It took a horrific attack on her church for Emily to realize that her understanding of God was wrong. Three years ago, her bishop asked her to move to a new church plant near Mombasa, Kenya. The Joy in Jesus Church in Likoni was struggling, and the bishop thought Emily could help. Over the next several months, the church grew to 60 people.
On Sunday morning, March 23, 2014, most of the faithful were scattered throughout the pews. Assistant Pastor Philip Ambesta was speaking that morning, and Emily was in the front row. In the middle of his sermon, there was a loud bang outside and heads turned to look, but Pastor Philip told everyone, “Ignore what is going on outside these walls and listen to what God has to say to you.” He continued to preach.
Moments later, two gunmen burst through the back door. One, armed with a machine gun, sprayed the congregation with bullets. From her seat at the front, Emily turned and saw the other gunman aim a hand gun straight at the platform. He fired, and Pastor Philip fell, dead.
It was chaos. The gunmen fled. Everyone was screaming. Blood was everywhere and people were running. Emily moved among the members, reassuring everyone and offering first aid. She made sure an ambulance and police were called. The ambulance couldn’t carry all the injured, so Emily helped them prioritize which victims needed the most urgent help.
Six people died that day, including Pastor Philip. 24 others were injured, and VOM has helped four of the most severely injured with their ongoing medical care for the past two years. Emily herself wasn’t injured, but she was left with deep scars on her soul.
She struggled to understand why God would have allowed the church to be attacked. She believed that God must have been punishing them for their sin. Emily returned to her home church in Mombasa, discouraged.
But she continued to read God’s Word. As she did, she realized God wasn’t punishing them. In the Bible, she read how Jesus promised His followers they would be persecuted for His sake. She saw that sin compels evil men to commit evil acts, especially against those who follow the God in whom there is no darkness. She realized that God’s promises to work for our good and to bless us mean not financial good, but spiritual good. Persecution is a promise, not a punishment.
Today, Emily describes the gospel as a “bitter gospel.” She says, “I teach the bitter gospel of the cross and the blood. You have to accept taking up the cross.”
Dory P. recently spent a week in Kenya, meeting with the believers who VOM serves alongside. While many people think of Kenya in terms of safaris and mission trips, in the northeast and along the coast, Christians face severe persecution by al-Shabaab affiliated Islamists. She was encouraged how Kenyan Christians are supporting persecuted believers and sharing the gospel in their own country.