07 April 2010

Guns, hold-ups, and family

I love my family.  I know I don't tell them that enough, and I sometimes don't talk with them extensively for long periods of time, but I truly love each person in my family -- immediate, cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents, in-laws, all of them.

I know I sometimes try to play hard, not be emotional, but I am actually quite sensitive to what happens to them.

I have wanted to write about this event since it first happened, but emotions got the best (or worst) of me.  I didn't know how to word it all, still don't really.  I have gone from shock, to anger, to sorrow, to wishing I could be there to hug them all, to anger, to disappointment that these things happen, to sorrow, to anger, and now finally a semblance of semi-peace.

All I know is that I am happy that it turned out ok.

I will let Kid Sis #2 share what happened with her in her own words:

As many of you know, I spent the last week of March in Nigeria. The trip went well, with the exception of one 2-hour period. Prior to our trip, so many of our friends and family expressed concern about the risks of kidnapping, as kidnapping has become the M.O. of too many Nigerians lately. I flippantly dismissed those concerns; I’ve been going to Nigeria all my life, and have never felt unsafe. On Palm Sunday, I was in my aunt’s home in Port Harcourt with my mother in law and my son. My husband had just left to go to Lagos. We had just finished breakfast, when two men cam into the dining area with our very frightened looking cook. One had a long knife, and the other held a small gun. The men asked me where my husband was, and who else was in the house. They then shuttled us into a bedroom, and proceeded to tear up wrappers and bedsheets to use to tie my Mumsie’s and the cook’s hands, feet, and mouths. Chinedu and I were not tied up. Next were the gateman and his two friends; they were brought into the room, pushed and kicked to the ground and tied up.

As Chinedu and I were not tied up, my fear was that they were planning on taking him or both us of away, to be held for ransom. As I mentioned earlier, kidnapping has become too popular in Nigeria, and the American firstborn son would likely be capable of providing a large ransom. While the others were in the bedroom on the floor, the men took me to my own bedroom, and began ransacking our bags, looking for money, jewelry, and any other thing of value. One of the men fondled me, and told me that when he was finished with me, my husband would be too ashamed to ever touch me again. I am usually pretty even keeled, but have never been so frightened in my life. My body was literally shaking. Chinedu, who I held the whole time, was also frightened. He held onto me tight for the entire period, not moving, and did not say a single word or cry. Any one who knows my son knows that this is not his usual state. 
While they were removing our valuables from the room, a car came up to the gate. My heart sank, as I knew it was my uncle, with his wife and three children, who had come to take me to church. They were brought into the house, and tied up as well after the armed robbers took their phones, money, and gold jewelry. As they restarted the search for valuables in the house, another visitor, a small boy, came. He was soon followed by his mother and sister. At this point, the robbers were obviously flustered. They did not see my husband or the owner of the house (both were out of town), yet visitors were steadily coming. At this time there were 15 of us being held hostage. They kept asking why visitors were coming, and how many more we were expecting. A third man was outside of the house, and with each new arrival would call anxiously, wanting to know what to do. They were also frustrated by the locked master bedroom door, which they were unable to break open. As the hostages began to desperately beg for the ties to be loosened, the men yelled threats; namely that they would beat them and take Chinedu away and leave him on the side of the street in Aba if they were not quiet. With the threat to Chinedu’s life, every time a hostage made a sound, my heart ached at the possibility that they would harm him.

During the ordeal, I kept repeating one of the memory verses from my Wednesday night bible study: “Cast all your anxieties on Him, because he cares for you.” (1Peter 5:7). Praying this verse helped me stay calm. My mother in law was also continually praying. At one point, the ties on her hands became so tight that she could not stand the pain. After praying, she felt a peace, the ties on her hands loosened, as well as the tie around her mouth. My uncle had told the robbers at one point that he was suffocating, and needed the tie around his mouth loosened. They did not loosen his ties, but he also said that after he prayed, he felt a peace come over him. The tie around his mouth and nose came down so he could breathe better.

One of the robbers was playing the “nice guy” to the other’s “bad guy.” He did not tie up my sick cousin despite the older man’s orders, and he claims that he told the older man (who had touched me) not to rape me. He also said that I was left untied so that I could untie the others when they left. Despite these overtures, this was still an individual who was kicking women and children, and brandishing a knife. Finally, the men left with two bags of our belongings. Initially we were not sure they were gone, and were afraid to start untying in case they returned. After the house was silent for some time, I started untying the group. And while I finally broke down in tears at the stress of the ordeal after everyone was untied, I was struck by the immediate response of the others: praising God. My aunt even took the cloth that had been used to tie as a testimony to give to others, and has been showing them to people wherever she goes.

As I wiped my tears away, I began to grasp God’s mercy. We could have been kidnapped, raped, and the men could have made good on their threats to shoot us. My husband could have been present, and injured or killed if the men were not satisfied with the money he showed them. My uncle, the owner of the home could have been in the house. The men had mentioned him by name, and admitted that they would have seriously dealt with him if he had been there. And my greatest fear of all, that they would harm my son, was not fulfilled.

Since this happened, we have had such an outpouring of love and prayers from family and friends. Everyone is apologetic that we had to have the experience. While it was obviously unpleasant and traumatic, every single time I reflect on what happened, I am overcome by gratefulness that no one was seriously harmed. We have some bruises and emotional scars among us, but none of the other physical threats were carried out. And while initially was upset that my cousins had come to the house and experienced this episode, most have said it was a good thing that they were there, as the steady stream of visitors made the men leave as quickly as possible. Every time I am sad about the loss of material things (cash, digital camera, portable DVD player, my two absolute favorite pairs of shoes, my engagement ring, beautiful jewelry my mother in law gave me, my favorite wrapper, all of the phones of those present, all of the gold jewelry from the women . . . ), I simply look at my son. My beautiful son, whom they did not lay a single finger on. Whom they could have kidnapped, but did not touch; they were not even close enough to him to see that he was wearing a gold chain that his grandmother had just given him.

God is real. And he was watching over us that day. Many of my friends do not believe in God, and do not like public proclamations of His glory. But I am compelled to tell this story not so people feel sorry for us, but to praise His name. Thank you to all of you who have been praying both before and after the robbery. We appreciate your love and support. The remainder of the trip went amazingly well, and yes, I will go back to Nigeria in the future.

My uncle for a time could not breath as he was laying on the ground.  He already has some breathing problems, and laying on his stomach gagged was not helping.  But he is ok.  My uncle who lives in the house is ok.  I has other living places in some other cities and I hope that he will be all right where ever he is.

Thinking of, and visualizing it all still brings up emotions that are really jolting.


  1. Damn, AI. That is so, so crazy. Thanks for sharing this story and I'm glad your fam is okay.


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