The Story of Leah Sharibu
On February 19, 2018, a faction of Boko Haram, a terrorist group that has been raging for several years in different regions in Africa, kidnapped over a hundred girls from a school in Dapchi, a town in northeastern Nigeria. A month after the abduction, following behind-the-scenes negotiations with the government, most of the children were released and returned to their parents.
On the night the girls finally came back home, Rebecca Sharibu, a woman from the village, rushed outside her house to welcome her daughter, Leah, who was only 15 at the time. But she could not find her among the girls. Terribly worried, Rebecca turned to two of Leah’s friends and asked them if they knew where her daughter was. The two girls’ answer would have caused any parent’s heart to stop: Boko Haram had told Leah to renounce her faith in Christ and to accept Islam, and the 15-year-old Christian girl refused. And they added:
So the men said she wouldn’t come with us. We begged her to just pretend to deny Jesus and recite the Islamic declaration, put on the hijab and get on the bus, but she refused to do so, saying that if these men wanted to kill her, that they could do it, but that she would not deny Jesus. And [Leah] also asked us to tell her parents to pray for her…
How Would You Have Reacted?
Such a story is heart-breaking, especially when we read it as a parent… as a father. How would you have reacted if Leah was your daughter? We tend to understand and apply the words of Proverbs 22:6 to Christian parenthood: “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”
As believing parents, we pray for our children that they will come to know Christ and walk with him, every day, faithfully, and to love and honor his word, his Church, and everything he stands for… But what if directing our children onto the right path leads them to persecution and martyrdom?
What if directing our children onto the right path leads them to persecution and martyrdom?
Stories like these, however heart-breaking, compel us to ask ourselves: Just how serious are we about our children’s faith?
The Christian life has more to it than just attending weekly services, enjoying divine blessings, and avoiding temptation or situations that may cause us to sin. It’s about giving ourselves to God as living sacrifices with an unwavering faith in Christ. In our western, entertainment-focused culture, we tend to forget that following Jesus is not all fun and games. Sometimes it’s extremely dangerous! Not people-will-laugh-at-you-and-you-may-lose-a-friend dangerous, but more like people-will-abduct-you-and-maybe-kill-you dangerous. Choosing the walk with God in this earth is very serious.
Now, don’t get me wrong, being a Christian is the best and most precious experience ever! We enjoy true fellowship with the Lord of Lords. We eat, pray and laugh with sinners-turned-saints by the power of the Holy Spirit. And we impact humanity with the greatest story ever told. But this extraordinary spiritual experience comes at a price that Jesus was the first to pay. As he was crucified for our redemption, some, grateful for the victory of the Cross, may have thought that they would never have to literally lose their life, let alone their children’s. But the Bible testimony, missionary reports, and even secular media testify to the fact that loving Christ can cost you…
Raising Up Martyrs
To this day, Leah’s parents haven’t been reunited with her. Some reports say that she is still alive, and some say that she was killed. Although heart-broken and distraught that her daughter was made a prisoner of Boko Haram, here is what her father had to say:
I feel fantastic because she didn’t deny Christ as her personal Savior… I didn’t think she could do something like this, because she is young, small, and she is a very calm girl.
As Christian fathers, we lovingly direct our children onto the right path, praying that Christ will reveal himself to them and that their faith will be strong when the time comes. And we do so not always realizing that if we succeed, the result might be that we will have raised up the martyrs of whom John prophetically wrote:
I saw under the altar the souls of all who had been martyred for the word of God and for being faithful in their testimony. They shouted to the Lord and said, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you judge the people who belong to this world and avenge our blood for what they have done to us?” (Revelation 6:9-10, NLT)