In November 2016, five Brits, three Nigerians, and two Americans (including me) visited the Nigerian bush in the wake of extremist attacks. Eighteen months earlier, newly radicalized Fulani herdsman had raided and destroyed four tiny villages about 50 miles northeast of Jos. We were the first Westerners to document the atrocities. All afternoon we drove from village to village, methodically interviewing survivors, including pastors who had risked their lives to shepherd their people during the attacks.
Then, while we were visiting the fourth village, darkness descended across the valley. Hassan, our Nigerian guide and an experienced journalist and pastor, suddenly started rushing us along. “We must leave here at once,” he said with alarm. “It is not safe anymore.” We saw nothing, heard nothing, except some leaves rustling in the wind and a piece of tin banging against what may have been a church’s roof. But Hassan hustled us into the van and drove away as quickly as possible.
Two days later, while we were waiting at the Abuja airport for our flight home, Hassan emailed us. “Now that you are leaving Nigeria I can tell you that some enraged Fulani with guns came looking for you. According to my sources, they missed us by only 30 minutes.”
I replied, “But we are Westerners. They wouldn’t have killed us, would they?”
“Eighteen months ago they murdered 22 believers like you, including a pastor who stayed with his flock. Last week they ambushed and killed 10 people in a van like ours. They would have killed you with pleasure. God spared you.”
In the relative safety and security of my everyday life in suburban Chicago, I usually don’t ponder God’s deliverance. But without Hassan’s strong and sudden intuition of danger at that precise moment, we probably would have been dead. God protected me even when I wasn’t aware of His hand at work. I wonder now how often and in what ways God has rescued me without my knowledge. Truly He is the God who “is able to deliver us” (Dan. 3:17).
Illustration by Grafilu