Nigeria is increasingly in the news, and not for its tourist attractions. Headlines amplify the spiral of hatred, civil unrest, violence, kidnapping and destruction that is “spinning out of control” in many parts of the African nation, according to some observers.
IMB missionaries serving in West Africa are aware of how complicated the news-making situations seem to others. Deron Thomas*, who serves in the region, says that the events are complex and built on long-standing distrust of people who are different — different tribes, different religions, from different parts of the country. And sometimes, it’s just violence against innocent victims.
The situation is complex, but the ministry doesn’t have to be. Thomas says that through Send Relief, missionaries and national Nigerian partners are offering assistance to Christian brothers and sisters — including converts from predominantly Muslim people groups — who have been targets of violence.
“We want to help those communities of believers heal from the trauma and attacks and be restored,” Thomas said.
That includes rebuilding homes and churches that have been burned down, providing seeds to replant farms, and offering psychological and spiritual healing.
But the ministry isn’t reserved for Christians alone.
“We’re actually working on our first project to extend a kind of olive branch to the community that has sponsored some recent attacks,” Thomas shared.
Christians have formally approached those who attacked them, asking, “What is something we can do to serve your community?”
The community leaders were taken aback at the offer. They said they need a medical clinic and a veterinary clinic for their cattle.
“There is going to be this component of tangibly turning the other cheek because one of the big problems here is this endless cycle of violence and retaliation,” Thomas explained.
“Turning the other cheek is something that no one can do apart from the power of the Holy Spirit working in them, especially when things as devastating as these attacks happen.”
As missionaries and national believers direct people to how Christ would respond, Thomas and his local Baptist partners hope that the violent cycle might be interrupted, and that peace will be seen as a true option.
“We’re hopeful that this Send Relief project will be a small step in the right direction.”
Thomas says he still sees the beauty in Nigeria and its people. He encourages churches to pray by offering the following requests:
Pray for comfort, healing and restoration for those who have been attacked.
Pray those who have been attacked will be so filled with the love of Christ that love would flow out of them back onto their attackers.
Pray those involved in the attacks would be receptive to the gospel and would turn and leave their hatred behind and follow Christ.
Pray for Nigerian Baptists to remain strong in the truth of the gospel and be willing to be used by God in their own country as instruments of peace with each other and peace with God.
Support the work to bring compassion and peace to Nigeria by giving now to Send Relief.
*Name changed for security
Leslie Peacock Caldwell is managing editor for the IMB.
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