A miraculous release - former March GP and his wife give a talk on being held hostage for 22 days in Nigeria

Former March GP David Donovan and his wife Shirley during missionary work in the Delta region of Nig

Former March GP David Donovan and his wife Shirley during missionary work in the Delta region of Nigeria, with their charity, New Foundations. - Credit: Archant

A year since being taken hostage while carrying out medical missionary work in Nigeria, a former March GP and his wife are giving a talk about their miraculous release.

Dr David Donovan, who used to work at Riverside Practice.

Dr David Donovan, who used to work at Riverside Practice. - Credit: Archant

David Donovan, 58, and his wife Shirley were held captive for 22 days while working in the Delta area where they run four health care clinics set up by their charity New Foundations.

Three weeks in captivity has forged a determination for them to share their experiences to pass on the lessons they learnt in a story that hit global headlines.

Dr Donovan, who took three months off after being freed, said: “On a human level those 22 days combined fear and frustration with an outrage at the loss of our autonomy, but on a Christian level it ultimately deepened our faith.

“We learnt compassion, understanding and also forgiveness for our captors

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“It was a tragedy to lose our dear friend and colleague in the work, but we were all aware of the dangers of working in this region.

Dr Donovan and his wife were two of four Britons captured by a militant gang on October 13, 2017.

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Optometrist Alanna Carson was also safely released but one man from the party, Ian Squire, was killed.

The Donovans have since moved from Cambridgeshire, where Dr Donovan was a GP at Riverside Practice, and now live in Scotland where the pair have penned a book together, due for publication in Spring next year.

They agreed to give a talk at St Wendredas Church as they say they owe a debt of gratitude to the churches in the area where congregations prayed daily for their safe return.

Meanwhile, Dr Donovan works part time as a GP in Coldstream and the other half of his week focusing on the New Foundations charity he and his wife set up in 2003.

Dr Donovan said: “We learnt to forgive and meet our captors on a human level. We had Bible class with three of our captors.

“These are big lessons. They threatened to kill us three times.

“We are a Christian organisation and our talk will be showing the plausibility of having a faith in God.

“Many view missionaries as a 19th century anachronism, but there are many Christians active on the mission field, both here and abroad. Remember that Christianity is an Eastern faith that was first brought to the West by missionaries.

“Sometimes it takes something like this for people to see why we do what we do. Faith must be more than words.

“Sadly hostage taking has been the bread and butter of that region for a long time. The area is still very volatile.

Some of our team have had to move out of the area for fear of reprisals. For our local workforce it has been unsafe. We had to shut two of our four clinics as it is still too dangerous for the more remote ones to open.

“We have been going since 2003. They tried to take us unsuccessfully in 2009, we were freed after 22 days in 2017.

“We have a certainty this is where we are called. Until it is rescinded we may have to return at some point in the future.”

The experience has left no trauma as a result and no lingering stress for the pair.

Dr Donovan said: “To be taken by people who wanted to kill us, yet see beyond the toxicity, was a journey and learning for us all.

“In a funny way it was a privilege - obviously we say that with hindsight - but it was a game changer for us, to learn these lessons and pass them on.

“It was a miraculous release, we knew it was the end on the 22nd day but we didn’t know how it was going to end.

“Our experiences make people stop in their tracks. It gives us a platform to give testimony to our beliefs to help others to consider a bigger picture behind the life we live.

“We had such warm and loving support from the people of March we are grateful for the invite to speak.”

• David and Shirley Donovan talk at St Wendredas Church, March, on Saturday October 13 at 7pm.

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