FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – They spent more than 20 years serving others and sharing their Christian faith in Kenya. Now a Fort Wayne couple is calling the community to pray not just for Kenyan Christians — but for those responsible for killing them.
For many Americans, it’s hard to imagine getting killed because of one’s religion. But what seems like history to some, became reality Thursday morning at Garissa University College in Kenya.
The Islamist militant group Al-Shabab killed 147 people in an attack. Witnesses said the extremists burst into a Christian service and took hostages. The militants were later said to separate students by religion and kill those who weren’t Muslim.
The attack hits home for O.E. and Mariam Joseph, retired Christian missionaries to Kenya. The couple devoted decades toward the same mission that many died for Thursday morning.
The Josephs were born in India, received higher education in the U.S., and upon graduation moved to Nairobi, Kenya. O.E. taught at a bible college and Mariam taught children in the Kenyan capital, which is a couple hundred miles southwest of the attack.
The Josephs have “sweet memories” about their time in the East African country. But their memories are a stark contrast to the reality the country now faces.
“That’s what I’m concerned about, the freedom we enjoyed there for the Christian ministry is just not there anymore. That hurts me,” Mariam said while watching an old support video.
O.E. chimed in, “You still have the freedom but the freedom is in the sense of fear of a terrorist group. Whenever you have a large gathering, you’re not sure if something could take place.”
The Josephs served in Nairobi from 1978 to 2001 with World Gospel Mission (WGM), based out of Marion, Indiana. They still know many others who currently live and serve in Kenya, like Jon Steury, WGM’s Africa Regional Director. Steury normally lives in Nairobi, but is currently on furlough back in the U.S.
“It’s very disturbing as you can imagine to hear about not only another terrorist attack in Kenya, but one that seems to be targeting Christians in particular,” Steury said.
The Josephs and others are left praying for the safety of others, as militants continue to persecute Christians and anyone else who rejects Islamic extremism.
“We pray for the safety of the Christians and we pray for these terrorist groups — that God will change their hearts,” O.E. said.
Steury said those currently doing Christian missionary work in Kenya will use extra caution following Thursday’s attack.