Norfolk pastors speak of Kenyan nightmare
2008: Two Norfolk pastors who were caught up in the violence sweeping Kenya after the recent election, have written of their horrifying experiences and appealed for cash to help families who are now suffering hardship.
Michelle and Rod Smith, of Wellspring Church, Poringland, near Norwich witnessed the violence in December and January while they were in the country with their Christian charity Healing Streams Kenya, visiting five children they have adopted. Michelle explains what happened to them.
WHILE we were in Raila Odinga's hometown of Kisumu, one of places hit worst with the violence, we watched terrible scenes from our bedroom window and also from the vehicle as we drove to the airport.
We were house-bound from December 27 until our hurried departure on January 3. On the first day of the riots we heard shouts, screams and gunshots repeatedly for over 24 hours. We watched the sky fill with tear gas and the thick black smoke of burning tyres, which fortunately was blowing in the opposite direction to our home.
We were staying about 200m from the local police flats, where policemen were driving and running out of the gates with guns in hand, shooting towards looters. Many people, who live mainly in the slums of Naelenda, were hurrying home with mattresses, fridges, furniture and large bags of other looted items, taken from the shops in the centre of town.
As we looked to our left, we could see a thick cloud of smoke which we later learned was the petrol station which had been set on fire, literally 10 minutes walk from our house.
Until January 1, we and our children remained in the house, food supplies dwindling and the water supply was cut off at least every other day. We stored what we could and only flushed the loo when absolutely necessary. Showers were banned!
On January 1 two of our sons volunteered to go out to see if they could buy some bread, milk and sugar. They came back with a bag of flour, sugar and salt and a bottle of cooking oil, the local shops had no bread. Shortly afterwards, our third son, who had gone out separately, arrived with bread, milk and six buns - he had a big smile on his face! At this point I felt the Lord was showing us that He is the God of 'double portion' supplies. We were so blessed as within a short time, an orphan we know turned up at the gate, having not eaten for three days and who had no water either, so we were able to give him some of our provisions plus a container of water.
We can honestly say, that we knew God's peace beyond understanding, and that we were in the centre of His will. He had called us there 'for such a time as this'. We drew together as a family each day and prayed, worshipped in song and gave thanks for our safety and provision.
Our daughter in the UK had been constantly in touch with Kenya Airways who told her there were no flights until January 10 but God made a way where there seemed to be no way and on January 3 a Kenyan policeman friend came to our house at 8.30am saying "I have managed to secure your flights home. You have half an hour to pack, I am coming back for you!"
With this, each of us rushed to pack, and I divided the food we had left into three lots, as our children would now be going to their separate homes.
We said our tearful goodbyes to all but two, who were allowed to accompany us on our police escorted journey to the airport.
As we drove through Kisumu, our hearts sank. Most of the shops in the normally thriving town centre had been looted and completely destroyed by fire. Many concrete boulders lay in the road, these had been shop fronts and pathways. The streets were eerily quiet, not a soul in sight. We know that Kisumu, the town we have grown to love will take a long time to be rebuilt.
We later learnt that the vehicle our children had escorted us to the airport in, was surrounded by a mob on the way home and our youngest daughter Priscah was threatened with rape and had her hand cut. Our son, who was driving was grabbed by his arm whilst the gang tried to persuade them to leave the vehicle. Thankfully a neighbour came and said "I know these people, they are Luo, let them go!" Fortunately the mob agreed and they reached home safely though shaken by the experience.
Please help us to help the many innocent people whose lives have been turned upside down. Many, who survive on a daily basis purely buying and selling what little they can, have lost all means of earning a living. Our vision is to help them set up small businesses again, becoming self-sufficient and able to provide for their families.
Before this desperate situation, Kisumu's unemployment rate was 80%, now it is even greater as most hotels and businesses were torched by rioters. Those displaced may never be able to return home, we want to help them rebuild their lives again. With your help, we can do it.
For as little as £80 we can set someone up with a market stall (most were burnt down). This will enable whole families to be self-sufficient again. We also have a young farmer who just needs £50 to buy seeds to sow on his small piece of land to support him and his new wife.
Healing Streams - Kenya is a ministry wing of Wellspring – UK Charity number 1098030.
Pictured above is Rod Smith with a Kenyan orphan and Michelle at Kisumu children’s hospital with a mother and her young baby. Also Rod and Michelle with their five Kenyan children in happier times.