Missionary with ties to Louisville stuck in South Sudan after wa - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Missionary with ties to Louisville stuck in South Sudan after war breaks out

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- An American missionary with ties to Louisville is trapped in South Sudan.

Leisa Wagstaff has been in South Sudan since 2013, working with the Presbyterian World Mission, which is part of the Presbyterian Church USA and headquartered in downtown Louisville.

She's stationed in the country's capital, Juba, where her primary job is to train teachers and help with peace-building efforts. However, South Sudan is far from peaceful.

The country is teetering on the edge of yet another civil war. A series of back-and-forth battles began last Thursday between two factions.

"There was constant gunfire from small arms, tankers, gunships, RPG's and so forth," Wagstaff said. "An RPG landed less than a block away from our residence, and we heard the noise, and we were all running trying to find a place where we'd be safe."

For four days, Wagstaff was forced to shelter in place, sleeping on the floor in her clothes and shoes, praying for the shelling to stop ... praying for a cease fire.

On Monday, her prayers were answered. South Sudan's president, Salva Kiir, and his vice president, Riek Machar, each called for a cease-fire. The two men have been longstanding rivals, each leading a faction in the civil war.

PC USA is hoping to take advantage of the break and bring Wagstaff home before the fighting begins again.

"We've been in touch with the U.S. Embassy, and they said they are working on evacuation plans," said Rev. Debbie Braaksma, the Africa area coordinator for Presbyterian World Mission. "We're also working simultaneously with Mission Aviation Fellowship."

Traveling by bus or car is too dangerous, so the church is trying to secure a plane. That presents as challenge, as a lot of aid workers are trying to flee the country, and space is extremely limited.

The Marine Corps Times reports that 40 American service members have been rushed to the U.S. Embassy in Juba. The troops will bolster security at the embassy and help non-emergency personnel leave.

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