Recently kidnapped missionaries now involved in car accident
6/8/1999By Sue Sprenkle
MORIJA, Lesotho (BP) -- A Southern Baptist missionary
couple has been charged in a fatal car accident in the southern
Africa nation of Lesotho.
Gene and Jean Phillips, emeritus Southern Baptist missionaries
serving a volunteer term in Morija, Lesotho, were traveling from
Morija to Maseru the night of June 2 when a man suddenly
walked into the middle of the road. Although Phillips swerved to
miss him, the driver's side mirror on the
car hit the pedestrian.
The accident recalls a false e-mail rumor that a West Africa
missionary was in danger over an April 20 accident in which a
pedestrian was killed. While that missionary, Mike Hutchinson,
is not in peril like the e-mail claimed, more serious charges have
been filed against Gene Phillips.
Phillips stopped his car immediately after the accident, but a
hostile crowd quickly gathered and began banging on the
vehicle. Realizing they were in danger, the Phillipses drove to
the police station to report the accident. They returned to the
scene with police only to find that the man had been taken from
the road to a hospital. The pedestrian eventually died.
Despite the fact that this was an accident, Phillips was charged
with culpable homicide by the magistrate's office and released
on bond. A June 15 trial date was set. Negotiations are
underway to try to settle the case without a trial, according to
Lesotho missionary Charles Middleton from Shreveport, La..
This is the second time tragedy has struck the Phillipses in less
than six months. On Jan. 31, the couple was robbed and
kidnapped at gunpoint. The thieves drove the couple into an
isolated area in the mountains and repeatedly threatened to kill
them. Eventually, the couple was left on the side of the road,
alive and unharmed.
The four thieves were caught but recently have been released on
bail. Rumors that the recently released kidnappers were boasting
about their crime caused the couple to leave their home in Morija
and drive to Maseru to seek a more secured area. They were on
their way to the capital city when the accident occurred.
The Phillipses, from Woodruff, S.C., and Greensboro, N.C.,
respectively, were appointed as missionaries to Rhodesia (now
Zimbabwe) in 1956 and served through a period of strife and
revolution that resulted in the country's independence from the
United Kingdom in 1980. They retired in 1996 and began the
Lesotho assignment in discipleship and leadership training
through the IMB's International Service Corps program in
Officials at the Southern Baptist International Mission Board in
Richmond, Va., ask for prayer for the Phillipses. "They need
your prayers of encouragement," said Clyde Berkley, who helps
direct the board's work in southern Africa. "Pray that God will
sustain them and assure them of His unfailing arms around
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