If you travel northeast from downtown Nairobi on Mogira Road and turn right at Happyland Distributors onto Juja Road, you will pass the Pangani Police Station. Just past that is St. Polycarp Anglican Church. This last Sunday St. Polycarp Church was not in any way "Happyland." As a result of a blinding explosion, one child has already died and eight more were critically injured. Not even the proximity of the police station deterred the attackers. A bomb went off at 10:30 am, while Sunday School children where memorizing Bible verses and learning a new chorus. Already police have confirmed that the IED was placed there earlier and then detonated remotely. The blast critically injured eight children and killed one.
Security forces have said that there is evidence that the attack is linked to al Shabaab, a radical group out of Somalia that is linked with al Qaeda.
A few minutes after I got word of the attack I received text messages both from Joel Waweru Mwangi the Bishop of Nairobi and Archbishop Wabukala. Both said that they were heartbroken. But both, and the people they lead in the Anglican Church in Kenya are resolute. The Gospel stands firm.
During the week before, the Anglican Church of Kenya (ACK) bishops met for a retreat led by Bishops John Guernsey and Foley Beach, and Glen and Debbie Peta. All the bishops agreed it had been the best meeting that the House of Bishops had ever had. With Bible teaching and small groups, Bishops prayed for each other and called each other to life. There were prayers for physical healing and testimonies about how God had moved. There is something quite profound about a group Bishops singing, sharing, and praying, warmly embracing as brothers of common vision and faith.
The fellowship of the Bishops spilled over into the Provincial Synod meetings on Thursday. Archbishop Wabukala recapped the teaching from the retreat and asked me to pray to invite the power of the Holy Spirit to fall on the leaders of the Province and send us out.
On Friday I was able to spend the day with Bishop Joel and his wife. We visited projects and an orphanage, having a day that could only be described as sweet. To have the deep and satisfying week of retreat and ministry torn by the explosion at St. Polycarp is heartbreaking, but it has not (and will not) defeat the Church.
St. Paul wrote about it this way:
2Cor. 4:7But we have this treasure in clay jars, so that the extraordinary power15 belongs to God and does not come from us. 8 We are experiencing trouble on every side,16 but are not crushed; we are perplexed,17 but not driven to despair; 9 we are persecuted, but not abandoned;18 we are knocked down,19 but not destroyed, 10 always carrying around in our body the death of Jesus,20 so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible21 in our body.
One might well ask what will now happen in Kenya. To understand that, it is important to know what happened when violence broke out after the last presidential election. When word surfaced that there was fighting and bands of mostly young people were going around killing people with machetes, then Bishop (now Archbishop) Wabukala went to the radio station in Bungoma, his home. For hour after hour he sat in front of the microphone reading Scripture and praying. His leadership was so effective, his was the only area of Kenya to escape violence. Now as Archbishop, he has taken that same spirit to other leaders and helped the best of Kenya to surface. Shortly after the attack, he was joined by Kenyan Muslim Secretary General Sheikh Adan Wachu as they jointly decried the attack and called for peace as the way forward.
Bishop Joel of Nairobi and the Archbishop visited the Eastleigh Hospital where the injured children were being treated. They prayed for the children and encouraged their parents. In the aftermath of senseless violence, it is hard to imagine any more substantive voices than these two bishops.
For me, this is much more personal than news clips on TV. Because it is close to my heart, it is all the more painful. But you can be sure of this: The purveyors of violence will not win in Kenya. The nation will not descend into chaos. In the face of unspeakable darkness, the Light is unmistakable. The journey may be difficult and painful, but the Kingdom of Jesus will prevail. The Lord will sustain us even in challenging circumstances. That is the promise of His Word, and for that, we give thanks.