ANTIOCH, Calif. - There is growing concern for the members of a church mission group in the East Bay, who are now trapped in the West African nation of Niger, after a military coup seized power from the country’s democratically elected president one week ago.
The United States is currently evacuating non-essential embassy staff and some of their family members, but so far, other Americans who are there, including 11 members of the Antioch-based church, have been left in a state of limbo.
"It’s been a roller coaster of emotions," said Steve Minor, speaking to KTVU via video chat from Niger on Wednesday.
Minor and his wife Maria, have been desperately trying to find a way out of Niger since the coup began. "We’ve just kind of been sheltering in place here and just waiting to hear something."
The couple is part of an 11-person group from the Cornerstone Christian Center in Antioch, who traveled to Niger to fund and run a free summer camp for kids.
The group, which includes an 11-year-old, and some in their 70s, had been scheduled to return to the US at the end of this week.
"That was when the borders got locked down, all the transportation got shut down," said Logan Heyer, whose wife and his 19-year-old daughter are also trapped with the group in the country. It's the teen’s first missionary trip to Africa.
"This was kind of her first test in the waters, so she’s had a baptism by fire, that’s for sure," said Heyer.
Heyer, along with the Minor's daughter Hannah Foster, are now in close contact with the officers of Senator Dianne Feinstein and Congressman John Garimendi. Both offices are now working to secure the group’s return to the US.
"We don’t feel unheard by them. There’s just no answers," said Foster.
Representative Garimendi released a statement on Wednesday, saying: "My team is working closely with the state department and the constituents to get them home safely. However, I cannot share additional details at this time due to operational security issues."
"There’s people that need medication, and I’m a fixer, so I want to help get them home, and there’s really nothing we can do over here," said Foster.
Her parents, meantime, are doing their best to keep themselves occupied by helping ready a local school for upcoming fall classes.
"We’ve just been going there and cleaning, cleaning the school, we painted desks and sanded desks," said Minor.
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They say there are trying to remain patient, but becoming more worried by the day.
"There’s still no answers, so that’s so frustrating, so what do you do. Yeah, I just want my parents home," said Foster.
"Please help us get home," said Minor.
The church group says some of their frustration is tied to the fact that they've seen countries like France, Italy and Spain successfully evacuate their citizens from the country.
They're wondering why it's taking the US State Department so long to do the same.