By Jayme Lozano Carver, The Texas Tribune
“East Texas missionaries stuck in Niger amid recent coup set to be brought home” was first published by The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them — about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.
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Members of an East Texas church have been safely relocated to Rome on Wednesday after being stuck in Niger during a coup, according to U.S. Rep. Pete Sessions‘ office.
The rescue mission was orchestrated by the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Embassy in Niamey, Niger.
This week, Harmony Hill Baptist Church in Lufkin raised concerns about 12 members of its congregation who were in Niamey on a mission trip. As the group found shelter, the church held nightly prayer services in hopes of their safe return. Their concerns grew as Niger’s airspace closed and White House officials said there are no plans to evacuate the American citizens in the country, while European countries were moving to do so.
“We are thankful that our team is currently in a safe place, and we are incredibly proud of their positive attitude and steadfast faith,” the church said in a statement Tuesday.
As a way to keep the Harmony Hill members safe, the church said it would not release specific details, names, activities or their locations.
In an early morning statement Wednesday, Sessions, R-Waco, said he and his staff monitored the situation in coordination with the State Department; U.S. Sens. John Cornyn and Ted Cruz, both Texas Republicans; Lufkin Mayor Mark Hicks; and Harmony Hill Baptist Church. Sessions, whose district includes Lufkin, said he was grateful for the work by officials and the patience and strength shown by the church members.
“They worked around the clock to ensure the safety and well-being of our young Texans,” Sessions said. “Their families back home can now rest easy.”
Americans in Niger have been urged by U.S. officials to avoid “unnecessary movements” and pay attention to safety alerts, but said they “don’t have any indication of direct threats to U.S. citizens or facilities.”
White House National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby said Tuesday the Biden administration is aware of evacuation efforts by European countries, but they have not changed their stance since they don’t have any indications of direct threats to U.S. citizens or facilities. He said they are monitoring the situation for any changes.
On social media, the church celebrated the members’ safe arrival to Italy.
“Please continue to pray for the last steps of bringing our team home to their families and for the people of Niger,” the church shared.
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This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at https://www.texastribune.org/2023/08/02/lufkin-texas-missionaries-niger-coup/.
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