At a church in Nakuru, Kenya, about 20 neighborhood children gather for their weekly music lesson. One teacher helps with instruments, while organizer Rebecca Shahasi focuses on vocal training. In the past, Shahasi had tried several times to start the program, but roadblocks constantly stymied her. She wanted to provide a place where young people could explore their talents while building character and self-esteem. Even at an early age, some children want to use this gift to glorify God, as her son Samuel once had.
By age 6, Samuel Shahasi could competently play drums. Soon he picked up guitar and keyboard. Shahasi and her husband Zachariah, a pastor, clearly saw the calling of music on Samuel’s life—a calling that would never be fully realized.
On July 11, 2015, Samuel opened the driveway gate as his parents went to work. Then, as he walked to the store for food, someone snuck into the home, apparently to rob it. On Samuel’s return, the intruder stabbed him and fled. Samuel ran to the street, and while passersby looked for a vehicle to take him to the hospital, he bled to death.
The loss of Samuel opened floodgates of doubt and depression in Rebecca, nearly destroying her. She wondered if she should even pray anymore. Could she ask God for something as basic as protection, when He hadn’t protected Samuel? God’s love felt like a distant memory.
Then someone gave Shahasi an In Touch Messenger. Sleepless nights had plagued her; alone with her thoughts, she needed something to ease her mind. Every night she would put the headphones on and let the Bible play. The comfort of God began to return, yet slowly. To this day she carries the Messenger in her purse.
Authorities never found a suspect; there was no arrest to bring a sense of closure, no trial. Samuel was gone, as were any concrete answers. God revealed to the Shahasis the only path to closure: forgiveness. On the first anniversary of Samuel’s death, his parents went to his grave. Standing there, both made the very difficult decision to forgive the stranger who’d taken their son.
A month after his passing, Rebecca tried restarting the music ministry, this time in Samuel’s memory. To her amazement, more than 100 showed up to the kickoff event, which wasn’t even publicized. The halls of their church no longer ring with Samuel’s music, but the Shahasis’ community is filled with the sound of worship.
Photography by Alan Gichigi