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Survivors of Kenya blast understand America’s pain

NAIROBI, Kenya (BP)–A man leaning over to look at a shiny bicycle in a store window hears a thundering blast.

He turns to the noise and is hurled into the air as a second explosion tears into a large concrete building. Screams of despair and pain come from all directions.

Then Samson Kisia hears his own shout as it wakes him from the dream. Dripping with sweat, he looks around his bedroom. It’s another nightmare.

He’s had them before, but this time he kneels beside his bed and prays, “Lord, I pray for my brothers in America. I know of their pain, grief and questioning firsthand. Lord, give them comfort in their time of need.”

The terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon Sept. 11 brought memories rushing back for Kisia and many other Kenyans of the August 1998 bombing that destroyed the U.S. Embassy in downtown Nairobi, Kenya. The bombing, which killed and maimed hundreds of Kenyans, also was blamed on Islamic extremists.

Memories of that pain and grief led thousands of Kenyans to gather in the National Stadium the Sunday after the Sept. 11 attacks to offer their prayers and support for the United States. Individual congregations continue to intercede for Americans each Sunday.

“We know what Americans are feeling. It happened to us,” said Kisia, a Baptist pastor — and a survivor of the 1998 bombing.

“Right now, many Americans are searching for truth. God is their answer just as He was ours. Believe me when I say the door is open to the gospel right now. God wants to bring His people back in His presence. Go out and do God’s work. Now is the time.”

In the aftermath of terrorist attacks, Kenyan Christians advise their American counterparts to “witness and evangelize like never before.” Simon Mwangi Ndegwa, associate pastor of Parklands Baptist Church in Nairobi, says the first response should be love — and then a lot of prayer.

“It’s not easy because love is never easy — especially in difficult circumstances,” Ndegwa said. “We do feel here in Kenya that whenever something like this happens, it opens a great door for ministry when we respond with love. We saw many people come to Jesus [after the bombing] and they are attending churches today following our tragedy.”

Since the 1998 attack, Kisia has seen close to 90 churches started. Ndegwa’s church has started several congregations and also has sent out more home missionaries than ever before. Kisia attributes this to the prayers of God’s children as hearts opened to hear the truth.

On Aug. 3, Christians around the world spent the day praying for the continent of Africa. Kisia sees those prayers already moving in the hearts of the people in conjunction with the attacks in the United States.

A Muslim man recently came to see Kisia at his church, wanting to know the truth. The pastor opened the Bible and began to read Scripture as the Muslim man openly cried and asked Jesus to come into his life as Lord.

“The Lord is really touching some Muslims here,” Kisia said. “God is really working. It is not easy for a Muslim to walk in and say that he wants Jesus — he wants peace. This man is a direct answer to prayer.”

Kenya is a nation of divided religions. Along the coastal and northern area, Islam is the main religion, while most central and western provinces are considered Christian.

Ndegwa encourages pastors to model missions, prayer and outreach for their congregations, instead of staying close to the pulpit.

“There is no substitute for a model — something people can see,” Ndegwa said. “A hundred sermons will not be equal to a pastor leading his church out for one day to go on mission. It mobilizes the congregation for missions. Be an example.”

That’s the strategy missionaries from his church use, since reaching certain areas of Kenya cannot be done openly. Through friendships, people see Christ through love, action and prayer.

“There are many young people, teen-agers, children, mothers and fathers who are locked up behind a rulership that is not godly,” Ndegwa said. “Only the power of God can set them free — the power of the gospel. We have to choose to pray and send people into those areas … to introduce them to the gospel.”

(BP) photos posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net Photo titles: NAIROBI ONE and NAIROBI TWO.