MANDERA, KENYA (July 3, 2016) – Pastor John Njaramba Kiruga, was returning home from facilitating a peacemaking training in Garissa and Mandera that was sponsored with a grant from Covenant World Relief (CWR) when he was killed by gunmen connected with a terrorist group.
The training had focused on pursuing peace between Christian and Muslims, said CWR director Dave Husby.
The seminars were in especially dangerous locations. Al-Shabaab, a terrorist group linked with Al-Qaeda, had killed 148 people last April in Garissa, and Mandera had been the site of frequent attacks. Both locations are near the border.
According to news reports, the gunmen ambushed two buses near the Somalia border, about an hour from Mandera. The first one was able to speed through, but the second one was stopped when the driver was killed. A total of six people were killed, including children.
Just days before Njaramba died, he had emailed Husby, saying, “Am at Garrisa we had a very good peace seminar since yesterday. Heading to Mandera tomorrow. Pray for us pray for Kenya. … Mandera is not that safe for now, but we must preach peace at all cost. John”
“The pursuit of peace cost Pastor John his life,” Husby wrote on his Facebook page. “What a great man.”
At the time of his death, Njaramba was serving as the moderator (akin to president) of the Evangelical Covenant Church of Kenya. He also was pastor of a local ECCK congregation in Dagorret, which he had founded.
Njaramba had “vast experience in church planting and Muslim evangelism,” said Simon Kamau, former ECCK moderator.
He leaves behind a wife, Freshia Wanjiru, and two sons, 17-year-old Ian Kiruga and nine-year-old and Lenny Kamau.
The pursuit of peace cost Pastor John his life. What a great man – Dave Husby, CWR director
Other Covenant leaders have been reflecting on Njaramba’s life and ministry.
“Pastor John was a faithful servant who loved God and desired for others to experience that love,” said Covenant minister Brad Bergfalk, who had taught theology for four months during a sabbatical in Kenya. He noted that Njaramba was one of the first three pastors commissioned to serve in the ECCK.
“I was privileged to be the ordained Covenant pastor to lay my hands on him and pray,” Bergfalk said. “I hope his life of faith inspires a new generation of Kenyans to live into the calling God has for them.”
In response to a previous story on Njaramba’s death, former missionary to Kenya, Lisa Zepeda, wrote, “Pastor John had always talked about his dream of one day reaching Somalia with the gospel. He had a heart for Muslims and ministered with care an compassion to many remote communities where many of us would never be able to reach.”
Zepeda added, “We are absolutely crushed by this tragedy and are reminded that we ought to live like Pastor John, serving with tremendous integrity and never swaying from bringing the message of truth to those who need it the most.”
“John was a gifted and passionate church planter and leader,” Covenant missionary Pete Ekstrand wrote on Facebook. Ekstrand currently serves in Democratic Republic of Congo and previously was the ECC regional coordinator for Africa.
“Pastor Njaramba was a gifted leader,” ECC president Gary Walter said. “He loved Jesus, and he loved the Covenant Church of Kenya.”