One of the main commentaries that has emerged surrounding the African country of Nigeria is the ongoing presence of Boko Haram, an Islamic extremist group that currently operates in the northern regions of Nigeria. Since 2009, Boko Haram has been responsible for the deaths of 17,000 people, displacing millions, and even attacking mosques as they strive to enact Sharia law throughout Nigeria. They have terrorized the northern part of the country and have made it difficult for many people to continue to live there.
Our ministry partner, TETMI, also known as the Evangelizers Team Ministries International operates in the southern regions of Nigeria where they work tirelessly to bring the word of God to rural communities in southern Nigeria. In these unreached places they are involved in running schools, churches, medical clinics, women’s conferences and so much more as they serve in these rural communities. Recently I had the opportunity to meet TETMI director, David Umune, and discuss the current situation in Nigeria and how the danger of Boko Haram has opened up new opportunities for TETMI to expand their witness.
David is quick to share that they remain safe in the southeastern regions. While many may think that Boko Haram is a country wide group, David is quick to let me know that their activities are largely restricted to the north and have not put the TETMI organization under any pressure in their day-to-day activities. While they may not have had much contact with the organization of Boko Haram, David points out that their activities in the north have provided new opportunities to witness to people they never thought they would begin to reach.
“What is happening in Nigeria is real.” David remarks, “Where we are working is safe, one thing that we are seeing though, is a mass exodus of Fulani coming from the north towards the east where we are.”
The Fulani are a nomadic people group that have traditionally lived and travelled in the northern regions of Nigeria and throughout other countries in western and central Africa. The Fulani people traditionally do not journey to the southeastern regions of Nigeria where TETMI is currently working. The violent actions taken by Boko Haram have intensified though, with it estimated that over 10,000 people had been killed by Boko Haram in 2014. As the violence has intensified, the Fulani have been forced to move out of the north in an effort to find safer places to exist. This movement of people has placed the Fulani and TETMI in the same place for the first time, opening up the opportunity for TETMI to reach a new group of people with the gospel message of Christ.
TETMI has been unable to reach the Fulani previously due to the fact that the north is so openly hostile against Christian witness. For TETMI workers, it is dangerous to enter the north where violent actions will often be taken against them for their faith. Beyond the workers, those they convert face similar violent action for their conversion of faith as they return to their community. The movement has made it safer not only for the TETMI workers, but for those who they reach and are touched by the Good News.
“It has added to our plate, these are people that we couldn’t reach before, they were so intense and incensed against preaching of the gospel.” David says, “But, God in His way has graciously brought them to us, where we are, so we can engage them with the gospel without fear of being killed. So that is an opportunity in itself that the Church is being challenged to engage in.”
As people begin to move into the safer, southern area of Nigeria, they have the opportunity to hear and see what God is doing in their country. TETMI now has the opportunity to safely connect with these people, but also those who have been changed by God’s love are in a much safer area where they no longer have to fear being killed for their conversion. It is amazing to see the new ways that God opens up to share His message with the world
Over 1.5 million people have fled the north since the beginning of 2014 with that number only expected to rise in the years to come. As TETMI continues to encounter people who have not yet heard the amazing news of Christ’s unconditional love, please join us in praying for their efforts as they share the Good News with Nigeria.
You can learn more about the work of TETMI by visiting their page on our website found here. If you are interested in reading David Umune’s incredible personal story of how he became TETMI’s director through immense spiritual encounters please click here.