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Grandmother keeps tabs on daughter’s trauma

RICHMOND, Va. (BP) — Libby Panter was en route from Virginia to Mississippi to visit family when she got the phone call.

Her son-in-law Philip Walton was distressed and practically unintelligible as he gave them the horrible news from Kenya. Their daughter — his wife Katherine — had gone shopping in Nairobi. Terrorists had overtaken Westgate Mall, entrapping her and her five children in the middle of the mayhem.

“He was broken up with emotion, and we couldn’t understand him. We had to work to make it clear what he was saying,” said Panter, an emeritus International Mission Board missionary to Africa.

Philip works in Nairobi but was in North Carolina on business when the siege took place. Like Katherine, he grew up as the child of IMB missionaries in Africa, and they have chosen to raise their family in the land where they grew up.

Panter and her husband Dan were horrified to hear the news on Sept. 21, but they immediately turned to God. “The only thing we could think to do was to cry out to the Lord and pray,” she said. “And then we started to get in touch with friends and family and told them to pray.”

About an hour later Philip called back to say that his family had safely made it out of the mall.

Panter has talked to her daughter numerous times since the siege and says she seems to be doing well but is exhausted and a little overwhelmed by their newfound fame through numerous interviews and stories in the international media.

“She acts wonderfully,” Panter said. “And she would give all praise to the Lord for that.”

Katherine and the kids have been through a couple of counseling sessions and she has struggled with insomnia but is slowly getting better. Her oldest son, Blaise, 14, has had the hardest time moving past the incident because he actually saw a grenade blow up three people right in front of him. Blaise seems to be processing slowly and silently.

His little brother Ian, 10, is the one who wants to talk about what happened in detail. The girls — Portia, 4, who has become famous as the little girl in the picture that has gone viral, Gigi, 2, and Petra, 13 months — have been less affected because of their ages and because God seemed to protect them in a supernatural way.

“The [older] girls seemed to go into a type of ‘sleep mode’ during the incident,” Panter said. “That in itself was a miracle, but there are so many testimonies to the Lord,” including how 13-month-old Petra’s crying didn’t draw the terrorists’ attention.

Katherine and the girls were on the first floor of a grocery store directly in the line of crossfire. Although the terrorists appeared to make eye contact with her, they turned and walked away as if she were invisible to them. Her boys were across the store from her.

Another American family living in Kenya who also were in the store that day grabbed the boys and got them to safety. Katherine’s and the girls’ rescuer was a Muslim man who went to free his brother. He ended up rescuing many people, and Panter praises God that among them were her daughter and granddaughters.

Although the man’s plan was to go there for his brother, Panter believes the Lord sent him there to rescue her family as well.
Reported by the communications staff of the International Mission Board. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).

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