In light of today’s attack at the Garissa University College, I wanted to take a minute to give you a picture of our personal security situation in Kenya. I never want to bring light to any terrorist attack because I don’t feel they deserve my time of day, and I do not want to give them the attention they are seeking. However, after hearing about the attack in my email this morning, and then seeing people at home posting about it and asking us if we are ok, I thought it would be good if our friends and family better understood our security situation here.
First let me begin by saying, we are far from Garissa. If you look at Google maps, you might think its not that far- maybe 4 hours drive. However, on Kenyan roads, we are much further than 4 hours drive from Garissa- maybe 7-8 hours drive. Also, you will notice on a map that Garissa is in close proximity to the Kenya/Somalia border.
Al-Qaeda has an active cell based in Somalia called al-shabab. They are attacking Kenya where they can because Kenya has troops in Somalia trying to stop them there. Over the last several months, there have been other smaller attacks in Kenya that you may not have heard about – most of them along the northern coast of Kenya (again near the Somali border) or Garissa. The one you may have heard about that really struck the nation was the attack on Westgate mall in Nairobi. That was a bit closer to us. In fact, we happened to be in Nairobi that day at a conference with our church. And we had only been in Kenya for a month at that time, so that one shook us a bit. Although we had not visited the Westgate mall, it was certainly one we could have been at. It was a nice mall marketed towards foreigners or people with a lot of money. We do visit similar malls in Nairobi when we are there. So it was a little “close to home”.
We did not allow the Westgate attack to fear us, but it did cause us to be a bit more cautious, just like we all responded in the US after the 9/11 attacks. We should not be fearful, but we should be alert, diligent and watchful. (By the way, a Royal Ranger is ALERT- He is mentally, physically, and spiritually alert). So we are careful about which malls we visit. I study the exits. I pay attention to how well security is when we enter malls, I watch people and how they act and respond to security checks, etc. (I kind of feel like Jason Bourne – ok not really, but I can pretend – love those movies.)
But even more than paying attention to exits, security checks, and people, we pay attention to the Holy Spirit. There have been a handful of times where I have had to say, “No, something’s not right. I don’t feel comfortable. Let’s get out of here.” And to my knowledge, nothing has ever happened after we left. But we never know what God has really protected us from – maybe not a terrorist attack, but possibly from a mugging or car-jacking. But the most important thing is to stay in-tune with the Holy Spirit, knowing that at any time He could speak to us and cause us to move or act in a certain way. In fact, I can recall there was one time when we were going back to the construction site before we had moved in and we noticed that we were being followed by another car for quite some distance. And when we realized they had followed us almost all the way there, we didn’t feel right about the situation and decided to pass by the site without turning in and go another route. When we turned in the opposite direction, the car then left our tail. Again, we have no idea if the people in that car had any ill-intent, but what we know is that the Holy Spirit showed us they were there and we decided to take an extra step of precaution.
Also, we want you to know, we are near Embu, not even Nairobi or Garissa. Although we do travel to Nairobi for a weekend once-a-month, most of the time we are in/near Embu. Embu is a much smaller town and we live in a village outside of town (name withheld for security reasons). We do see our fair share of demonstrations in the Embu town streets from time to time. But they have all been fairly peaceful and we have never been in any danger. There have been a couple of times where I have decided to stay in the apartment in Embu on those days, or to avoid the main road in town if I happened to go there when a demonstration was happening. All of which, just to be overly safe. A frequent phrase here (one that makes me crazy sometimes) says, “There’s no hurry in Kenya.” So, why should I go out in the midst of something when I do not need to be in a hurry or I don’t know when a peaceful demonstration can turn violent? Most of the time, guys stand around laughing at whatever the demonstration of the day may be. Most of them have been about our county governor being impeached (I think he has been impeached and reinstated at least 3 times now-it really is quite comical now).
I will not state on here publicly how we are protected in our compound for security reasons (don’t need the thugs to know our security secrets). However, I will tell you we do feel safe where we are, we sleep soundly at night, and have not had any threats of any kind.
As many of you know, Amy and I have both been to other developing (third-world) countries before moving to Kenya. So the concept of being cautious and alert, as well as attentive to the Holy Spirit, was not new to us. The fact that we are here alone with our kids has certainly increased our sensitivity, but we feel it is in a good way.
Another thing that would probably good for you to know is that we are subscribed to 2 different email lists (one from the US Embassy in Kenya) that informs us when something like this has happened (even smaller things than this) or if there have been recent intelligence reports that indicate threats of attack in the future. We are also keen to pay attention to certain twitter and news sites that warn or inform us of such things.
Also, let me be frank about something. We are in no more danger here than you are there in the US. I can probably name more violent attacks on US soil in recent days than I can in Kenya. I don’t know what tomorrow holds any more than you do. I do know this – we are called by God to be here in this season of our lives, and we stand confident in that. We are also confident that as we are praying for our own safety every day, we have many friends like you who are reading this that are praying for us on a daily basis. And I believe through those prayers, God will continue to protect us and He will continue to whisper to us when something is “off”.
We do implore you to pray for Kenya. Please pray that those who are responsible for today’s attack will be brought to justice. Pray that the Kenyan Government will do all that they can to prevent these types of attacks in this country. Pray for the families of those who have lost loved ones today. Please continue to pray for us and our continued safety. And pray for yourselves as we pray for you – pray that the Lord will continue to protect you and your loved ones. We never know what tomorrow holds.
As I close this long post, I want to share a song with you from our church in Nairobi, We Will Not Fear. This song was written just after the attack on Westgate Mall. Many of you already have the CD that this song was published, but here is a link to it on iTunes if you would like to download it (Download the entire CD-its awesome!).
Then as you listen to the song, read these scriptures that we stand on confidently.
James 4:14-15 How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog—it’s here a little while, then it’s gone. What you ought to say is, “If the Lord wants us to, we will live and do this or that.”
Matthew 6:33-34 Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need. So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.
Philippians 4:6-7 Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.
1 Corinthians 2:9 No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him.
Jeremiah 29:11-14 (don’t stop at verse 11) For I know the plans I have for you,” says the lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. In those days when you pray, I will listen. If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me. I will be found by you
Romans 8:28 And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.