over the knife he’d been carrying. “Before coming here, I had decided never to forgive, and to avenge my father’s death,” Ayuba says, “I have no problem with this man now. If we meet, we would greet each other. If I don’t feel like that, I will walk away. I thought to myself, what would I gain going around with a knife seeking for revenge, and always getting hurt and my mind is never at peace? So I decided to let go of my anger and have peace. God brought me here to heal me.”

The support of the Open Doors partners at the Shalom Centre is making a big difference in Ayuba’s life. “It’s important to have people giving good advice – those who will correct you when you are wrong, and tell you the truth about life. Because without that, you will only seek revenge. When you get those who advise you properly, it will help with healing. I would like to especially thank our pastor, who made a way for us to be able to come here for the program. Honestly, if I had not come for this seminar, I don’t know how I would have ended up.”

Boko Haram wanted to destroy Ayuba’s faith – but, as Joseph said to his brothers, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good.” (Gen 50:20) The opposite of Boko Haram’s plans happened: Ayuba’s faith was strengthened by the trauma care. Without help from Open Doors partners, he would be another young person lost to their traumatic circumstances. Instead, he is also able to help others facing similar trauma to him. “Firstly, I would tell them to pray, because without prayer nothing will work. I wouldn’t be here if not for prayers,” he says. “Other people going through the same things – I would like them to come to this program. Because whatever has happened to you, you will find others who have the same issues, and even more pain. There is encouragement in this program.”

God has used a particular psalm to encourage Ayuba too. “In Psalm 91, there is a portion which talks about how a thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you. Honestly, this verse has encouraged me a lot because it helps me pray more often,” he says.

Ayuba’s call for prayers

Ayuba asks for his global church family to keep praying. “I want my fellow Christians to pray that we will live lives that will glorify God, leaving no room for the devil to use us and turn our attention from Christ.

“Also, I want you to pray for us here in Nigeria experiencing terrorism, especially in the north of the country. Pray with us that God will bring an end to it.”

Finally, Ayuba offers his thanks to all who are helping him heal from trauma: “I thank you so much; it is because of you that I have peace in my mind now. I said I would never forgive, and I wanted to take my revenge, but now I have forgiven totally. I have learned to leave everything at the feet of Jesus.”

please pray
  • Pray for all Nigerian Christians who are vulnerable to persecution to be protected, and ask God to bring an end to Islamic militant violence in the country.
  • Join Ayuba in asking the Lord to deepen and strengthen the faith of Nigeria’s church, so that they live lives glorifying to God. 
  • Pray for youth and young people affected by persecution to hold firm to their faith, and find communities of wisdom, love and discipleship 
  • Ask for Open Doors local partners at the Shalom Centre, and other trauma care centres, to be equipped with God’s love and grace to serve the persecuted church and expand the trauma care to support even more people.
Will you stand as one with Christians like Ayuba in Sub-Saharan Africa?

Every PHP 2,700 helps three Christians who’ve experienced extreme violence by providing hope and healing at a trauma center.

Every PHP3,400 provides food, medicine and other emergency relief to help two believers displaced by persecution.

Every PHP 4,700 educates 17 young people from persecuted families for a month, giving them hope for the future.

Thank you and may God richly bless you.

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