In August and September 2020, the Bible Society of Cameroon experienced two tragic losses: Jonas and Joseph, two Parkwa language literacy facilitators, were killed in separate attacks on their village in the Far North region, by Islamic militant group Boko Haram.
As the main leader of the Bible Society of Cameroon, I decided to travel to their village in order to comfort the grieving families. I also felt that visiting would help me to better understand what life is like for the community as they experience repeated attacks by the Boko Haram sect.
The head of our regional delegation for this part of the country, Pierre, had already visited the village.
On October 29, I flew from Yaoundé to Maroua, the main city in the region. From there, I travelled onto the town which serves as the administrative centre for the village.
Prayed for me
The day before my trip, I met on Zoom with Michael Perreau, UBS Director General, as well as Elaine Duncan and Dirk Gevers, Chair and Vice Chair of the UBS Global Council.
I assured them that I would ask the military authorities in the region to provide an escort to the village, given the insecurity in the zone. They prayed for me, invoking the Lord’s protection, and I felt comforted and reassured.
However, once I got to Maroua, I heard the Lord saying to me that for my safety on this trip to the village of horror it was better to be without security assured by man. I was almost overcome with fear but I looked up to the Lord. We needed faith and courage for the journey.
Nobody comes to visit anymore.
In the town, Pierre and I were met by two of our Parkwa Bible translators (NOTE: their names have not been shared for security reasons), and we rode to the village on the back of their motorbikes – Pierre on one, and myself on the other.
Nobody comes to visit them
We rode for an hour and a half, passing through village after village abandoned due to the abuses of Boko Haram. We arrived in the village at 3pm, just as everyone was leaving to go up to the mountain for safety. People were surprised at our arrival and recognised our courage and love for them.
Nobody comes to visit them anymore.
Above all, I wanted to visit the widows and children of Jonas and Joseph, so we left the motorcycles to travel by foot.
There are small huts in the mountains where the women and children sleep … People take turns to stay awake and keep watch.
Unfortunately, the families had already moved back into their hiding places at the very top of the mountain so I wasn’t able to meet them. I was, however, able to visit Joseph’s grave, which was halfway up. I also managed to meet Joseph’s cousin and a friend just before they went up the mountain for the night.
I quickly prayed with them by Joseph’s grave before we came back down to the village.
I asked the translators what conditions people face in the mountains. They explained that there are small huts in the mountains where the women and children sleep, and some adults stay in the caves. People take turns to stay awake and keep watch. From January, things become more difficult in the mountains due to water shortages.
An emotional day
Unable to do anything more, we headed back. It had been an emotional day. We had seen the fertile land, plots that had once been well-tended, we saw health centres, schools and churches – all standing empty and abandoned.
I returned very confused and very disturbed by the destruction that Boko Haram is causing in this part of the country, which has so much agricultural potential. It was a very long night for me because I could not sleep. I was going over everything I saw and heard.
It was during that long night that I also realised the great risk I had taken. As if to confirm my thoughts, early in the morning the phone rang and I was told what had happened in the village that night.
At 7pm, just a few hours after our departure [and return to Maroua], Boko Haram attacked the villagers sheltering on the mountain.
They killed one man, the father of the landlord of one of our translators.
Our translator, himself, is on the list of the next victims.
In view of this, we have moved him and his family from the village to the nearby town. And in July, the end of the school year, the three translators will be relocated to the city of Maroua, until the end of the translation project.
Risk was enormous
Before leaving the village, I made a promise that I would soon return for a visit. But after the attack that took place on the evening of my visit, I remain undecided as I dialogue with the Lord.
I understand that the risk of this trip was enormous. And I never got to see the two widows.
I give thanks to God who has shown me once again that he is my shepherd and my true security. But you have to be armed with a good dose of faith to hold out.
I am also thankful to Michael Perreau, Elaine Duncan and Dirk Gevers for their prayers, and for my team, friends and family who were all a part of this journey through their living prayers.
Let us continue to serve our Lord with fidelity and dedication. He takes care of the rest.
Luc is Director General, Bible Society of Cameroon.