Texas missionaries escaped from collapsing Niger
A group of student missionaries from the Harmony Hill Baptist Church in Lufkin, Texas, were safely on their way back to the U.S. Thursday after their return from a mission trip in Niger was delayed by the ousting of the country’s democratically elected President Mohamed Bazoum by soldiers last week.
“They have boarded a plane to America! Continue to pray as they spend the day traveling home,” the church announced in a post on Facebook Thursday morning with a photo of the smiling group.
The missionaries who had traveled to Niger’s capital, Niamey, as part of Harmony Students, the church’s youth ministry, had been stuck in the landlocked West African nation since the coup was launched against Bazoum on July 26.
Harmony Students explained in a statement on Facebook that the students were originally scheduled to return to the U.S. on Sunday but the coup disrupted that plan.
“Thank you to everyone who has been praying for our Student Team serving in Niger, West Africa. They have had four great days of ministry serving alongside our partner Church! Our team was scheduled to return Sunday, July 30. However, due to a military coup, the airport has been temporarily shut down, delaying the team’s return,” the ministry said. “At this point, Niamey is peaceful, and the citizens and team are going about their day as planned.”
In a statement to The Christian Post, Charles Roberds, a spokesperson for the church, said their congregation is “elated” that the 12-member missionary team, which was relocated to Rome thanks to the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Embassy in Niamey, are now “on their homeward voyage from Italy, marking a triumphant moment of unity and faith.”
“The prayers of the faithful were answered as the Lord made a way for the missionary team’s safe return journey to begin from Italy. The collective dedication of the church community, along with the unwavering support of countless individuals, has brought about this joyous occasion of progress and celebration,” Roberds said.
He praised the efforts of Lufkin Mayor Mark Hicks, and U.S. Rep. Pete Sessions and Sen. Ted Cruz, both from Texas, who exhibited “remarkable dedication and prioritized the repatriation of the missionary team, exemplifying the spirit of compassionate leadership and community collaboration.”
Roberds also thanked the Italians on behalf of the church for their “exceptional act of kindness” in finding a way home for the missionaries.
“The church extends its sincere gratitude to the representatives from Italy, who displayed an exceptional act of kindness by accommodating the missionary team on their homeward-bound flight. This gesture of international goodwill serves as a testament to the interconnectedness of humanity and the boundless compassion that transcends geographical boundaries,” he said.
The return of the missionaries comes as the U.S. Department of State reissued a Level 4 Travel Advisory Wednesday warning Americans not to travel to the West African nation.