After suffering through a terrorist bombing in Uganda during a missions trip in 2010, Messiah College student Kris Sledge ‘13 remains on a journey to restore healing to the emotional scars left by the attack.
The Back Story
Sledge, a Christian Ministries major, first visited the country of Uganda in 2006. Fourteen years old and eager to serve, he went on his first missions trip to Uganda with Christ Community Methodist Church in Selinsgrove, Pa. A speaker in chapel at Messiah College challenged Sledge to re-visit the country four years later. The speaker charged Christians to go out and help the world and Sledge responded, heading back to Uganda that summer. During the first two weeks, Sledge spent time with families and worked on building a fence around the school that his church planted. Towards the end of the trip, Sledge looked into the possibility of staying in Uganda longer and when he realized it was feasible, convinced five team members to stay one additional week longer.
July 11, 2010
Excited to participate in the Ugandan’s love for soccer, Sledge’s team decided to go out and watch the World Cup Final match on the last Sunday evening of the trip. Each American invited an Ugandan to celebrate their time together, as the Americans were scheduled to leave the country two days later. On the drive to the restaurant, the pastor Sledge had shadowed throughout the week told him, “My people need you, you must come back to this country.”
The friends arrived early and got one of the tables closest to the front of the room. Throughout the game, a spectator kept walking in front of the screen. Sledge’s group asked him politely to sit down at the extra seat at their table, not knowing they just invited a terrorist to sit with them. With two minutes left in penalty time in the game, the terrorist set off a suicide bomb, killing three of the Ugandans at Sledge’s table, including the church’s beloved pastor. Saved by the table that flew up in front of him, Sledge’s legs received the most damage. Over the course of the next few months, Sledge received 9 surgeries; however, the physical injuries did not match the emotional pain and guilt Sledge struggled with as a result of this haunting experience.
Two years later, Sledge began to think about the pastor’s words. Although Sledge experienced long nights of nightmares and flashbacks and his body filled with fear when thinking about Uganda, he knew that he had to go back to Uganda, to honor the request of his deceased pastor friend and to confront his own fears.
When entertaining the idea of going back, Sledge said he used Romans 8:31, “What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us,” as his platform. When Sledge felt like life finally fell back to a normal pace in September 2011, he decided to make the trip during the summer of 2012.
Once in Uganda, Sledge questioned his motives. The first one and half weeks presented endless challenges. Sledge couldn’t sleep, experienced flashbacks and could not go into the city without an intense fear of dying.
Taking it step by step, Sledge slowly began to close the emotional wounds. When he went back to the church he attended in summers past, he began to experience healing from the guilt he carried.
“They welcomed me with hugs, clapping and dancing. Some of them had lost loved ones in the bombing but were so willing to see me and love me. It was such a gift to see them again,” said Sledge.
By being with the people and talking about the bombing from their perspective, Sledge experienced grace and saw the beautiful things God was doing in their lives. It was at this time that Sledge reconciled his decision to stay the extra week and experience the fateful bombing in 2010.
The next big step, visiting the restaurant where the bombing happened, presented another opportunity for healing. Sledge and three other bombing victims sat in the same seats and acted out what happened on that Sunday evening. By having a visual of the tragedy and walking out of the restaurant alive, Sledge felt some of his fear dissolve. He continued to make ventures out into the city by himself and when he goes back again, he hopes to conquer his lingering discomfort of eating in a restaurant at night.
Looking ahead, Sledge continues to rely on God to help him bring healing to this area of his life. With Romans 8:31 as an ever-present reminder and a full dependence on God, Sledge knows that nothing can be against him if God is for him.
“Terrorists try to instill fear into people’s lives,” said Sledge. “However, I cannot let them conquer my life, and I need to stay firm to that as I continue in this healing process.”
Story by Emily Mohler `13. Photograph by Thomas Carson `15.