By Stefan J. Bos, Worthy News Chief International Correspondent with commentaries from Christians and missionaries across Africa, North America, New Zealand, the Netherlands and elsewhere
NAIROBI/GRONINGEN (Worthy News)-- A Dutch missionary who was murdered when armed robbers stormed a mission center in Kenya where he supported orphans, was buried Monday, March 7, in the Netherlands.
Ebel Kremer, 36, was shot dead in the overnight attack by at least three suspects on February 25 at the complex of international Christian organization Youth With A Mission (YWAM) in the town of Athi River, some 50 kilometers (32 miles) outside Kenya's capital Nairobi.
Attackers reportedly also raped his wife Lora, 34, in front of their two small children. A night watchman was injured in the attack but is now recovering, YWAM said.
Journalists were banned from attending Monday's funeral in the Dutch city of Groningen to allow family members to calmly "cope with this loss and say farewell," explained the missionary couple's home church Vrije Baptistengemeente Groningen (VBG), or 'Free Baptist Congregation Groningen'. Ahead of the funeral, a special church service was held at the VBG.
Earlier, church members in the Dutch city of Groningen held prayer sessions, while a Dutch married couple flew to Kenya to pick up Lora Kremer and her children on behalf of the VGB, which financially supported the Kremers.
It has remained unclear whether the Christian identity of YWAM's mission center played a role in the attack, amid an ongoing police investigation.
In a comment, PS Cain, who said he had worked in Kenya, told BosNewsLife that the area where the attack took place "is primarily 'Christian' by name." Most likely, Cain said, "the robbers would consider themselves 'Christians' and run from any Muslim label. This is a sad truth about Kenya in my mind."
If the attackers were Muslims, they should be condemned, suggested 'Volk' a Muslim writer seeking contact with BosNewsLife. "I as a Muslim [of] 37-years old, feel sad about this incident. The Koran says that killing humans, and unacceptable sexual intercourse is very sinful," he wrote on Worthy News' partner website, BosNewsLife.com.
YWAM suggested earlier there was no evidence that the violence was sparked by Muslim extremism that has plagued the further away north eastern border region of Kenya with Somalia."The incident is being investigated as a robbery, " the organization said, amid reports that the attackers were searching for money.
Yet, the attack underscored security concerns for Christians in Kenya where the Kremers worked since February 2008 as volunteers at the YWAM mission center in Athi River, said VBG spokesperson Jan Hooikammer. The complex includes Christian training schools, a preschool and facilities for orphaned children, known as 'Homes for Hope and Healing'.
Ebel Kremer was involved in building YWMA's 'Maanzoni Children’s Village' of eight such 'Hope' homes, with foster families caring for up to a dozen orphans each.
YWMA representative Karin Kea Sued acknowledged that the village's future was now uncertain. "Ebel was overseeing the building of the second of the eight homes...We were waiting for the homes to be completed before accepting more children."
The official said that "Our hearts are hurting as we are all in shock and disbelief that Ebel has been taken from us so suddenly, and in such a cruel and heartless manner." Her group, she said, "lost a fellow missionary and friend who beamed with energy and determination serving the One we all know to give perfect peace, comfort and eternal life."
As relatives and close friends prepared to burry Ebel Kremer, other missionaries and Christians in Africa and around the world contacted Worthy News' partner BosNewsLife to express their grief and shock.
"I am praying for Lora and her children. I have been praying for them since I heard this news," said Christine Enoch writing from Kenya in a comment on the website. "I am also praying for the extended family, as they are devastated by this news. I can only imagine their shock and pain."
She said she had lived in three countries in Africa for the past 23 years. "I thank God for His mercy and protection. I currently live in Nairobi, so this [news about the attack] comes close to home, and makes me realize that the only hope I have is to turn my eyes upon Jesus."
Another Christian, missionary Dean McClain, also suggested that life can be dangerous in Kenya. "I am praying for all involved and forwarding your article to all on my lists. My wife and I served as Baptist Missionaries in Kenya [from] 1989 [till] 2001. God helped me to keep a thief in Nairobi from being set on fire and a mob in Meru from killing a naked man who was throwing rocks at cars from a roof top!" However, he added, "We found the majority of Kenyans to be kind and as soon as I intervened they supported me to stop the mobs."
"I have great sympathy for the family. I’m a Dutch missionary myself, YWAM-mer too, helping orphans too," said Cor Koelewijn, who described himself as "Missionary to the Orphans of East Africa." He said, "We are living just over the border on the Uganda side and are shocked at this type of attacks. No matter who you are or what you do, it is absolutely horrific to go through this. I pray that God will help his wife and children to get over this and somehow pick up their life…"
"It's so sad that all this is happening to people who are missionaries, working with the needy in Kenya," noted missionaries Ray, Eunice and Nicole of Youth With a Mission in Namibia, using only their first names.
"Our prayers are with you as we understand the pain and suffering Lora and the children are going through," they wrote to BosNewsLife. "We trust God will shine His light and shower them with His Love and comfort, through this challenging time."
Elizabeth Parker Kirouac, who also worked for YWMA, told BosNewsLife that "Ebel paid the ultimate cost to “know God and make Him known”. In a message to Lora Kremer she added: "I am sorry for your loss and pray that you would find deep comfort, healing and peace in the arms of our Heavenly Father. I am a former YWAM-er and have a brother and his family in Kenya."
"We are praying in Senegal, West Africa, for this family and this situation. We serve several missionaries from the Netherlands and have several teachers from the Netherlands also," wrote Brett and Krissy Molter, directors of the Bourofaye Christian School in Senegal.
"This has been a difficult time for them, but we all are shocked to hear this terrible news. We pray that God will use this senseless injustice for His Kingdom glory, in His refining power," they told BosNewsLife.
They stressed that everyone was "Weeping for the family and the Body of Christ", a reference to Christians.
Outside Africa, Trevor and Kelly of YWAM in Oxford, New Zealand, said "Our hearts go out to Ebel and his family during this time. Our team was deeply impacted by the example that Ebel and Lora were living before our eyes in pouring out their lives for Christ and the orphans in Kenya."
And from Toronto, Canada, Max Rideout wrote BosNewsLife that he "was shocked and saddened" by this news. "We live in an evil world. Our prayers and thoughts are with Lora and her family."
Back in the Netherlands, Christians also mourned missionary Kremer outside his own home church, including in the international evangelical Vineyard Assen church in the Dutch city of Assen. "Our pastor was a close friend of the deceased...He is heartbroken and we as a church are saddened by the cruel act," said Isabella w.van Spijk, a Kenyan Christian who is married to a Dutchman, in a comment on the bosnewslife.com website.
"It was very sad in our [Vineyard Assen] church, I could not help crying out to God...The preacher could not hold back his tears now and then he kept stopping preaching."
It was, she suggested, a Biblical message that the missionary died while serving God, just as Jesus, before His resurrection from death.
"Our God and only Him understands why. I will personally keep praying for Lora and the Children that His will may prevail [and] comfort both families. God is on His throne and He will always remember them no matter what because we believe in a living God who is able to carry us through the storms."