Faith Overcoming Fire: Recovering From Trauma

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By Emily Watt | 11 March 2021

The dirt road to Chibob is the colour of burnt sienna, strewn with potholes filled with rainwater from the recent storms. Footpaths crisscross the village, worn from years of travel, connecting the small clusters of homes. Cornfields fill the surrounding countryside and tall trees dot the perimeter before giving way to deep forest, a common sight in this part of Nigeria’s Middle Belt.

But in the midst of this idyllic scene, there’s something darker.

The Attack

For Hajaratu, a widow and mother to five, 10 July 2020 seemed like just another average day, tucking her children into bed and drifting off to sleep by the warmth of the fire.

That was until nearby gunfire startled her awake. Fulani herdsmen, a Muslim-majority nomadic group, were attacking the village.

“I flung my little daughter on my back, strapped her on with a cloth and went to the gate,” she recalled.

Hajaratu ran for her life, stumbling through bushes and muddy ground until she reached a river. She couldn’t swim, but as the gunshots drew nearer, she knew she had no choice.

She waded through the water, trying to reach the other side. But the river grew deeper and the tide became stronger.

She lost her footing, and the force of the water pulled her under and away from the riverbank. Her head went under the water and back to the surface again and again. At that moment, Hajaratu thought she would die.

Yet, by the grace of God, she made it to the other side.

Now in safety, Hajaratu turned to comfort her daughter. But her baby was gone. The cloth had washed down the river, and her daughter with it.

There was nothing she could do. She had been separated from her four older children in the attack. Now she had lost her fifth.

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The Recovery

After three days, Hajaratu was able to find her way to a displaced persons camp, where she was joyfully reunited with her four older children.

“They were brought to me in the camp and I hugged them, crying,” she said. “My fear was that they had been killed, even though I had not seen their bodies. This is my only joy and consolation.

“Our constant prayer in the camp is that this type of terrible experience should never happen here – nor to anybody.”

Through faithful supporters of Open Doors, Hajaratu received emergency food supplies to feed her family and the financial support she needed to build a new home. She was also given trauma counselling, provided by a Christian counsellor as she grieved the painful loss of her daughter.

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“I was greatly encouraged through the (trauma) program. I am saying a big thank you on behalf of those who attended. We are very grateful... The wisdom that God has given you to do this may He increase it so that you can do more for others.”

Now, thanks to your support, Hajaratu is leading her new life with restored hope, raising her children to follow Jesus, no matter the cost.

Thank you for playing a part in Hajaratu’s story.

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