Upper Room Staff Comfort UM Victims of Uganda Terrorist Bombing

July 15, 2010

By Tom Gillem*

NASHVILLE, Tenn. | July 14, 2010 | GBOD—After terrorist bombs killed and injured scores of people in Uganda watching the World Cup soccer final match, representatives of The Upper Room and other United Methodist agencies rushed to support members of a United Methodist mission group who were severely injured by the blast.
Soon after five adults and youth representing Christ Community Church, a United Methodist congregation in Selinsgrove, Pennsylvania, were hospitalized, United Methodist staff members in Africa were at their bedsides.
"I'm grateful that we have an international network of people who can step in and fill the gap on behalf of the church here and especially this agency," says Dale Rust Waymack, Director of International Ministries for The Upper Room, a division of the General Board of Discipleship (GBOD).
The five Americans, and a sixth person who was not hospitalized, were part of 15-member mission group that had been working for several weeks with a sister congregation in Kampala, Uganda. The six had remained an extra week to complete a construction project and were scheduled to leave two days after the blast at an Ethiopian restaurant and a rugby club in Kampala, Uganda, on Sunday which killed at least 74 people and injured many more.
The Rev. Kathleen Kind, pastor of the 500-member Pennsylvania congregation, says three of the six missionaries are members of her church: team leader Lori Ssebulime, college sophomore Kris Sledge, 18, and Joanne Kerstetter, whose 16-year-old granddaughter, Emily Kerstetter of Baltimore, was the most severely injured.
Both of the Kerstetters were taken to the only Level 1 trauma center on the African continent at Netcare Milpark Hospital in Johannesburg, South Africa.
Sledge and the other two, Pam Kramer and her 14-year-old son, Thomas, of Winfield, Pennsylvania, were hospitalized in Nairobi, Kenya.
Roland Rink, general manager of Africa Upper Room Ministries, who is based in Johannesburg, went to the hospital to comfort the Kerstetters and the teenager's parents when they arrived from the United States.
"They were alone, they were scared, they were in shock and they were deeply traumatized by what had gone on," Rink told Waymack.
Meanwhile in Nairobi, Philip Polo, editor of the Kiswahili edition of The Upper Room and an Upper Room representative in east Africa, was at the hospital to support the three people there.
"It's just amazing how through The Upper Room daily devotional guide we have this amazing network of people throughout the world who are able to reach out and minister and be a presence on behalf of the whole church," Waymack said.
The local congregation in Pennsylvania has received support and guidance from all levels of the church, from its local district and annual conference to numerous individual congregations around the nation, Kind said.
Rachel Keller, a missionary intern and daughter of Dennis Keller, a District Superintendent in the Central Pennsylvania Conference, also visited and comforted the Kerstetters in Johannesburg.
"As far as the connection goes, the general agencies have really jumped in to help wherever we've needed help and have also offered lots and lots of guidance," Kind said.
GBOD's mission is to support annual conference and local church leaders for their task of equipping world-changing disciples. An agency of The United Methodist Church, GBOD is located at 1908 Grand Ave. in Nashville, Tennessee. Visit www.gbod.org for more information or call the Communications Office at 877.899.2780, Ext. 1726.
*Gillem is a Brentwood, Tennessee-based freelance writer for the United Methodist Board of Discipleship.