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Ivory Coast rescue prompts sister to rejoice, call for more prayer

JACKSON, Tenn. (BP)–Andrea Funderburk went about her day mostly as usual at Union University Sept. 25, attending classes and eating lunch with friends — except that her younger brother and sister were locked down in their boarding school in the Ivory Coast, thousands of miles away and in the middle of an attempted takeover by rebel forces.

“I talked with my brother and sister on the phone on Monday and they both seemed to be doing fine under the circumstances,” Funderburk said. Her brother is a high school sophomore and her sister is an eighth-grader. Both are students at the International Christian Academy in Bouake where Funderburk graduated in 2001.

“I just kept telling them how proud I was of them and I wanted to be like them when I grew up,” she said, laughing.

It was with excitement and relief when she heard from her parents through e-mail and instant messaging that afternoon that her brother and sister had been evacuated by French troops.

“Praise God!” she said. “But please tell people not to stop praying for that area of the world. Now, more than ever, we really need to pray for the people over there, as well as the missionaries.”

Rebel troops launched pre-dawn attacks in three key cities Sept. 19. While government troops were able to dislodge them from the capital, Abidjan, they have kept control of Bouake and Korhogo. At least 160 children — several Southern Baptists among them — were hunkered down at their school in Bouake while the fighting went on outside their compound.

Though the situation was serious, Funderburk said she and the rest of her family were taking it in stride, praying a lot, but believing God would work everything out.

“We’ve had attempted coups before, and it’s just something you deal with as missionaries living in that area,” she explained, recalling her senior year when the school closed down for a month during the country’s national elections to avoid potential violence.

Funderburk said her parents were anxious to see their younger children as soon as possible. Living in Abidjan, five hours from where the school is located, Rick and Lori Funderburk moved there with their family in July 1997, where Rick is an administrative associate for the West Africa regional office with the Southern Baptist International Mission Board. The couple was appointed in 1993 and the family has lived and ministered in two different areas of West Africa since.

“I talked to them last Thursday through instant message and they filled me in on what was going on,” Funderburk said. “I don’t watch the news much – I just wait to hear from my parents.”

Other MKs (missionary kids) at Union were being extremely supportive and understanding, said Funderburk, who transferred to the Jackson, Tenn., Baptist-affiliated university from another Baptist university.

“People are really good about asking what’s going on and they seem to genuinely care,” she said. “MKs just automatically have a bond because they’ve been through things like this and understand. If you talk about hearing gunfire outside your home, Americans here are really shocked, but MKs can relate. You’re automatically on a different level.” More than 60 MKs are enrolled at Union this year.

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  • Sara Horn