Five years ago, when Michael Riddering and his wife Amy Boyle-Riddering told South Florida family and friends they were selling everything and moving to Africa as missionaries, the reaction of many was more than just surprise and concern.
“I was terrified,” said Carol Boyle, Amy’s mother, citing terrorism and Ebola among the threats she feared the Cooper City couple might face in the landlocked nation in West Africa. “But Mike fell in love with the people and felt this was where he was needed.
“Together they just glowed over there. They saw what needed to be done.”
Michael Riddering, 45, died Friday after al-Qaida fighters attacked a hotel and cafe in Burkina Faso’s capital of Ouagadougou, where the couple ran an orphange.
Riddering was in the Cappuccino Cafe, where he was to meet Friday with a group of volunteers from West Pines Community Church in Pembroke Pines, said John Anderson, a board member of Sheltering Winds, a missionary organization.
The 15 men and women in the Pines group were going to work at the orphanage and women’s crisis center Riddering ran with his wife, according to Anderson.
At the time of the attack, the Air France flight carrying the team from West Pines Community Church was still in the air and rerouted, according to a statement on the church’s website.
The group later flew into Burkina Faso, and on Sunday was safe and awaiting arrangements to return home, according to Ely Mondshein, a West Pines spokeswoman. Mondshein said the group may return to South Florida on Wednesday.
“Our church is heartbroken at the loss of our beloved friend and ministry partner Mike Riddering. We are grateful that our team is safe, but are grieving with the Riddering family,” West Pines Pastor Robey Barnes said in the statement.
An African pastor who worked with Riddering survived the attack by hiding in the cafe all night, Anderson said. It wasn’t until a fellow Christian missionary found Riddering in the morgue on Saturday that they knew he was dead.
He leaves behind four children, two of whom were adopted from Burkina Faso.
“He loved life and everybody loved him,” Anderson said of Riddering, a tall redhead with an outgoing personality. “The teens he worked with opened up to him. They called him Papa.”
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