Following evacuation from Chad to Cameroon on Friday, the present turmoil has forced Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF) families to prepare for return to their home countries.
On Saturday, rebel leaders advanced on Chad's capital, N'Djaména causing thousands to flee. Following two days of heavy fighting, the government claims they have driven the rebels out. However, rebel spokesman Abderamane Koullamalah said rebel forces made a tactical withdrawal from the capital to meet up with reinforcements coming from the east with fresh ammunition and supplies. Rebel leaders also say they are giving civilians a chance to flee before launching another attack.
Aid agencies have reported many dead bodies on the streets and hundreds of people being treated in hospitals.
MAF's team remained in safety in Cameroon over the weekend. But with Chad facing much instability, MAF's Country Director Mike Riley wrote to say that families would be returning to their home countries.
Reporting on the last few days, pilot Mark Liprini shared, "Obtaining reliable information is extremely hard. Sources are often contradictory, and when things really hot up the cellphone network is switched off and often the landlines are cut as well. Driving on the streets becomes extremely dangerous."
The MAF team slept at the hangar on Thursday night as the most reliable reports indicated that the rebels were very close to N'Djamena and planning an attack. On Friday, the situation appeared to calm and the families returned to their homes on the MAF compound.
Liprini reported, however, "Suddenly it flared up again - and violently. One of the Chadian staff rushed to the compound and urgently informed Mike that we had to evacuate immediately.
"The families grabbed a few items and the bags that were already pre-packed, piled into their cars and made their way through the streets of N'Djaména back to the hangar. The four-mile drive by-passing the presidential palace seemed to take forever. Heavily-armed soldiers were everywhere, blockades were going up and things were unbelievably scary."
Within an hour, the MAF team was airborne for Garoua, Cameroon. By Saturday morning, it became clear that it would be too dangerous to return. N'Djaména airport was closed to civilian flights and there was intense fighting around the airport and in many parts of the city.
MAF staff will return home, leaving behind in Chad all they possess except the clothes they are wearing and a few small items in their bags.
"Yet despite all this, the Lord's presence and comfort has kept the team in good spirits and a sense of calm has been present," said Liprini. "There is already talk by some of the team members that they want to return to Chad to complete the work God has called them to."
No quick return to Chad for Mission Aviation Fellowship
Published 05 February 2008