It was a typical Sunday morning for four-year-old Melissa and her
mother, Sandra. They woke up, got dressed for church and joined
the rest of the congregation for worship and fellowship at Africa
Inland Church in Garissa, Kenya. Sandra dropped Melissa off at her
Sunday School class before joining the adults in the sanctuary.
But worship that morning was far from typical. In the middle of the
service, attackers threw grenades into the sanctuary. The panicked congregation ran for the exits amid the chaos and explosions, but they were met with automatic gunfire as they tried to escape the carnage inside the church.
Melissa and the other Sunday School students huddled quietly
in their classroom, trying to wait out the attack.
When the violence ended, fifteen were dead and more than fifty
others wounded. Members of the militant Islamic group al-Shabab
claimed responsibility for the terrorist attack, one of the worst Kenya
had suffered in years.
Kenya’s Christian population has been an al-Shabab target ever
since the group began its “holy war” against the enemies of Islam in 2006. The group, whose Arabic name means “the Youth,” was founded
in Somalia before extending its reach into Kenya. Tensions in Kenya
intensified after Kenyan military forces invaded Somalia, leading al-Shabab to vow revenge on the people of Kenya.
Sandra didn’t pick Melissa up from Sunday School that morning.
When a family friend arrived to take Melissa home, she told the young
girl that her mother had been shot and was in the hospital. Sandra died
from her wounds the next day, making Melissa one of twelve children
orphaned in the attack.
Across town, Christians attending a Catholic church were attacked
on the same day; Kenyan security forces believe the attacks were
As the churches grieved for those lost in the attacks, they continued
to cling to the eternal truths of God’s Word. One widow had John 3:16
engraved on her husband’s headstone because she knows God’s love
extends even to the men responsible for the attacks. And though Kenyan
Christians continue to face persecution by al-Shabab, they hold to the
promise that the Lord will not leave them nor forsake them in their time
“And I tell you, you are Peter,
and on this rock I will build my
church, and the gates of hell
shall not prevail against it.”
This story is an excerpt from Foxe: Voices of the Martyrs. You can get your own copy free with any donation to The Voice of the Martyrs.