Two years on, the bomb that changed Michelle's life hasn't stopped her from going to church
21 April 2019. It was almost 9am and the Easter Sunday service at Zion Church in Sri Lanka was about to begin. Michelle, a Sunday School leader, sat with the kids on the front steps of the church as they ate their breakfast and waited for the service to begin. A man with a large backpack arrived.
“[He] had a big backpack and a small pouch clipped to his waist,” Michelle said.
31 lives were lost at Michelle’s church alone. It was one of the worst Easter attacks in history.
“I asked him if he wanted to come inside, but he was hesitating, said he was receiving a call. I told him to answer the call and then sit in the back of the church. He was a Muslim, but we have many Buddhist, Hindu, and Muslim visitors in our churches.
“Many people of different religions come to church and even when I was speaking to the man, it didn’t even strike me that he may have had an ulterior motive… Then I left.”
Minutes later, the man that Michelle had met detonated the bomb inside his backpack, in an attack that killed 31 and injured countless more.
The Ensuing Chaos
When the attacker detonated his bomb, Michelle was in her home next door to the church with her daughter and a friend.
One of the hardest things was seeing the bodies on the stretchers.
The explosion was so violent that her roof collapsed. Nails and debris flew through the air. The entrance of Michelle’s house was on fire.
“I grabbed [my daughter], her friend, my phone and my bag and we ran back… My first thought was that we needed to call the fire brigade! I got someone to call them and I started to help as many people as I could.
“One of the hardest things was seeing the bodies on the stretchers. A couple who live close by gave some of their clothes and sarees to help cover some of the bodies that were being carried out.”
“Not One Has Stopped Coming To Church”
Zion Church was one of three churches bombed across Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday 2019. 31 lives were lost at Michelle’s church alone.
It was one of the worst Easter attacks in history. But in the midst of it, Open Doors supporters reached out to help those affected.
From pastoral care to emergency relief packages and livelihood support, it was the generosity of the global Church that strengthened believers, like Michelle, to continue following Jesus even after such loss.
Michelle said, “There is beauty in this darkness. Out of the 83 families who were affected by the blast, not one has stopped coming to church.”
This is the power of the Church – living, growing, active, whole.