Two Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod missionary couples stationed outside of Nairobi, Kenya, are safe and do not appear to be in harm’s way despite five days of post-election rioting in the city that has led to more than 300 deaths, widespread destruction of property, and the displacement of more than 100,000 people.
Springs of Life Lutheran Church, a congregation of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Kenya, an LCMS partner, was looted and set afire Jan. 3. No injuries were reported at the church, which includes a medical clinic funded by LCMS World Relief and Human Care and a nursery school.
In a Jan. 3 e-mail to LCMS World Mission staff, Rev. David Chuchu, project coordinator with the Kenyan Lutheran church body, said a “humanitarian crisis is unfolding as thousands of displaced Kenyans [are] running out of food and water. Houses have been burnt, churches and property burnt or destroyed. Thousands of people are sleeping in the cold at various police stations countrywide. Others are camping in churches.” A police station in Kisumu is sheltering more than 2,000 people without so much as blankets, he said. “People need food, water, and blankets.”
The violent protest was sparked by Kenya’s disputed Dec. 27 election that returned President Mwai Kibaki to office. Much of the violence is between those who support Kibaki — from the majority Kikuyu tribe — and supporters of opposition leader Raila Odinga, who is from the Luo tribe, according to news reports.
“The sad part is that politicians continue to harden their position as the nation is bleeding, people are weeping as the entire country is heading toward destruction — something we are not used to,” Chuchu said.
Springs of Life Pastor Rev. Dennis Meeker said via e-mail that the medical clinic, Luther Health Facility, “suffered severe damage as rioters looted everything and then set it on fire,” and that the nursery school also was looted and burned.
“Please continue to pray for us,” Meeker said. “We thank God our faith is not in material possessions. Our faith will stand firm and we pray God’s intervention for the sake of Kenya. … We rejoice in the fact that faith does not burn and the church is never destroyed.”
Dr. Paul Mueller, regional director for Africa with LCMS World Mission, and his wife, Joy, a staff member with LCMS World Relief and Human Care, and missionaries Rev. Claude and Rhoda Houge live within blocks of each other in Karen, a suburb southwest of Nairobi.
Both couples have been in daily contact via telephone and e-mail with LCMS World Mission Personnel Care Manager Travis Torblaa, who says the missionaries told him their community is quiet and they feel safe. Torblaa is based at the Synod’s International Center in St. Louis.
“The violence appears to be in isolated pockets right now,” Torblaa told Reporter. “We are prepared to evacuate the missionaries, if needed, but at this point they are not in danger.”
Also reported safe in Kenya is Dr. Carlos Walter Winterle and his wife, Lidia. Winterle, former president of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Brazil, has been serving for more than a year as English-speaking pastor of Uhuru Highway Lutheran Cathedral, an international congregation in downtown Nairobi. The ministry is a partnership of the LCMS and its partner church bodies in Kenya and Brazil.
Torblaa said the situation in Kenya will continue to be monitored closely, as it “does remain unpredictable.”
“We’re praying for a peaceful resolution to the current conflict in Kenya,” he said.
LCMS World Relief and Human Care is sending an initial emergency grant of $10,000 to the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Kenya.
To make a donation, write checks payable to LCMS World Relief and Human Care, P.O. Box 66861, St. Louis, MO 63166-6861. Designate “Kenya Relief Efforts” in the memo line. Or call the toll-free gift line at (888) 930-4438. Gifts also may be donated securely online at the LCMS World Relief and Human Care Web site.
Posted Jan. 4, 2008