Kenya (ODM) — It has been just under a year since a shooting incident at the African Inland Church of Garissa church in Kenya left 17 people dead and scores of worshipers injured. Open Doors recently spoke to believers still living in Garissa where all non-Muslim citizens, non-Muslim businesses, Christians, several churches, and security agents were targeted by the Muslim extremists' terror attack on July 1, 2012.
"I am fine now!" stated Lydia Ndavi when an Open Doors co-worker inquired how she is doing. "I sometimes experience pain that flashes across my leg that was wounded, but otherwise I am okay. I am still holding on to Jesus. However, to be honest, I missed some Sunday church services out of fear. You know, when I hear rumors of a possible attack, I get afraid and stay home that Sunday. I have not gone to church for the last two weeks."
When asked if she still gets panic attacks at night, Lydia replied, "I'm sleeping well now and not waking up at the slightest sound like before. The only problem is the worry that keeps me from attending church service as much as I would like to."
Holding on to Jesus, but feeling scared: this seems to summarize the disposition of the Christians who still find themselves in Garissa.
Caleb (not his real name) confirmed how the church in Garissa is struggling to carry on due to continued insecurity. Muslim fundamentalists are still targeting Christian businesses, security agents, churches, and lately individual pastors. He is referring to–among other things–the murder of Abdi Welli in February.
"There has been a mass exodus of non-Muslims and Christians from here in the last few months," he said." Most churches now see less than 50% of their congregants coming to services. People have left this area out of fear for their lives and for the safety of their families. Those are valid concerns, and we cannot blame them for making that decision.
"We who are left behind are doing okay. God has managed to calm our hearts, minds, and emotions despite the continuing insecurity. My faith remains strong and I praise God for that, even though it is not easy to live in a place like this–facing constant danger."
Rev. Kaleli, Senior Pastor of the AIC Garissa church told Open Doors: "My wife, Anna, who was injured in the attack, is fine. She was discharged after 35 days in the hospital and successful surgery. She still suffers from pain, but overall she is doing fine."
Initially the Kaleli family, Anna specifically, were determined to stay. They felt a departure would indicate defeat. However, since then the couple has come to realize that they needed to give their traumatized children, their wider family, and themselves a break.
"My children and wider family were so traumatized that we have requested to be relocated. The request was accepted, and we will be moving by the end of April. Please pray for us and the church as this transition takes place."
The level of discouragement in Garissa is cause for concern. Open Doors co-workers reassured Rev. Kaleli that thousands of Christians around the globe will keep praying for them and for the rest of the community in Garissa. Open Doors remains closely involved with the Church in Garissa and the northeastern regions of Kenya through encouragement visits, various kinds of training, and socio-economic development.
Pray that God would continue to build His Church in the midst of the very difficult circumstances in Garissa. Pray for strength and encouragement for Christians who are not leaving the area. Pray for the pastors serving in the area as they struggle to encourage and strengthen the church that is under constant threat. Pray for churches that will be going through leadership change. Pray for God's grace to those who have left or will be leaving. As they move on, pray that they would be able to adapt quickly and be used by God for His Kingdom in those areas they will be going to.