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Southern Baptist representatives wait out military coup in Mali, ask for prayers for peaceful resolutioncomment (0)

April 5, 2012

Southern Baptist representatives wait out military coup in Mali, ask for prayers for peaceful resolution

Southern Baptist workers in Mali are prayerfully waiting out the unfolding military coup that erupted in the West African nation March 22.

Rebellious factions of Mali’s army stormed the presidential palace March 21, announcing on state television the following day that they had ended President Amadou Toumani Toure’s rule, suspended the constitution and closed Mali’s borders.

Among issues alleged by military forces staging the coup: blame of Toure for lack of support in their fight against an armed rebellion in the north by Mali’s nomadic Tuareg people.

The United States joined a chorus of voices — including the United Nations, European Union and many of Mali’s West African neighbors — in condemning the coup and demanding return to constitutional rule. Mali’s military pledged to hold elections once national unity is restored. 

Cliff and Rachel Blunt, Southern Baptist humanitarian aid workers in Bamako, Mali’s capital, with their two young daughters, have endured the sound of nearly constant weapons fire since the coup began, but the fighting came especially close this time when the Blunts witnessed a group of men firing guns immediately outside the gate of their home. The Blunts’ guard suspects the men were robbing a store. For Rachel, it was too close for comfort.

“We could hear everything the guys with the guns were saying. They were close enough to us that we could have carried on a conversation with them. ... I could actually smell gunpowder,” Rachel said. “None of us are [military] targets. The only thing you have to worry about is when already desperate people get [even more] desperate — they can do stupid stuff.”

The Blunts awoke to heavy machine gun fire March 23 just a few hundred yards from their home.

“We’ve heard a good bit of automatic weapons fire,” Cliff said. “From time to time we’ll hear what sounds like an explosion.” He said the family is “following the [American] embassy’s recommendation to shelter in place, avoid unnecessary travel and lay low.”

The Blunts believe the biggest threat isn’t from rebel soldiers; instead, it’s crime that worries them — thieves, bandits and roaming gangs who could take advantage of the police vacuum. Isolated reports of looting already are surfacing.

Renegade soldiers have imposed a curfew and shut down Bamako’s airport. It ruined the travel plans of an Arkansas church volunteer team due to depart Mali March 23. The team is part of Southern Baptists’ efforts to share Christ with villages in Mali’s bush, which is where the team remained an extra day until it was safe to return to the airport.

Jake Hill, the team’s leader, said the group decided to see how God would use the situation rather than be fearful. They saw God work when Hill handed off the teaching of the Bible stories that day to a village believer named Mohammed. 

“[H]e was an example ... to the other people there, that they don’t have to hear the gospel or come to worship or gather as believers only when the white people are there,” Hill said. “That would have never happened if we [had returned] on schedule.

“People need to realize these aren’t just volunteer trips,” he said. “This is part of the Great Commission. This is part of being on mission with God and part of the cost of following Jesus Christ. ... If you can literally say that I’m willing to do anything to bring God more glory and to build His Kingdom in heaven, then I guess you’re ready to truly count the cost of following Jesus.”

The Blunts agreed. “We knew that there were risks involved. But it’s all a matter of your theology. If you really believe that God has a plan ... and that people need to be reconciled to Him through Christ ... it ought to compel you to act,” Cliff said. “While some of this stuff might have been a surprise to us ... none of it is a surprise to Him.

“The same God who gave me my family is the same God who called us to this, together. And He loves my wife and my kids more than I do.”

Southern Baptist workers in West Africa are asking Christians to pray for Mali. Pray that God will provide a peaceful resolution to the conflict, sparing further fighting and potential loss of life.

Editor’s Note — Names changed for security reasons. (BP)

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