William Adlet stood on his tippy toes holding a sign he painted for his dad: “We love you.”
As soon as the 8-year-old spotted Herald Adlet coming off a bus with 14 other missionaries from West Pines Community Church, he bolted toward his dad — who had his hands full with two of his younger children.
“This feels amazing,” said Adlet, who was part of the church team who traveled to Burkina Faso in West Africa last week to work at an orphanage. “I missed them so much.”
The team never made it to the orphanage because al-Qaida militants attacked a hotel and cafe near the airport in the country’s capital, killing 30 people, including the man they were there to meet — Michael Riddering. Riddering, who attended Hollywood Community Church until he moved to Burkina Faso in 2011, was in the cafe waiting to take the team to the orphanage he ran with his wife and family.
“We went there to serve, and we ended up being served,” said Adlet, a Miami-Dade firefighter. The people of Burkina Faso surrounded them with love. “They took care of us.’’
Friends and family of the team gathered at the church with signs and balloons welcoming them back after their long ordeal.
“We are very happy to be home,” said Steve Englund the team leader. “We felt every prayer while we were there.”
The 15 missionaries — including a firefighter, television producer, insurance salesman and teacher — from West Pines Community Church had been on a plane that had departed from Paris for about 10 hours when the lights went out. The plane then circled about five times.
Adlet, who had never left the country before, said he was “freaking out.”
“I was thinking we are going to run out of gas,” he said.
Instead of landing in Burkina Faso, the plane was diverted to Niger, a country to the west. They then flew to neighboring Togo and eventually made it to the capital of Burkina Faso, Ouagadougou. They never did make it to Yako, where the orphanage is located. Instead, they camped out in mission houses.
A lot of their time was spent praying for Riddering.
“We all respected him for what he did,” said Beatriz Ruiz, who works for a medical device company and was on the trip. “He truly was an inspiration.”
Riddering was well known at West Pines Community Church. Last summer he showed church members a video of the orphanage, school and wells they were building. He will be remembered Feb 6 at Hollywood Community Church.
West Pines Community Church Pastor Robey Barnes said he was grateful the team returned safely.
“We are just really glad to see you guys here,” he told the team. “Thank you for being a shining example of who we want to be as a church.’’
He also said what happened will not stop them from future missions: “What our team experienced is the exact reason we are so passionate as a church to take the love of Jesus out in the world. We will continue to support the work in Burkina Faso.”
While many of the team members said they will go back, they were looking forward to spending their first night at home.
“I look forward to a nice hot shower and some sleep,” Adlet said.