Terrorists attacked my country.
I was playing at a frisbee tournament when I heard the news. Sitting in the grass with the sun shining on my face, waiting for my turn to sub in, I heard from a friend that gunmen held Nairobi’s Westgate Mall under siege. It’s hard to absorb the full impact of that kind of news when you’re sitting under a smiling sky at a Frisbee tournament.
So I played frisbee while my people died, and my city entered a state of crisis.
I didn’t absorb the news until, back in my dorm room the following day, I had time to read the news articles and see the pictures on every front-page newspaper on the web. Pictures of people I know personally fleeing for their lives filled the screen. Pictures of my countrymen lying dead in hallways I used to walk and in stores I used to peruse. Pictures of children crying beside their fallen parents. Pictures of parents crying beside their dead children.
I remember a heaviness hanging over JBU last semester after the bombing at the Boston Marathon…the same heaviness that hung over the school upon the death of Olivia Pinkerton…the same heaviness that weighed over me as the casualty count continued to rise in a distant country that I dearly love. But this time, the cloud only hung over me.
It’s an odd thing, grieving for a loss no one around you feels. During the three days of turmoil in Kenya, no one spelled the scent of Westgate burning in Siloam Springs, Ark. While schools all over Nairobi closed, classes continued as usual at JBU. No extra chapel service was offered as an opportunity for students to share and mourn together. Most of my peers had no knowledge of the events taking place in that little country on the other side of the world.
When everyone around you is doing okay, you feel you should be okay as well. In many ways, you question the validity of your need to mourn. Because when you look around, you see no signs of pain and loss.
Kenya’s terrorist attack made me read the news through new lenses. I’d been following the events taking place in Syria in the week’s before the Westgate attack. My reaction was usually something along the lines of, “oh no,” or, “that’s horrible.” But I rarely—if ever—took the time to pray for Syria and the people within its borders. Those deaths. That heartache. They were far and distantly removed from me in safe, sunny Siloam Springs.
Even though I’m not affected by the sinking of the boat off of Italy’s coast that killed scores of people, and even though the Taliban’s suicide attack in Pakistan has not turned my world upside down, these events are affecting others in drastic, life-changing ways.
When I read of war and heartache in other places in the world, I want to be one who stands in the gap for those hurting and broken. One who lifts them and their countries up before a God who grieves over the world’s pain alongside his children.