As theological debates on sexuality and marriage become more and more central, many Christian denominations are being asked to clarify their views.
One year later, FOCUS Kenya students remember the Garissa tragedy, and share their testimonies of how their faith in God strengths them to cope with it and go on.
FOCUS Kenya students, some at a 5am prayer meeting, made up 22 of the dead and many of the injured.
But what are the long-term effects of a tragedy like this? How are the students dealing with the hard questions - why God let it happen, why were some people hurt so badly, why did others escape? What have they learned through it? And how can we, the IFES family across the world, pray for our brothers and sisters in Garissa?
Gideon Para-Mallam, Regional Secretary for English and Portuguese-Speaking Africa, preached at the recent memorial service in Eldoret, Kenya, and asked these questions of FOCUS students who survived.
FORGIVING, NOT AN EASY TASK
Elosy Karimi is studying education, specializing in history and Kiswahili: “during the attack I ran and hid myself in the shelf of a wardrobe where I stayed for more than 48 hours without eating or drinking anything. I suffer from leg pains, I am traumatized when I remember my friends and my heart is painful when I see the pain of the parents of our fallen friends.
God let it happen because he is God. No man can understand his ways because the knowledge of God is beyond any human understanding. Those who were hurt, God wanted them to be a testimony for others and the whole world, that through their wounds they will be able to testify what God did for them. The same is the case for those who escaped.
Towards the people who carried out the attack, I have a kind of hatred in my heart. I have tried to forgive them but it is like the embrace of forgiveness is not working. Also I feel that they have to be punished by God. They have to face consequences of their doing here on earth and in heaven.
The attack has strengthened my commitment to student witness on campus. By sharing my testimony, many have been born again.
God understands all the challenges we pass through. Even if all the world collapses, God is still with me. I have a great mission to accomplish.
I would like the IFES family to pray for God to give me courage, for my perception of the world to be positive, and for me to serve God more than I used to. Also please pray for parents who lost their children.”
Chepkemoi Evaline, is studying business management. She was shot in the left leg and her right hand and face were injured by an exploding grenade:
“I have not recovered fully and am still under medication. This attack created fear in my heart regarding being a Christian because I was attacked while leading prayers in our morning devotion and so sometimes when I am in prayers I find myself flashing back.
At first I felt like killing any Muslim but after undergoing counselling, I forgave them and love them. I refer to the Bible and pray and share my story with other people.
I have learned to accept what happens, adjust to it and move on, and would like to encourage other students to accept, adjust and move on with any situation that they face. I have learned that I should support anybody who is in a disaster. I have also learned to persevere through challenges - I am still supporting my mobility with crutches.
I want the world to be vigilant all the time and come up with measures for dealing with attacks. I would like my brothers and sisters in IFES to pray for me to recover fully and to be stronger in faith.”
ATTACK STRENGTHENED MY FAITH IN CHRIST
Phyllis J Kipsawai is studying education. Though she escaped without injury she still struggles with fear and loud noises make her think another attack is about to happen:
“My views have changed - most of the time I never thought life was that short but now I believe that our life on earth is very short and we must put our trust in God and surrender our life to Him.
The attack has strengthened my faith in Christ. I can now go for door-to-door evangelism which I was unable to do before the attack. It has made me to be bold in Christianity. I can now talk about my salvation without any fear and even can reach out to those who don’t know Christ with boldness.
I have learned that everything that happens God has a reason for it. We should always be vigilant about our surroundings and we should surrender our lives as a living sacrifice.
I would like IFES to pray that God may remove any fear in my heart.”
Let us pray for the healing of these brothers and sisters. Let us also pray for FOCUS students who in the last 12 months have been tireless in taking care of bereaved families and supporting those who are still scarred, physically or mentally, by their experience.
And let us remember other students across the IFES family, some in countries where we cannot tell their stories, who are also facing situations of intense suffering and need prayer to remain strong in their faith and bold in their witness.
Learn more about evangelical students from across the world visiting the IFES World website.