At least 16 people were killed in Rwanda on Saturday when lightning struck a church in Gihemvu, in the southern Nyaruguru district of the small, landlocked Central African nation.
Worshippers at the Seventh Day Adventist church were gathered for services when the lightning hit the church, injuring an additional 140 people, some of them critically. Officials in Nyaruguru said they were challenged to meet the needs of families and loved ones of the victims, who died while praying.
News traveled quickly within the SDA community, with global president Pastor Ted Wilson issuing a statement of condolences on Sunday evening after receiving “alarming word” of the incident.
“Our hearts go out to our dear church members in Rwanda who have suffered this very difficult loss. What a tragedy to have such a strange occurrence of lightning striking during a church service,” Wilson said. “On behalf of the world family of Seventh-day Adventists circling the globe, we have offered our deep sympathy and Christian love to all our members in the Rwanda Union, which is in the East-Central Africa Division, and especially to the families who have lost loved ones and to those who were injured from this traumatic event.”
Rwanda is home to more than a half-million SDA members led by President of the Rwanda Union Mission Hesron R. Byilingiro, according to the denomination. The fast-growing East-Central Africa division of SDA counts more than 2.5 million members worshiping at more than 11,000 churches.
Image: SDA/Rwanda Union Mission