WACO, Texas (BP)–Weeping, uplifted hands, dancing and shouting at an Antioch Community Church worship service may not surprise most people, but the energy present in the Nov. 14 worship service to celebrate the release of Dayna Curry and Heather Mercer could have made a lame man do more than walk.
Before church members began to arrive at Antioch for the service, which began around 6 p.m., national press television trucks filled the parking lot with their satellite poles raised to the sky. Moments later, shouts of praise rang out with the announcement that Curry and Mercer had been freed from their Taliban captors.
“First of all, let me say on behalf of the ladies, on behalf of us as a congregation, we want to thank the Lord Jesus Christ for making a way where there is no way,” Jimmy Seibert, senior pastor at Antioch, said in a press conference in the sanctuary preceding the worship service.
At that time roughly 100 people had already gathered in the sanctuary. By the time Seibert finished his brief statement to the press, the number had nearly doubled and steady streams of people continued to flow into the building.
Seibert and other church members had heard earlier in the day that the women had been released but then received confirmation that the reports were false.
“We heard rumors this morning that we confirmed were not correct; so you learn to keep things down because you hear rumors all the time,” said Ruth Reese, Seibert’s secretary.
After telling reporters at a press conference earlier in the day that the reports were merely rumors, Seibert finally got the good news at 5:30 p.m.
“We were just working furiously to get confirmation from our guy online in Islamabad,” Seibert said, referring to Danny Mulkey, assistant pastor at Antioch. “He said as far as we know it’s a go, and we began to shout and rejoice in God’s goodness and faithfulness.”
One church member did not find out the news until after he arrived at the church to take part in the 24-hour prayer chain Antioch had been conducting on the women’s behalf.
“I felt like I was supposed to come up here and pray because I had heard the girls had got out, and then I heard it was a hoax,” said Matt Sherman, a Baylor University senior from Little Rock, Ark., said.
Sherman said he was surprised to see so many cars in the parking lot, and then one of his friends told him the news when he walked in the church.
“The Lord answered my prayer before I even started praying,” Sherman said.
Worshipers paused to answer cell phones and call friends to inform them of the news and the service.
“I just called them to make sure they knew about this,” James Love, a senior at the University of Mary-Hardin Baylor, said, as he stepped out of the sanctuary to call his friends who also attend Antioch.
The news was also met with excitement by President Bush and Baylor President Robert B. Sloan Jr.
“I know a lot of the Waco citizens have been in deep prayer that they be rescued, and their prayers were answered,” Bush said in a statement at his ranch in Crawford. “Tell their parents that I can imagine how they feel, how thrilled they are that their daughters are safe.”
Sloan expressed the university’s feelings of thankfulness and jubilation in a statement to international press representatives in Baylor’s McLane Student Life Center.
“The entire Baylor family rejoices with Heather and Dayna, their families and the scores of Christians — including Baylor students, alumni, faculty and staff — around the world who have been praying for their release,” Sloan said.
Purcell is managing editor of the Baylor Lariat.