Missionaries join the throngs forced to leave the Ivory Coast.

By November 12, 2004

Ivory Coast (MNN)–In the Ivory Coast, airliners are shuttling thousands of foreigners out of the country even as peace talks convene.

Angry supporters of President Laurent Gbagbo have chased French citizens and other foreigners from their homes during days of mob violence, furious that their former ruler had wiped out Ivory Coast’s air force.

France destroyed seven warplanes and helicopters after a bombing raid on Saturday killed nine French soldiers manning a buffer zone that still separates the government-held south and rebel held north despite a string of peace deals.

South Africa and Nigeria are stepping in to help guide emergency peace talks. They’re also calling for an urgent West African summit. There are also reports that they may be considering adding four thousand peacekeepers for Ivory Coast.

For the most part, missionaries stay put unless the danger disrupts their work. But, New Tribes Missions’ Nita Zelenak says they were forced to make a tough call this week. “There’s been a continued deterioration of civil order in Abidjan and also other parts of Ivory Coast. It has reached a point where the safety of foreigners is uncertain and so, our missionaries are no longer able to carry out their ministries. So, New Tribes has decided that it’s best that we evacuate the country.”

While no New Tribes missionaries have been targeted or victimized, Zelenak says the teams need prayer. “Pray for the actual getting out of the country, the actual evacuation. There are a number of people being evacuated out of the Ivory Coast. It’s not just our missionaries, and so, there’s the matter of getting the flights, getting out, packing up and getting ready to leave and the uncertainty of knowing when you’re going to be able to go back.”

NTM tribal church-planting existed in five ethnic groups. Young believers in three of these groups are facing trying socio-political situations. A fourth group was near to hearing God’s Word. The fifth tribe had one missionary family that was studying the language. Several other tribes are waiting for new missionaries to arrive and for teams.

Please pray for safety, and pray that the political climate is soon settled for the sake of the people of the country and so NTM’s ministry to tribal people in Ivory Coast can resume.

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