On the morning of March 23, as the congregation gathered for worship at the Joy in Jesus Church, a hooded gunman burst into the church and fired indiscriminately at worshipers. Screams of pain and terror added to the chaos in the building. Some fell to the ground in panic; others tried to flee, only to meet with gunfire from two more assailants waiting outside the church. In the ensuing chaos, many people, including children, stumbled and were trampled in the crush, while others were immobilized by gunshot wounds. Two were killed instantly. As suddenly as they had come, the attackers abruptly and calmly walked away, disappearing into the surrounding slums. Police later found a box containing 36 rounds of ammunition that had been left at the scene.
The attack left at least six people dead including the church’s Assistant Pastor Philip Masela Ambesta; 21 others, including women and children were taken to a nearby hospital. Of those admitted, 2 were in ICU. Many of the injured had gunshot wounds while others sustained soft tissue injuries sustained in the panicked attempts to escape. Those injured included 12-month-old Santrine who had a bullet lodged in his head.
“They forced their way through the rear door, shot the watchman who staggered into the church before falling down. One attacker shouted ‘Allah akbar!’ and started shooting in every direction,” one survivor told media.
The victims later learned that two more nearby churches had been attacked simultaneously with the deadly shooting during their worship service. Fortunately armed police officers guarding those buildings were able to fend off the gunmen.
“We are saddened but not surprised as we have been hearing the Muslim preachers promise over their loudspeakers that they will revenge the Masjid Musa incident where security agents stormed the a Muslim place of worship and arrested over 200 people,” reported an Open Doors contact.
“Actually they had targeted three churches,” he continued, “but fortunately were unsuccessful after being repulsed at the other two. We are resolute and will not be cowered. This is the message we are sending to those that are against the Gospel being preached in this area. We will not leave the area because we know that Satan only arises against the Church like this when it is making an impact. This is confirmation that we are doing something right for the Kingdom of Christ! This is the reassurance we are trying to pass on to our congregants also.”
“Please pray with us as we now move to make funeral and other plans. Our brethren need God’s comfort, healing and strength.” Open Doors is on the ground offering spiritual and emotional support as well as aid in the relief efforts to the affected.
Father, as we consider the plight Your church in Mombasa, our hearts weep. And yet we are also strengthened as we reflect upon their faithfulness to remain., We pray Your hand of protection upon them and for healing for those who sustained wounds. Our prayers especially surround little Santrine and the doctors who minister to him. We pray Your comfort to surround those who have lost loved ones. We pray for wisdom and courage to rest upon the church leaders as they meet the daily challenges of serving You in the hostile world in which they exist. Satan intends these attacks to thwart the work of Your church, but we pray that the gospel of Christ will move across this region of Kenya in power… that what Satan has meant for ill will instead strengthen and grow Your church. In the name of Jesus who is building His church in Africa, Amen.