Young widow from Kenya renews her faith after tragedy

May 28, 2021 by Open Doors in Stories of Persecution

Peninah, a Christian widow from Kenya, is 26 years old, though she looks much younger.

Under a tree close to the house, the young woman sits surrounded by her mother, siblings, and her young son, Steve. As we talk with her, she’s helping her mother sort grains from one gourd bowl to another.

On September 14, 2018, Peninah went to the market like any other day. She left her cell phone at home, not expecting that anyone would look for her. However, when she returned, there were several missed calls. She knew something was wrong.

As a truck driver, her husband, Paul, was on his way back from delivering goods at the Somalia border.  “A friend of Paul told me they had left in the morning, but as they traveled towards a town near the border, they met al-Shabaab,” Peninah says.

The radical Islamic terrorist group al-Shabaab is, in many ways, the Eastern African version of al-Qaeda. Al-Shabaab has terrorized Somalia for the past decade and is recently focusing its attacks on the neighboring country of Kenya.

The radical extremists lined up everyone from the truck and demanded they recite the Shahada—a Muslim profession of faith. But as a strong Christian, Paul told the men he could not deny Jesus and recite the Muslim creed.

“If you want to kill me, I will remain in Jesus, and if you let me go, I will remain in Jesus,” Paul boldly told his abductors. 

Paul’s fellow workers recited the Shahada, and al-Shabaab let them all go, but Paul remained firm in his conviction.

“Then, they shot him,” Peninah shares. 

In the days after the tragic loss of her husband, Peninah’s faith was tested.

“I asked God if this was His plan or the devil’s. I lived a life full of questions. I almost lost my faith,” she says.

The grief and unanswered questions left a devastating wound in her life. And the responsibilities as a single mother at the age of 24 nearly crushed Peninah.

“Life became hard, I struggled because I was alone, I became dependent with no one to help me. Even food was a challenge to get,” she shares.

But through God’s plan, a friend connected Peninah to Open Doors. We were able to help Peninah through trauma counseling.

“The training helped me heal my wounds, to share my suffering and accept the Lord to lead my life. It taught me that all the hardships we pass through did not happen because God had left me but because there is a reason. It restored my joy, talking to people and growing my faith. I almost lost my faith because what happened was too heavy for me,” she shares.

In addition to this, we’re helping Peninah learn a trade and supporting her to attend classes for dressmaking. We’ve also provided her with a sewing machine. Soon, she’ll be able to start her own business.

 

“I loved dressmaking because there is an opportunity for growth in the market, and after studies, you can start your own business. I want to call my shop Fadhili za Mungu, which means “God’s favor.” 

Today, Peninah has put much of this on hold due to the COVID-19 lockdowns and restrictions. But Open Doors has stayed in contact with Peninah and her extended family—provided them with emergency food relief.

“To all those people who have the God-given heart, I would like to say thank you wherever you are. You have played a great role in my life. I cannot pay you with anything, but the Lord who has given you that heart will be gracious to you.”

She also has a message for other believers experiencing hardship: “I would like to tell them to be strong and prayerful, this situation is not permanent, it is life’s path. It comes, and someday God will take it away, and joy will return.”

Please continue to pray for Peninah and her son, Steve. Open Doors is standing with Peninah and thousands of persecuted Christians just like her across Africa. Through the support of Christians like you, Open Doors is helping Peninah with financial aid, trauma counseling and vocational training—to equip her to survive as a single mother in one of the most challenging regions to follow Jesus.