By Jennifer HarrisWord&Way News Writer
Recent violence in Kenya may not hinder the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of Missouri’s plans to coordinate a series of ministry trips in 2008 and 2009.
Kenya erupted in violence after a Dec. 27 election. Opposition leader Raila Odinga and his supporters believe the president, Mwai Kibaki, stole the vote.
More than 600 people have been killed in the violence, as of Jan. 18, according to a government commission.
Sam and Melody Harrell are CBF missionaries based in Nairobi, where much of the violence has taken place.
“Over the years, we have become accustomed to occasional flare-ups of violence,” Sam said. “This, however, is on a scale we have not witnessed before. The turmoil is tearing at the fabric of the country. It will be a long time in recovery, especially the social fabric.”
“The loss of life is far greater than what is being reported in the media,” he added. “Other than emergency airlifts, there is no way for those stranded upcountry to escape the current situation. Scores of people in Nairobi are choosing to sleep outside and in fields rather than risk being burned inside their houses in the slums.”
CBF of Missouri recently entered a three-year partnership with Change for Children, one of the three facets of the work of Africa Exchange, the ministry the Harrells lead in Kenya, CBFMO coordinator Harold Phillips explained.
“At this point in time we are incredibly grateful for the support by churches and individuals for Change for Children,” Phillips said. “We have completed our first year goal (the major amount) and should be in good shape for the second and third years.”
“We are still planning for an October 2008 Project Visit to Ngerenya — and, of course, we will defer to Sam’s wisdom about the go/no go of that visit.”
The Harrells report that they are safe, although schools remain closed in their area.
“School has been called off for our kids from Wednesday this week due to the potential for violence associated with mass action,” Harrell wrote in a Jan. 16 blog entry. “The education system is in jeopardy as many schools have yet to open and in many places, teachers fear to take up their job in certain locations.”
Memorial Baptist Church, Columbia, is planning a trip to Kenya in August. They plan to work alongside Buckner’s KidsHeart Africa program.
“As you are aware, recent events in Kenya have a direct bearing on what we will be doing. Buckner has cancelled trips for January and February to Kenya,” Kevin Scantlan, one of the team members, said. “We will continue to plan for our trip and are assuming that we will be going until we hear otherwise. Please pray that the conflict will abate and that violence will cease so that we can minister to the orphans and to the community of Kitale.”
“Please continue to pray for real peace in Kenya,” Harrell urged. “Peace is not only a lack of violence, but the result of justice.”
Visit Harrell’s blog at africaexchange.org/KenyaNews.htm.