For two young graduates in Florida, receiving a college degree is a precious reminder of God’s goodness. It is also the beginning of their journey to help other girls in their home country of Nigeria, where for them getting an education can lead to torture or even death.
Joy Bashara remembers clearly the moment she came face to face with terror and made a deal with God: “If you let me live Lord, I am yours for life. Just don’t let these people take me away.”
She was one of 176 teenaged women kidnapped from a boarding school in Chibok, Nigeria by Boko Haram in 2014. The girls were taken in the middle of the night and forced into the back of trucks. When a car in the Boko Haram caravan got stuck in a pothole, Joy and another young girl named Lydia Pogu, felt God leading them to jump out of the trucks and run for freedom.
“I had to make the decision if I wanted to jump out and die or go with these people. My choices were die or go with them. Not knowing what they would do with me, I chose to die,” Joy said.
The girls had heard of Boko Haram before encountering them personally. The terrorist group was known for rampaging villages and kidnapping children. Lydia said she and other girls wanted to continue their educations after their escape, but were told it was too dangerous. Then opportunities opened for Lydia and Joy to continue their high school education in America.
The two girls received scholarships to attend a Florida university, where one earned a degree in social work and the other a degree in legal studies. Both plan to continue post graduate work in Florida.
The girls spoke to People about their future plans. Lydia has hopes of becoming a human rights lawyer, “because after what happened to me, I felt there was nobody that brought justice for the Chibok girls.” Bishara wants to start a community support agency in Chibok to “take in those who have been injured in a violent relationship, have been attacked by the Boko Haram, lost their property, lost their food,” she says.
More than 100 of their kidnapped classmates in Nigeria are still missing, a fact that provides motivation for them to make a difference. “Boko Haram says women can’t go to school,” says Lydia. “Women should be able to make decisions for their life. I want to fight for that.”
Both girls overcame odds to not only continue their education, but to launch out with plans to help other girls in Nigeria go to school without fear. Their story illustrates the redemptive nature of a loving God, even in the midst of evil.
We have a hard time understanding why innocent people suffer at the hands of terrorists, or why good people die in catastrophic disasters, or from cancer. Or why pandemics happen. The simple answer is we live in a fallen world and have since the Garden of Eden.
Jim Denison, the CVO of Denison Forum, has often said, “God redeems all he allows.” He further explains, “God redeems in the future the suffering we experience in the present.”
Paul said in Romans 8 that “the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (v. 18). One day we will understand what we don’t at the present. As he told the Christians in Corinth: “Now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known” (1 Corinthians 13:12).
Many of us are familiar with the verse from Romans 8 which assures us that all things work together for good: “we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (v. 28). We are not promised that all we go through will be good. . .but that God will redeem all we go through.
When Joy and Lydia go back to Nigeria, they will have a better understanding of how to help girls and young women there because of their own experiences. They can speak from the heart. And the young women and girls there will be more attentive to them because they will know Joy and Lydia understand their fears.
After I had breast cancer many years ago, I was better able to reach out to other women going through breast cancer because I know their fears. I understand their suffering. I can speak from the heart.
God did not cause the sufferings for Joy, Lydia, or any others who go through hard times. But, he redeems the hurt. He redeems the hard times.
When Joy and Lydia help others in Nigeria, or a person who has gone through a catastrophe reaches out to others going through similar crises, they reflect the character of God. . .their hearts are broken by what they see just as God’s heart is broken.
For whom does your heart break?