Asbury missionaries survive bomb blast in Uganda

Published 4:58 pm Thursday, July 15, 2010

When missionaries from Asbury United Methodist Church in North Shelby headed to Uganda, they didn’t know exactly how they would be spreading God’s word, but they certainly didn’t think their lives would be in danger as they witnessed one of the deadliest bombings in Ugandan history.

Jay Clark, Allen Nunally, Catherine Wise and several of their friends were watching the World Cup in an Ethiopian restaurant in Kabalagala, just outside of Uganda’s capital, Kampala, on July 11, when the bomb exploded.

“The sound that every person fears shook the earth. Louder than a thunder crack, an eruption burst our ears,” Nunally said on his blog. “The window my shoulder is on imploded into the room… Billowing smoke… tables and chairs turned over… I can’t focus… why can’t I see? Where is my group? Where are the girls?… Get cover.”

Fortunately, the missionaries from Asbury all escaped the scene unharmed except for a few minor cuts and scrapes.

According to Wise’s blog, the group was running late to the restaurant, and as a result had to sit in a side-room away from the main area where the game was being shown.

“We were a little disheartened that we were not going to get to watch the final game on the big screen, but little did we know that us running late would save our lives,” Wise said in a blog entry dated July 12. “Our frustrations with Africa’s understanding of being on time turned into God’s perfect timing and protection of us.”

After the bomb blast, the disoriented missionaries made their way into the street to assess the damage.

“Two white people are on the ground right in front of us covered in blood,” Nunally said on his blog. “I can’t focus. All I can see what white mangled flesh and blood everywhere. We were slipping in it.”

The missionaries were surprised and confused to find they were unharmed after the blast.

“The row of people behind us either lost a body part or lost their lives,” Wise said in her blog. “Again, we walked out without a scratch. The people behind us died and we walked out without a scratch.”

Owens said one of the missionaries asked her why the members of her group were the only ones in the building to walk out unscathed.

“I told her you were covered by angels and God has a purpose for that,” Owens said.

To read more about the missionaries’ experience, visit

Clark and Nunally had been in Uganda for several months working with an orphanage they founded called SOZO Children International.

It didn’t take long for the men to acquire the building, furniture, utensils and staff necessary to run the orphanage, which alleviated overcrowding in other orphanages.

“I’ve never seen God move as fast as he did,” said Asbury’s youth director Suzanne Owens.

The group of missionaries returned to the states July 15, and the church had counselors set up to help them deal with their experience, Owens said.

The 74 fatalities included 28 Ugandans, one Irish citizen, one Indian, one American and 11 people who are either Ethiopian or Eritrean, according to the Ugandan government according to published reports.