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Reverend Jimmy Seibert Holds Press Conference

Aired November 15, 2001 - 11:03   ET


BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: As we mentioned, that church in Waco, Texas -- it's the Antioch Community Church. This is where two of those Western aid workers attended -- Heather Mercer, age 24; Dayna Curry.

Right now I think they're talking. Let's put up a picture here and listen in in Waco.


REV. JIMMY SEIBERT, ANTIOCH COMMUNITY CHURCH: ... he has carried this in his heart from the beginning. I know that he is a man of prayer. He has been diligent to keep the fight of our ladies before Congress and before the world. And for that we are -- will be forever grateful.

And we're also thankful for our State Department. David Donahue, specifically has labored day and night in Islamabad, as well as the staff there. They have been tremendous in helping through the whole process. Also the families have been incredible. And their devotion and love to their own children has been an example to all of us. And it has really been a joy to work with them.

Also, we as a congregation here couldn't be happier. For those who were with us last night, we had two hours of shout and dancing and crying and celebrating the goodness of the Lord. There's a big smile on my face. I didn't get to bed until 4:00 in the morning; I just couldn't sleep. Smiling -- and woke up with the same smile on my face today as well as, I know, hundreds of other in our congregation are experiencing.

I have had the opportunity to talk with Heather and Dayna, and we screamed and shouted, and were just -- it was so great. The only thing that was breaking my heart, that I wasn't there to hug their necks face-to-face.

So we were rejoicing. And they were sharing, hey, God has been so good to us; God met us in the prison; the Lord has been so faithful. And they said, hey, the last three days of this thing is better than any Hollywood movie you've ever seen. And so they told me a few details, but I'm looking forward to catching up on every one of those details. I believe they're doing a press conference in Islamabad in the morning, which will be our evening. Maybe one little window; when they were waiting on the helicopters to come and rescue them, they -- the helicopters did not come at the time that they had thought they were going to come, and so they were figuring, God, they must have gotten lost, or what happened? Or did they get -- you know, what happened? And so Heather had the idea to take off her head scarf and to light it on fire. And they all threw their head scarfs in the middle, made a big pile of rags and gathered some brush together. And those fires are the way that they detected where they were, and were able to find them. And so that's a fun little twist to the midst of an incredible drama that they will be able to articulate better than we ever could.

Again, let me say how thankful we are to a God who answers prayer, and thankful to all the people who participated with us.

Kind of -- what they're doing right now, let me give you a little window into that. They went to the embassy. They hadn't really slept much in three days; but they said they just couldn't sleep, they were so thrilled and excited. And took a nice shower and had a good meal and went and got their hair done.

And so they still have their wonderful feminine side in the midst of living in the outback. And they are doing so well. And then we went -- then they are at a dinner right now at the German embassy, where they're with the rest of the detainees and the embassy officials. And just time of rejoicing and, really, Thanksgiving has come early in Islamabad, Pakistan. They're all a part of that right now.

For the next couple days they'll be in Islamabad doing some debriefing, just connecting with family. I will be leaving this afternoon for Islamabad and will be there Saturday morning and have the opportunity to be with them and then escort them as we will go to a central location in Europe to do some general debriefing and kind of talking through the trauma they've been through. And they will return to the states sometime after Thanksgiving.

Their families are with them, so they're not missing anything. They are having Thanksgiving with their families, just in another location in Europe. And so we are excited. And I'm excited, personally, just to hug their necks and be able to escort them and to be with them.

I think that takes care of the plans from here. When they return to the states they will be going to their hometowns first, and then coming on down here to Waco, and to be with all of us. This is where they -- their residence has been when they weren't overseas. And so they'll be back here, and jump back into the flow of things, and we'll see what the Lord has for them next.

So that's what I have for you guys this morning, other than questions; and I'd be happy to take those at this time.

QUESTION: Do you know when they'll be -- they'll be going to their hometown -- is that next week, or... SEIBERT: No, it will be after the Thanksgiving week; probably the following week. So somewhere pretty much from November 25 on they'll be returning to the states.

QUESTION: And when do you expect them (OFF-MIKE)

SEIBERT: Well, I'm hoping within a week's time they'll be here. Yes, I'm hoping. They -- you know, we're just working together what's best for them and best for their families. So we know we'll have them here living with us, so everybody is willing to be a little patient. Just a little. But we'll be...

QUESTION: Anything special planned?

SEIBERT: Oh, well, we haven't gotten there yet. But it will be quite a celebration. It will be -- the last night, if you were here, just a microcosm of when we see them face-to-face.


SEIBERT: Go ahead, please.

QUESTION: Did they indicate whether there was a point at which they feared for their lives? Their lives and their colleagues' lives?

SEIBERT: Right, I think that in and out of a situation like that, you're always wondering what's around the corner. But I do want to say that because of their faith in Jesus they don't fear death. They are, like all of us, emotional about the fears of the day and what comes and goes. But they are secure in their faith. And it's what's strengthened them and really upheld them.

Really, these ladies have stood in an incredible in way in the grace that God has given them.

HEMMER: That is one remarkable story we just heard from the Reverend Jimmy Seibert down in Antioch Community Church down there in Waco, Texas. Describing how the U.S. special forces may have, indeed, located the group of eight Western aid workers formerly on trial for preaching Christianity in Afghanistan. Held there since the first part of august.

Just to give you a few facts here, the way we understand them. When they were taken out of Kabul earlier in the week, apparently they were left south of that town in an open field. The Red Cross was contacted, and then the U.S. military was contacted. But as they waited there for the U.S. to arrive, we get from the reverend after his conversations with two of the women over in Islamabad, that they were not sure -- that perhaps they were lost and wondering what was happening. And he described Heather Mercer taking off her head scarf, lighting it on fire so that the U.S. military could -- military, rather, could locate them. That would be a rather ironic twist to their rescue and their eventual safety, getting out of Afghanistan.

Right now at the German embassy, we are told, in Islamabad. Let's go there now -- the Pakistani capital. And CNN's Jim Clancy also tracking and listening in on this story as well.

Jim, hello.

JIM CLANCY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hello there, Bill. I'm not sure how much the Reverend Seibert left me to tell you, but let me try. Certainly the two Americans, part of the group of eight Christian aid workers who were rescued. They are free now. They are happy. And they have some incredible stories to tell about their ordeal in Afghanistan.


DAYNA CURRY: Hello, I love you. We're glad we're free.


QUESTION: What's your feeling?

MERCER: Great! We feel wonderful. We're so excited that we're free. Thank you so much.


HEMMER: And as the reverend said, Thanksgiving came early in Islamabad. Jim Clancy, thanks.




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