Missionaries safe from harm

Sterling pair escape violence after disputed Kenyan election

Posted: Thursday, January 03, 2008

Two Sterling women are resting easier today knowing their missionary loved ones have managed to escape the violence in Kenya that has left 300 dead.

Tina Wegener's 13-year-old son, Keenan, and Fay Brazington's 72-year-old husband, Marvin, were serving a mission in Kakemega, Kenya, when political and ethnic violence erupted following the presidential election Dec. 27.

Opposition leader Raila Odinga claims President Mwai Kibaki's re-election vote was a sham. Humanitarian groups have said 300 people have been killed and 100,000 displaced by the violence.

"Keenan called Saturday night and said, 'Mom, now don't freak out,'" said Wegener on Wednesday.

"He said tension was kinda high, and he wanted to make sure I was praying for them. Of course, as soon as I heard that ..." she said, not completing her sentence.

Wegener immediately called Verissa Walber, pastor of the Ministries of the Living Stones church in Sterling, the mission sponsor.

"She told me to stop being a mom right now and be an administrator. 'We need to get them back,'" Wegener said. "What a strength Vickie's been through all this," she said referring to Walber by her nickname.

Wegener phoned her son again, only to find out his hotel had been fire-bombed and they had to get out of there.

A church elder, Joseph Obare, who lives in the small village of Amlemba near where the missionaries were serving, helped them escape the turmoil and hid them in his home.

"Joseph went back to salvage Keenan and Marv's stuff, but he was stoned and got some abrasions when he was caught up in the uprising," Tina Wegener said. "He went back a second time and managed to get some of their things."

The church elder then headed them toward the safety of the U.S. embassy in Uganda, some six hours away by car.

After contacting the embassy, arrangements were made for Keenan and Marvin to stay in a hotel in Kampala while trying to get their airline tickets changed so they can return to the United States.

"I'm concerned, but I feel God will get him home," said Fay Brazington of her husband of 46 years.

A U.S. Marine Corps veteran, Brazington is serving his second mission in Africa. He also has served missions in Costa Rica, Nicaragua and Brazil during the 13 years he has been a member of the Sterling church.

When asked if she is praying for her husband, Brazington said, "Absolutely. There's nothing else to do."

Wegener said this is her son's very first mission trip.

A student at the Academy of Higher Learning, also in Sterling, Keenan tested out on some classes and worked hard to be ahead in others so he could take time off to serve the mission with Brazington.

Tina Wegener said it's been somewhat of a miracle all along. When young members of the church were first asked if they wanted to serve, several stood up. As a battery of hypothetical questions were posed, the others began sitting down, leaving Keenan as the only one standing.

"Then one member of the body stood and said, 'I pledge $1,000 toward Keenan's mission.' Then others began standing and pledging money to pay for his trip," Wegener said.

"It was all very exciting ... it's still very exciting," she said.

Sounding relieved on Wednesday, the single mom said she knows her son is safe and asleep in a hotel "out of Kenya."

"I don't foresee any problems getting him home."

Phil Hermanek can be reached at phillip.hermanek@peninsulaclarion.com.

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