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Image: Mpeketoni Police Station-attacked by suspected al-Shabaab militants. 

In 2014, Al Shabaab Islamic militants launched a series of attacks on Mpeketoni and nearby villages on the Kenyan coast, killing 92 people*. Following the attack, Open Doors presented trauma care training to church leaders who asked us to also train their Sunday school teachers. Grace attended and learned how to use art and games and create a safe environment to get children to talk about their experiences. Attendees also immediately applied their knowledge by working with 30 children ages 6-12 who had lived through the Al-Shabaab attacks. “We have really seen healing through this,” she testifies.

Grace not only noticed the scars of trauma in her own loved ones. It was everywhere. Church attendance dropped radically. “There was great fear among church members and their children. When a tire burst the children would run towards their parents crying, ‘Al-Shabaab is coming. They’re coming to shoot us!’”

Some had watched their fathers and brothers die (women were spared). Many had to flee and hid in the bush with their families in the days that followed the attack; they faced fearful circumstances. Others experienced vicarious secondary trauma as they heard about the brutal attacks from adults or the media.

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Image: Mpeketoni Jungle Camp-after the attack, some fled to the nearby forest areas.

“One child I worked with drew a house on fire and a person shooting someone else. Another child drew someone lying on the ground with blood (everywhere) and a man with a gun standing next to him. This child could even remember the exact date it all happened. His older cousin was shot in the attack.

“Afterwards we talked about the pictures. Although many of the kids expressed a desire to take revenge on the attackers, I gently pointed out that the battle is God’s, not ours. We must leave it to God to fight for us. We have really seen healing through this. After the course I saw the children’s anger go down and down.”

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Image: Mpeketoni childrens drawings-in trauma seminars children drew what they remembered.

Now, a number of years down the line, Grace has seen God bring good from a very terrible situation.

She has seen an improvement in children’s ministry. After Sunday school the children from Grace’s church used to be free to play outside or go home. Now, when Grace finishes Sunday school, the children participate in the main service. “They are given a place inside the church and sit with their Sunday school teachers. The pastor now has a special topic for children within the service, and they know that they’re really important. After all, they are the worshippers, the missionaries, the pastors of tomorrow.”

Many people have also come to faith after the assaults. “The attacks have made people think about life and what it would mean if they died before being made right with God. Many have accepted Christ: old men, women and children.”

Grace also believes the attacks have fostered unity. “Before the attacks there was not very good fellowship between the churches. They didn’t think they needed one another. But since the attack, we have really started working together much more, even as Sunday school teachers.”

Kenya was the highest riser on the 2015 WWL, rising to the 19th position from number 43 the year before. “The increase in score…is mainly explained by the level of faith-related killings that has resulted in an intensification of the pressure Christians experience in the majority of the country.”

PRAY:

  • Thank the Lord for the opportunity to minister to the Church following the attacks. Pray that He will continue to use the training we offered to bring healing to traumatized attack survivors, young and old.
  • Pray for the Lord’s protection over Christians in Kenya’s northeastern border and coastal areas who face a lot of pressure for their faith in Christ. Pray that they will be able to conquer fear by a spirit of love.

 

*Following the attack, Open Doors has been closely involved with the Church in Mpeketoni region.

  • In the years past, OD sponsored two theological training courses.
  • As soon as the attack on on June 15th, local church leaders Open Doors. A team was put together immediately for a visit and they spent time with the Christians in the town. They met and prayed with the available pastors, attended funerals and Bought tents for IDPs then sleeping out in the open
  • In the following month an OD led Trauma Counseling Team, consisting of staff and 11 volunteers visited to debrief with as many residents as possible. Pastors requested training for their Sunday school workers to help children who witnessing the attacks.
  • In March 2015 an OD team trained 20 Mpeketoni Sunday School workers on trauma ministry skills.