Amy Riddering knows her husband Mike wouldn’t think twice about her returning to Burkina Faso, the West African country he was killed in when al-Qaida militants attacked a hotel and café favored by Westerners in its capital last month.
The couple were missionaries there, working to educate orphans and women and teach villagers leadership skills in one of the poorest countries in the world.
“People wonder what I am going to do now. It’s simple — God did not only call Mike to Burkina Faso; he called me, too,” she said Friday from her home church, Hollywood Community Church. It was the first time she has spoken publicly about the Jan. 15 attack. “Our following God's call and our work with orphans and widows is the most rewarding thing I can imagine.”
Riddering, 45, was one of at least 28 people killed and 56 injured in the attacks. He was at the Cappuccino Cafe, across the street from the Splendid Hotel, which also was attacked by militants in the capital city of Ouagadougou. He and his friend, a local pastor, were waiting for a group of missionaries to arrive from West Pines Community Church in Pembroke Pines. The friend managed to find a hiding spot and survived.
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On Saturday, Riddering’s family has invited the community to a memorial service for the fallen missionary at 1 p.m. at Hollywood Community Church, 1708 N. 60th Ave., Hollywood. Pastor Brian Burkholder said the service “will celebrate Mike and everything he stood for.”
Amy Riddering called the 20 hours after the attack — when she didn’t know her husband’s fate and was at home in the small village where they lived about two hours from the capital — “complete misery.’’
Mike’s brother, Jeff, who lives in St. Louis, was getting information from news outlets. About a day later, they learned from another missionary that Mike’s body was in the morgue.
Amy stayed in Yako, the village where they lived, to bury her husband — something he had requested. Jeff Riddering, who introduced Mike and Amy to the missionary work in Burkina Faso, flew to Africa to officiate the service last week.
“It was a beautiful thing to see the response of the Burkina Bay people, who came in droves to honor not only the life that Mike had that he dedicated and sacrificed, but also the God that he honored,” Jeff said as he sat next to Amy at the Hollywood church.
Riddering, a graduate of Fort Lauderdale Christian High and a member of Hollywood Community Church before moving to Africa in 2011, wanted to be buried in the community he loved. In the five years he and his wife lived in Burkina Faso, they dug wells for water, created a woman’s crisis center and medical clinic and ran the orphanage and school built by Sheltering Wings, a nonprofit based in St. Louis that works with impoverished children in Africa, the Middle East and Brazil.
The decision to move to Burkina Faso came after the couple “realized that we are really not in control here and we just have to fully trust that God is going to take care of us and when we started to do that, things started to change in our life,” Amy Riddering said.
She noted that her husband used to say “that he trusted God so much that if God had him digging wells in Africa, that's where he'd go. He never really meant he wanted to go dig wells in Africa.”
The couple sold everything, including a boat business in Broward, and arrived in Burkina Faso in December 2011 with two pieces of luggage each. “I just knew this is what we were meant to do,” she said.
With two grown daughters of their own, the couple adopted a 4-year-old boy, Moise, and a 15-year-old girl, Biba, from Burkina Faso.
Mike Riddering soon became known as papa to everyone.“He was a friend to many people, but even more so a father to those who were fatherless,” she said.
In Africa, Amy Riddering said, the couple never really had concerns about their safety.“I never expected what happened to happen,” she said.