Widow of slain American missionary headed back to Africa
HOLLYWOOD, Fla. (AP) — The widow of an American missionary said Friday that she believes it is God’s plan for her to return to the African country where al-Qaida fighters killed her husband last month, and she has no hesitation about doing so.
Amy Riddering told a news conference she will return this month to Burkina Faso and the orphanage, school, clinic and women’s center she ran with Michael Riddering, who was killed along with 29 others in the Jan. 15 attack on a hotel and cafe in the capital Ouagadougou. Riddering, 45, was the only American to die in the attack, which targeted Westerners. Burkina Faso, a former French colony, is a majority Muslim country but has a sizeable Christian minority.
“God did not only call Mike to Burkina Faso, he called me, too,” she told reporters in a chapel at Hollywood Community Church, where a memorial service for her husband is scheduled for Saturday. Speaking in a calm, relaxed and cheerful voice, she said, “Our following God’s call and our work with orphans and widows is the most rewarding thing I can imagine.”
Michael Riddering had run a yacht outfitting company before he and his 49-year-old wife, a graphic designer, sold their possessions in 2011 to move to Burkina Faso, where their facility 70 miles outside the capital houses about 40 children and 70 widows. He was buried in Burkina Faso.
Riddering’s older brother, Jeff, had been going to Africa for 13 years when he took him to Burkina Faso. Amy Riddering said her husband had often joked that if God wanted him to dig wells in Africa, that’s what he would do. During Michael Riddering’s visit to Burkina Faso, the missionary seeking someone to run the facility made a passing comment that they had $40,000 to dig wells. Amy Riddering said they took that as a sign from God they were meant to go.
During their four years there, the Ridderings opened the medical clinic and the women’s center. They became the Burkina Faso charity for a shoe company, passing out 50,000 pairs a year.
Jeff and Amy Riddering both said they have no ill feeling toward the people of Burkina Faso. They noted that last month’s terrorist attack was the first of its kind in the country and was likely executed by outsiders. Jeff Riddering called the people of Burkina Faso “the meekest, gentlest, kindest people on the Earth.” He said his brother had made Muslim friends, who were saddened by his death and angered by the al-Qaida attack.
Amy Riddering said she has given no real thought about increasing security at the facility.
“You can walk out your front door and get hit by a car. You can get cancer. In America, we had 9/11. You have to follow God,” she said.