Pastor Daniel Awayi will speak at the VOM Korea office on Monday night, April 4th at 7:30pm about remaining faithful to God in the midst of persecution and death – all are welcome. He is a Nigerian pastor that works in Northern Nigeria amidst Boko Haram. Here is an excerpt about him from the book The Caliphate or the Casket . . .
Pastor Awayi is a man on a mission. In 2012, as Boko Haram’s violence against Christians was reaching a pitch, he felt God calling him to leave Jos and return to his native district in northern Nigeria. A gentle smile plays over his face as he describes what his life was like before the violence. “I was just like Nehemiah, leading a comfortable life in the king’s palaces.” Awayi has had an impressive career progression as a preacher, from northern village pastor to Bible college lecturer and coordinator of theology training in the provincial capital, Jos. “But my people in the north were perishing!” he adds. This began to gnaw away at him. When the feeling persisted, Awayi had to conclude that God was telling him something. He felt that the divine call was to go back to his last congregation in Potiskum. His family history is closely bound up with this city.
When Awayi told his wife he was planning to return to Potiskum, she let him go, albeit with mixed feelings. They agreed that she would stay behind in Jos with their four children. Herself a preacher’s daughter, she had seen her father murdered in his pulpit in Potiskum by a rampaging mob in the early Nineties. In that same attack, Awayi had been wounded by a stone slung at his head. He shows me the dent it left in his skull. To this day, he has sharp shooting pains from time to time just above his left ear. “But,” he continues, “these experiences molded me and tempered me for the task ahead.”
Returning to Yobe State, Awayi found his church deeply lacerated. “The devil was walking around as a roaring lion. Many churches had been burnt by hate-filled Muslims. 85 per cent of the four hundred churches in the state had been destroyed or shut down. Their worshipers had been murdered or hounded out of the region. Yobe had become a hell on earth. Jihadists followed Christians to their homes and killed them there in cold blood. That was the strategy they followed.” Awayi goes on: “Boko Haram is doing its utmost to wipe Christians out in northern Nigeria. Wherever they succeed, they take over their land and houses. While Islamic communities enjoy freedom of worship in the overwhelmingly Christian south of Nigeria, we Christians in the north do not even have basic freedom of movement. Worse yet, we are being completely eliminated, purely and simply because we are Christians.”
In Potiskum, Awayi was not even at liberty to wear a white clerical collar. The risk was too great, because Boko Haram makes preachers its number one target. “When I was newly returned in 2012, much of my time was taken up just with conducting funerals. Since many brother ministers had been murdered, other congregations were calling on me to take services, too.”
He describes the effect this had on him: “I wondered what the cause could be of such harsh persecution. What I discovered was that the Christians who remained had lost much of their earlier knowledge of God’s Word. Although I didn’t say it out loud, I found this no wonder. Our churches were lacking a clear aim. And that is the moment for the enemy to strike. But I also saw the positive effects of persecution. Those that we still had in our congregations learned anew how to pray. The Bible was opened more often. Social ties became closer. The terrible conditions made Christians more involved in the lives of their fellow churchgoers.”