As the violence of Boko Haram intensified in northeastern Nigeria, Dr. Rebecca Dali, and her NGO, Center for Caring, Employment and Peace Initiatives, CCEPI, began responding by delivering material aid to those affected and equipping the displaced to start home businesses. Even after the area near Mubi, where she and her family lived, was under attack, and they also fled with thousands of others and moved to Jos, she continued this work. It often took her back into dangerous areas going where, at times, she encountered members of Boko Haram.
In November 2013, Rebecca crossed the border into Cameroon to deliver supplies to Nigerians living in the Gawar Refugee Camp. A man asked her to meet with him in private, saying, “I want to talk with you because you have the spirit of love.”
He admitted to being a Boko Haram fighter who had killed more than thirty-two people, but couldn’t do this anymore and wanted to leave Boko Haram. Rebecca told me, “I asked him to give that up and follow Jesus. As I prayed for him, he tearfully accepted Christ as his Lord. He said that he would need to do this secretly at first, since his life would be in danger from Boko Haram, but in time would be able to practice his faith publicly. I connected him with one of the EYN pastors in the camp.”
Another time Rebecca was on her way to Chibok to reach out to distressed families and deliver relief supplies, when two militants stopped her car and forced her to follow them into the bush. Walking with them, she agonized, imagining her imminent death. She silently prayed, “God, if you want me to die, I will accept it, but if you want me to keep doing this work, protect me and let me live.”
In the bush, twenty militants surrounded her, and the leader told her, “OK, we’re going to kill you…. Aren’t you scared?”
“No,” she answered. “I’m not scared. Even if I die, I know where I am going – to heaven.”
“Where are the Boko Haram going,” he asked her in return, “to heaven, or to hell?”
“I don’t know, but I’m praying for you to go the right way. You always have a second chance. In one second, you can change your life and go to heaven.”
He responded, “You’re a good person. We will not touch you.” Mentioning that she was giving food and supplies to Muslims, he added, “Go and do your work!” As she left, Rebecca told them she would pray for them.
When I asked Rebecca about being willing to take such risks, she answered, “The people desperately need help, so I will continue this work, in spite of the dangers. God saved my life, and so the rest of my life is a bonus. And now Boko Haram fighters know me and that I distribute aid to Christians, Muslims, and pagans, and even have a Muslim on my staff, so when they see me, they let me pass. When Boko Haram came to Mubi in 2014, and attacked, they damaged the EYN headquarters, but they didn’t touch the relief supplies in the warehouse.”
And so, Rebecca continues her work.