Warmly welcomed on her first day of school in America, 18-year-old Mercy Paul smiles brightly — showing no sign of her ordeal in northern Nigeria. She’s started a new life at a boarding school in Canyonville, Oregon.
Just seven months ago she was one of the 276 mostly Christian girls kidnapped by Islamist terrorists called Boko Haram.
"There was no way for us to run away," she says. "They told us they would kill us."
With a licensed counselor at her side, Mercy tells us how the terrorists set the girls’ school on fire, forced them onto trucks and drove them into the deep forest.
"I jumped," Mercy says, "not knowing if I would be able to walk or whether I would die."
Dozens of other girls also escaped, but more than 200 — some seen in this Boko Haram video — did not. The militants’ leader said they had converted to Islam and would be sold "in the market."
Worldwide outrage sparked a “Bring Back Our Girls” movement, with some high-profile support.
Michelle Obama: “In these girls Barack and I see our own daughters. We see their hopes and dreams."
Mercy’s dream now is to become a doctor. Learning a new language, and a new culture — basketball, air hockey, and yes, even Super Mario.
And she’s excited that some of her Nigerian classmates will join her at school, with the help of the Christian group The Jubilee Campaign, which is raising funds so that all 57 girls who escaped can finish school in the U.S. Mercy's boarding school scholarship was provided by the Canyonville Christian Academy’s Chibok Girls Scholarship Fund.
Mercy tells us she loves and misses her friends — her sisters — still being held captive, but asks for mercy for the men who are hurting them.
"In the bible God says that he can talk to people, even in their dreams," she tells us. "I pray that they find that god is forgiving and merciful and that they stop doing what it is that they're doing."
Her faith allows Mercy to smile ... and hope that she’ll someday see the friends she left behind.