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There’s no such thing as a “mission to Africa.” Just…
Those words, Flemish for “I am safe,” flashed across the social media feed of Paul Brazle, a longtime missionary in Belgium, just hours after terrorist attacks in the European nation killed 31 people and wounded about 270.
“We want you to know that we are safely well out of any harm’s way,” said Brazle, who lives with his wife, Carol, in Antwerp, about 30 minutes north of the scene of the attacks, Brussels. The couple spent the day “listening to the news carefully and waiting for news of any in our network who may have had reason to be in the airport … or near the one metro station in the Europa district where bombs went off.”
Members of Churches of Christ across Western Europe did likewise Tuesday, reaching out to friends and anxiously waiting for replies.
In a Brussels, Belgium, coffeehouse, missionaries Blair Roberts and Paul Brazle speak with Church of Christ members en route to Africa in 2013. Read Erik Tryggestad’s reflections from his visits to Brussels: “The beauty of Brussels — and stopovers” and “The faith I have found in ‘post-Christian’ Europe.” (PHOTO BY ERIK TRYGGESTAD)
Spencer Eastland, who lives on the outskirts of Brussels with his wife, Shanae, talked via Skype to TV station KETK in Tyler, Texas. Eastland is a native of Tyler, where his father, John, is an elder of the Shiloh Road Church of Christ.
Eastland was on a train headed to work when the first bomb exploded in the Brussels airport. After a difficult trek home, he learned about the full extent of the attacks.
Speaking via Skype, Shanae Eastland told KETK that a friend of hers was at the airport on Tuesday morning.
“Had she been there 10 minutes later, she could have well been caught up in it,” said Shanae Eastland, a native of England whose father, Patrick Boyns, is principal of the British Bible School, a ministry training program in Corby, England.
In Tyler, Spencer Eastland’s parents said they rely on faith to get them through difficult times.
“We couldn’t be there — and even if we were there we couldn’t have done anything,” said his mother, Trish, “but God is there.”
Andrew Baker sent that message to the Jackson Sun newspaper in Tennessee.
Baker, his brother Eli and classmate Joshua White were in Madrid, Spain, shortly after the attacks, attempting to return to Belgium. There they are enrolled in a study abroad program sponsored by Freed-Hardeman University in Henderson, Tenn. The 2,000-student university, associated with Churches of Christ, has a group of 20, including three professors, in Europe for the semester. The group’s base of operations is about 90 minutes east of Brussels.
Members of the Freed-Hardeman University Belgium study abroad team. (PHOTO VIA JACKSONSUN.COM)
One group of students was on a flight to Brussels that was diverted, Baker told the Jackson Sun. Another group was visiting London and students from Lipscomb University in Nashville, Tenn. — another university associated with Churches of Christ that sponsors a Lipscomb in London study abroad program.
When the Freed-Hardeman students were unable to return to Belgium, the Lipscomb students offered them a place to stay, Lipscomb officials told the Tennessean .
“We as a group ask for prayers for the country of Belgium and the safe travels for the remainder of our group,” Baker said.
Less than 24 hours after the attacks, Paul Brazle posted that message on social media.
“Here in Antwerp … it was combination of trying to get some normal stuff done and just watching in awe as the newsfeed continued relaying/relating and relativering the events of the day,” he said, using a Flemish word that means “putting things into perspective.”
“One thing was helpful,” he added, “to know that so many on all sides were quick to take a stand of support and empathy. … We are all in this together.”
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