If anyone might feel that God had failed him in the middle of persecution, Daniel would be a likely candidate. Boko Haram caused the death of his wife and murdered both his brother and father. They kidnapped his sister, and another brother is missing, probably murdered by Boko Haram. He has been forced to flee multiple times when the extremists tried to kill him.
But Daniel doesn’t think God has failed him. Instead, he has relied on God through each tragedy and is now serving other persecuted Christians in some of northern Nigeria’s most dangerous areas.
“There is nothing that gives me joy like going to the risky zones to save persecuted Christians,” Daniel said. “Whenever I hear of an attack on the Christian community, the first thing that comes to my mind is to go there and help the dying believers.”
Daniel grew up in a small Muslim village, where his Christian family faced constant pressure. Four of his nine siblings were forced to convert to Islam, and Daniel was driven out of the community after speaking out against the forced conversions. Later, as he travelled to villages showing the Jesus film and preaching the Gospel, he faced more opposition. Sometimes he even had stones thrown at him.
Face to face with Boko HaramDaniel has had many run-ins with Boko Haram because of his outspoken Christian witness. He recalled six incidents during which he felt that God had saved his life, including once when members of Boko Haram came to his house, shook his hand and asked him if he knew where Daniel was. They didn’t even recognise him.
On 24 October 2012, Boko Haram surrounded his home and refused to allow his critically ill wife to leave for medical treatment, resulting in her death. ‘The loss really shocked me,’ he said. ‘I was not able to eat, drink or sleep for three days, but God strengthened me.’
The next year he faced tragedy again when the Islamists caught and killed his brother when they found him reading a Bible. And just a few months later, his sister was kidnapped. ‘They slaughtered over 50 people in her presence, which caused her serious mental trauma,’ he said. ‘She did not eat or drink for nine days until she escaped. Until today, she has been ill. In this, I was not shaken, but steadfastly praying for her return.’ Shortly afterwards, another of Daniel’s brothers disappeared after the Boko Haram discovered him with a Bible.
“We have not heard from my brother since 2 October 2013, and we wonder if he is still alive,” Daniel shared. “I believe in the word of Psalm 125:1. Even if my brother is dead, it will never affect my faith.”
Then, in May 2014, as Daniel travelled with other VOM workers to distribute relief items to Christians from Gwoza, he learned that his father, Jeremiah, had also been killed. Two members of Boko Haram interrogated him about his son’s activities. “We know your name and your son, Daniel, who is helping the Christian religion,” they said.
When Jeremiah refused to denounce Christ, they killed him by shooting him in the neck. Daniel said his father’s murder was the most difficult thing he has faced besides his wife’s death. “The loss impacted me strongly,” he said. But it wasn’t a negative impact. “It is like a spiritual promotion for me,” he explained. “God will always lead the way.”
Bringing help to Boko Haram victimsDaniel continues to pour his life out in service to his persecuted brothers and sisters in Nigeria. He began working with VOM two years ago after meeting VOM’s medical director, Dr Jim, and our Nigerian medical coordinator, Zingak. They had asked Daniel to facilitate a meeting with a girl who escaped after being abducted by Boko Haram.
“What attracted my attention was their humility,” explained Daniel. ‘Zingak shared VOM’s vision for helping the persecuted and Jim knelt down to pray for the girl.”
Today, Daniel’s primary responsibility is travelling to areas where Christians have been attacked by Boko Haram, finding those in need of medical care, transporting them for treatment and being an advocate in getting them the best care possible. He also assists in distributing relief goods and working with abduction victims.
Risk is not my problem“Before I came on board, I already knew that it might be a dangerous job,” he said. “But that has never been my problem at all. I deal with risk with the following steps: I pray first, get some information, recite Psalm 125:1 and then strongly believe in God for protection. Once I am done with these processes, I move forward.”
Though Daniel has suffered great losses and knows that others in his family could be affected any time, he draws strength from the Holy Spirit to continue his work. “My joy remains constant,” he said. “I always thank the Lord for giving me the opportunity to partake in Christ’s suffering.” 2 Corinthians 5:1 is his motivation:
“For we know that if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.”