After years of persecution and violence, Christians in the north east of Nigeria are beginning to return to their communities.
They have suffered hugely, making up the majority of the more than two million people who have been forced from their homes by militant Islamist group Boko Haram.
Churches and houses have been destroyed and many people have been killed.
The most publicised atrocity was the kidnap of 276 girls from Chibok School in 2014 but that is just one of many terrible outrages. More than 2,000 women and children have escaped or been recovered from Boko Haram and many more are almost certainly still in captivity.
Those who have escaped say women and girls are forced into marriage. Those who refuse are either killed or forced into slavery.
Christian men have also been killed. In one area, the attackers reportedly used chainsaws to save bullets.
But while north east Nigeria is still a dangerous place, the government has been fighting back against Boko Haram.
There are now many hopeful signs. Some displaced Christians are returning to their homes and Christian witness is starting up again.
Despite the dangers, Serving In Mission’s Nigeria leadership team has visited the north east to encourage and support their brothers and sisters.
SIM is helping Christians rebuild shattered lives and communities. Counsellors have been providing trauma healing seminars, in which people are encouraged to share their stories, forgive their persecutors and leave their pain with the Lord Jesus.
Other SIM workers are providing food for refugees now living in Internally Displaced People camps or with others in the community.
The north east is a poor area, where many of the people are subsistence farmers. The current food shortage has been made worse by people not farming through fear of being attacked by Boko Haram, and by Boko Haram raiding food stores.
In one safe area, SIM has worked through one of its Nigerian mission partners to train people in dry season farming so they can provide food for themselves.
SIM workers now intend to do the same for rainy season farming in the next few months. Many people lost their livelihoods, so SIM is also aiming to help carpenters, mechanics, shopkeepers, pharmacists and others re-start businesses.
SIM has helped two communities start rebuilding churches, so Christians can gather again to meet, worship and pray.
The ultimate goal is to help people spiritually; to disciple those who already know the Lord and to help them share the gospel with Muslim neighbours.
One of the tragic side-effects of the violence is that communities are increasingly divided and there is less contact between Christians and Muslims. However, many Muslims are happy to talk about God and faith, so it is vital Christians make and maintain relationships with them so the gospel can be shared.
SIM’s long-term plan is to see more Christian workers go into the north east and be witnesses for the Lord Jesus.
The vision is to see a spiritual re-awakening; a re-awakening which halts the spread of Islam and sparks a Christian revival across Nigeria and neighbouring countries.
It is a bold vision and a bold aim but we know, with God, all things are possible.
For God’s protection over the Christians returning to their communities.
For more workers to be raised up willing to serve in the hard parts of Nigeria.
For an end to the violence perpetrated by Boko Haram so that all may live in peace.