Dear friends of African Leadership:
No doubt you have heard the news from Garissa, Kenya: 147 students, murdered at their university, many singled out because they are Christian.
Just two weeks ago, I spent five days behind the gated walls of a Christian college in a similar Kenyan border town. I felt safe, but still noted the perfunctory security. During Saturday’s graduation, there was a noted but only slight step up in safety measures.
Coming home to this news at Easter time brought my mind to a place of sharp focus and great sadness. My mood became more somber with the news of our Mombasa partner’s road signs, marking the spot of our Christian ministry, torn down within hours of being staked in the ground.
The best way I have figured to process these acts is dwelling on this statement: how we live on earth is driven by what we think of heaven.
Some views hold that heaven is a place of power, a reward for earthly actions to purify the land of non-believers . For others, heaven is a place where the departed spirit can provide protection for the tribe and family left behind. And still others see heaven as not a place at all, so we might as well make the most of life while we have it.
But to believers in Christ, heaven is a place of peace. No fear of violence. “The lion and the lamb.” A place where “no harm shall come to any on all (God’s) holy mountain.” This view has given energy and life to so many of the great social movements in history over the last 2,000 years, bringing a few more slices of a peaceful heaven to the here and now.
These competing views of heaven are global – to our U.S. minds and to those of our African brothers and sisters. As followers of Christ across the global church, we believe in a peaceful heaven, and seek to extend heaven’s realm here on earth.
Ultimately, these animating differences cannot be settled with bullets. Ideas that lead to ideals is our ultimate shared work. This is the work we do every day in walking with the men and women of Africa changing their communities peacefully.
We plead with you to pray for those serving today amidst the realized and threatened violence. As you’ll read from them below, it is not without fear that they proclaim Christ. But it is also not without hope.
John P. Walter I President, African Leadership
From Katie Sasser, Implementation Specialist in Mombasa, Kenya:
There is no way to try and be in control of your circumstances when living in East Africa. Now adding the threat of terrorism, you can try to be vigilant, but you can always get caught in the wrong place at the wrong time. This is the reality that our family lives in. I am sorry that the world has become this way. The plus side is, we get to really teach and show our kids what living by faith and trusting in God is all about. Together as a family we continue to say, "The Lord is my light and my salvation, whom shall we fear?" All we can do is use the brains that he gave us to avoid danger as best as we can, but also be bold in sharing our hope in Jesus that this world so desperately needs.
From Chris Sasser, Implementation Specialist in Mombasa, Kenya:
Insecurity is a constant reminder of the larger battle that is going on around us. Over the last year, there have been multiple terrorist attacks throughout Kenya, as well as several robberies within our community. Though these acts of violence are cause for vigilance and heightened awareness, they also help us to see the needs of the communities we serve more clearly. Poverty of spirit and of finances leaves many in this area hopeless. All of this helps us appreciate Action Ministry’s team that much more. Their dedication to serve the people at Blessed Camp day in and day out is inspiring. As a family we strive to be as safe and as wise as possible while living within a slightly volatile area. But, knowing that God has called us here to invest in Action Ministry encourages us to stay the course.
From Peter Ochiel, serving as our partner with Action Ministry in Mombasa, Kenya:
In the past few years, our country have experienced several terror attacks, some in places of worship. I have to admit that at times I have felt fear and felt like giving up. During this difficult and trying times, one thing has kept me going, the fact that it’s God who appointed and sent me to do what I am doing and that he will protect me, my family and the people we serve. Among other scriptures, Psalms 91 and 23 stand out. “Yea, even though I pass through the valley of the shadow of death, I shall fear no evil, God is on my side....”