Rose lost her husband. Then she lost her livelihood. But she hasn’t lost her faith in God. Fulani militants and Covid-19 have taken so much from Rose - but your prayers and support are giving back.
Living in Plateau State in the middle band of Nigeria, Rose is in one of the most dangerous places in the world to be a Christian. Nigeria is number 12 on the World Watch List, but it’s at the top of the list for Christians murdered because of their faith.
And on 7 April 2020, tragically, Rose’s husband Matthew was killed by Fulani militants.
“I woke up feeling very positive and eager for the clinic visit,” remembers Rose – she was pregnant with their third child at the time. “I finished all my house chores and prepared a meal for my husband and daughters.”
She said goodbye to her husband and left for the trip, which would take a few days. That evening, Matthew – a pastor – and the church secretary went out on patrol. Members of the church were taking it in turns to check for any signs of an impending Fulani attack on their village.
“My husband was on his way back home to the children when he was shot dead” Rose
“After the patrol, my husband was on his way back home to the children when he was shot dead,” says Rose. She returned to the village to his funeral. “Villagers brought me to the place where it happened. I saw my husband lying dead with the grave already dug. While we were waiting for the coffin to be brought, I plucked up the courage to hug him. I whispered a prayer to him and then we had to leave that place.”
Life for widows in Nigeria can be terribly hard. Supposedly, it is culturally expected that the deceased husband’s family will take care of his widow and children. In practice, this often doesn’t happen. Rose’s in-laws did worse than neglect – they confiscated Rose’s livestock, food and everything else of value. She was left empty-handed and grieving.
“Life has not been the same without him,” Rose says. “Living as a couple is helpful but now that I am alone with my kids, life has become very difficult.”
Right at this time, another crisis came. The Nigerian government announced lockdowns to curb the spread of Covid-19. Life became even more difficult. Like many people, Rose lost any opportunity she had to make money to buy food.
“We had no food,” says Rose simply. “There was no money to buy any food. We couldn’t trade anything for money, because the markets were closed. Sometimes we go to sleep without any food.”
But Rose’s faith of God keeps her resilient and hopeful: “Today we are amongst the living ones. It’s a miracle!” How many people would have Rose’s optimism in these circumstances? She meditates on Psalm 119:11: “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.” She says: “Whenever I read this Psalm, I feel so encouraged.”
The church in northern and central Nigeria is sadly accustomed to caring for women who have been widowed by extremist attacks. But lockdown has greatly reduced the income of churches, and thus their ability to help vulnerable members of their community. Rose received some food for her and her children, but it was very insufficient.
As has been seen in other countries, Christians are often last in line when government food and aid is distributed – often deliberately neglected by local authorities.
“We were happy when the government announced food aid for the poor. But we were left out.” Rose
“We were happy when the government announced food aid for the poor. But we were left out. We received none of that food,” says Rose. “All our hopes were dashed and I decided to ration the food that we have until help comes. We still believe that help will come from somewhere.”
You can be the answer to prayers like Rose’s. Open Doors partners are courageously taking vital food, aid and financial and prayer support to vulnerable Christians who urgently need them – and have already identified more than 9,000 families in Nigeria who do not know where their next meal will come from.
“I had never imagined that I would receive such gifts, but today, my faith in Christ has been strengthened.” Rose
The same story is echoed across many parts of Africa and Asia. It’s particularly true for believers who have converted from other faith backgrounds, and aren’t being supported by their families. And militant attacks are continuing throughout this already deeply difficult period. If we don’t help these Christians, it’s unlikely that anybody will. Our brothers and sisters need support to be the resilient voice of hope in their communities, showing the love of Jesus to those around them.
Open Doors partners were able to bring a relief package to Rose shortly after she gave birth to her third daughter. She was delighted! “I had never imagined that I would receive such gifts, but today, my faith in Christ has been strengthened. This support will enable me to care for my family,” says Rose – adding her own variation of Psalm 121:4: “Indeed, He who watches over the widows neither sleeps nor slumbers.”