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.
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.”
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 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.
It was further noted that “the U.S. Embassy in Niamey has temporarily reduced its personnel, suspended routine services, and is only able to provide emergency assistance to U.S. citizens in Niger.”
The coup in Niger comes as El Roi Haiti, a Christian education ministry in Haiti, waits for the release of New Hampshire nurse Alix Dorsainvil and her daughter who were kidnapped on July 27 as she did work for the ministry in Port-au-Prince. Gang members from the unstable Caribbean nation have reportedly demanded a ransom of $1 million.