Bill Sharpe took his Mary Okeyo Travel group to the Westgate Mall in Nairobi. Pastor Adam Moline was recently in Kenya and made many friends, some of whom have written him. He blogged about it on a site called “De Profundis” – which means “out of the depths”. It is the first words of Psalm 130 – Out of the depths I cry to You, O Lord; Lord, hear my voice. Let Your ears be attentive to my cry for mercy. If You, O Lord, mark iniquities, Lord, who can stand? But with You is forgiveness, that You may be feared.
I have included the blog here but I warn you this is tough reading. If you are squeamish you may not want to read anymore.
There is much that I love in this world. I love fall – it’s one of my favorite times of the year. I love football, especially the Nebraska Cornhuskers! I love hunting. I love Thanksgiving, especially with pumpkin pie. I love watching the leaves changing colors. I love my family, and much more.
There are all sorts of things that I love in this world, and yet I know, even as I love the world, that this world is a terrible and sinful place. There are countless things not to love. There is pain and suffering, there is loss and sorrow. There is sickness and death. There is poverty and a long list of other things that I do not love, in fact, that I hate. Because I am a Christian, the world hates me back.
Take, for example, the following letter that Bob Wurl and I received from a young man we met in Kenya last year. He is studying to be a diplomat, and is your average, kind, young Christian man. He has stayed in fairly regular contact with us since our trip. I’ve removed his name from the following narrative so that he and his family do not become targets in future persecution. As a forewarning, his letter is rather graphic.
“This is about the terror attack in Kenya at Westgate shopping mall carried out by Al-Shabaab terrorists. The siege that lasted for three days saw 61 recorded civilians’ death. The attackers held several hostages. Both parties have been giving contradictory figures: the government saying only 63 were held hostage and have been rescued, Al-Shabaab insists their mujaheddin held 137 hostages who they claim were killed.
Hostages who could have lived to tell their stories seemingly lost their lives in what as you are about to learn was the greatest level of brutality one human being would instill on the other.
The aftermath at the Westgate Mall is horrific and (at this time the) body retrieval at the scene continues.
Bodies recovered were found chopped into pieces, probably by the terrorists. Bodies were found hanged on the walls, elevators and stuffed into fridges inside the supermarket, and in the basement where they held the hostages.
CCTV received footage and, because of the highly graphic and gruesome nature, can’t be posted, tells a horrific ordeal that the hostages were subjected to. Hostages had their arms chopped off and were given a tag to write their names on with their own blood, the tag would then be hung on your neck (when you were) killed. Women got raped as their children looked on. The most gruesome (thing) was pushing screw drivers into young kids’ chest as their mothers helplessly watched.
The terrorists kept referring to the hostages as kaffir (an Arabic racial term equivalent in Africa to the “N” word used for non-Muslims) and that no mercy would be shown to them. They showed no signs of remorse and if anything, instilling pain into the hostages made them feel better.
All these actions they ensured were captured on camera and relayed to their headquarters as well as bits to the government. Men had their private parts chopped off, they grabbed noses with pliers and pulled them out. Women had their breasts chopped off by the merciless attackers who were out to cause the greatest damage. The held hostages never lived to tell their stories but these attackers subjected them to a painful death.
Piles of bodies have been discovered stuffed in fridges, with body parts chopped and dismantled, hanging on walls, elevators.
This is the most horrible terror attack Kenya has ever seen since 1998 when the U.S embassy in Kenya was bombed. Several other people are still missing, about 67 of them, however, yesterday a few of them were recovered, 7 dead and 12 alive.
We thank God (that no) family or relative of ours were involved, however it’s very painful (that) we lost all those innocent people, including children! Please pray for Kenya, pray for us. The terrorists have terrorized our mentality and even when we go to church, we find heavy security at the entrance, with that we can’t pray in peace!”
It’s difficult to read, and even more difficult when you realize this happened to real people in a place that we in our congregations are seeking to aid and help. We continue our effort to build orphan rescue centers in Kenya, and to help their Lutheran Church in the proclamation of the Gospel to the people of Kenya.
Why share this with you? To show you what happens to Christians in our world. The word does not love Christians; it does not seek to bless Christians or to give them lots of money or a big house. The world is under the influence of sin and Satan, and thus hates Christians. It has been that way since the beginning of our faith.
St. Stephen was stoned. St. James was executed by the sword. St. Peter was crucified upside down and St. Paul was beheaded. Tradition holds that St. Thomas was pierced with pine spears, tortured with hot iron plates, and then burned alive. Tradition also holds that St. Andrew was flayed alive and that St. John was thrown into boiling oil, but not killed, living the rest of his life with the terrible scars.
What about us? We are no different. We face the same world that hates our Christian confession as much today as it did in the years past. The same event that happened recently in Kenya could happen here in the United States. The world we love, does not love us back.
St. John, mentioned above, quoted Christ for us, saying, “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master…’” “Whoever hates me hates my Father also. If I had not done among them the works that no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin, but now they have seen and hated both me and my Father. But the word that is written in their Law must be fulfilled: ‘They hated me without a cause.’” (John 15)
If the world hates you, it’s because it hated Jesus first. If you face persecution, so too did Jesus first. Yet, Christ overcame the world. He set us free from the world.
John also writes in his First Epistle, “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.”
Dear friends, we love this world too much. We love the seasons, money, family, and football too much. We love the world. But the world hates us for our faith and confession. It cannot love us, and will not love us.
In the midst of all this hate, pain, and worldly sorrow, God loved the world, and sent his Son into the world that He might save it from sin. He died a gruesome death, that we might have eternal life. He suffered at the hands of sinful men, who tortured him, so that we might leave torture behind forever and belong to God.
In the end, even if, God forbid, you are tortured and killed, even if they gouge out your eyes and pierce your body, they cannot destroy your soul. You belong to Jesus, who rose from the dead, and one day you too will as well. You belong not to suffering and torture, but to heaven and peace. Do not fear the ones who can kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Why? Because your Savior Jesus has overcome them in His own death and resurrection. He has promised your soul will live with him forever, no matter what happens to your body. Fear not, Christ is with you. Be not afraid, He is our God. Nothing can overcome him. Not even the tortures of this sinful world.