On a recent missionary trip to Nigeria, Pastor Adediran Adedeji—Pastor D to his friends—brought along his friend Pastor Warren Beemer. What they discovered in one broken-down orphanage shocked them. A young girl in the filthy, disease-ridden building told Pastor D that she and her six siblings—emaciated, hungry and physically scarred—were from Texas.
"I still remember what I felt then; it was such a shock," says Pastor D, who immediately began asking them questions. The children, ages 8 to 16, were apparently born and raised in Texas, living with their adoptive mother in Houston just one year before. She had taken them to Nigeria and had left them there with a man she barely knew. Their caretakers soon disappeared, and the children were left to fend for themselves.
What started as a humanitarian tour for these pastors became an all out rescue mission. But with no passports, the seven American orphans could not just leave the country with the pastors. The pastors promised they'd work to get the children home.
After Pastor D and Pastor Beemer left the orphanage, they made several desperate calls to their church, U.S. senators, and even the State Department. Eight agonizing days later, the seven American orphans were safe and sound, and on their way back to the United States.
It is the first time the children have seen their heroes since the day they met in Nigeria!
Oprah: What does it feel like to see the children here on American soil?
Pastor D: We did it. We promised you [the children] we were going to do it. I say a lot of words. I believe in doing what you say. We promised them at that time not really knowing how, but believing that God would make the way…. It's just wonderful.
Eric (rescued child): Thank you for bringing us back. Thank you for everything you have done for my brothers and sisters. You seem like a miracle to me and I want you in my life. I love you. You're family.
The seven siblings are huge fans of their hometown team, the Houston Rockets. When the team heard the kids were coming on the show, they sent along a special gift—each child received a goodie bag filled with Houston Rockets gear! And, the team has arranged for a limo to pick them up and take them to the team's pre-season opener, where they'll be able to watch the game in one of the luxury suites and meet the team!
"We're very happy to have you safely back here in Houston," says Patrick Ewing in a special message. "Oprah, make sure you give them all a big hug from me. I have big arms. And, kids, I'm looking forward to meeting you after the game."
Also, since the children missed so much school while they were in Nigeria, the Sylvan Learning Center is providing each child with a year of free tutoring!
It was the first day of school for children in the southern Russian town of Beslan. As children and their parents arrived, more than 30 armed terrorists stormed the area and forced more than 1,000 defenseless children and parents into the gym. They were held captive inside the stifling hot building, with no food or water, for 62 hours before Russian soldiers stormed the school. The terrorists set off bombs and as the madness ensued, the roof collapsed, killing hundreds.
Kim Murphy and Sergei Loiko of the Los Angeles Times jumped on the story immediately.
Kim: The entire town seemed to have been taken hostage. … Everyone was waiting. Everyone was agonizing. Everybody was just hoping that there was a way out of this situation. And they waited there day and night.
Oprah: What was going on in the hearts and minds of the Russian people?
Sergei: Unfortunately, [they] have grown accustomed to living in the atmosphere of constant terrorist threats… But this time—this time it's a horrible tragedy.
Among those captured were Zalina Dzandarova and her children, two-year-old Alan and six-year-old Alana. The three were held hostage for a day and a half when armed terrorists forced Zalina to make a choice: Get out safely with one child and leave the other, or stay and all three would be executed.
Leaving her daughter behind, Zalina was forced to walk out with only her son. For 21 hours, a terrified Zalina and her husband waited in agony outside the school. When Russian soldiers finally stormed the building, Zalina and her husband Batraz searched desperately for Alana. They found her lying in a hospital, covered in someone else's blood, but with no major wounds. Batraz has six other relatives who were held hostage in the school, including his sister who was seriously injured and is still in a Moscow hospital.
Oprah: How does a mother make that choice?
Zalina: I wasn't making a choice. I didn't understand what I was doing. There wasn't time to think about it.
Oprah: How do you feel, Batraz, about all that has happened?
Batraz: This can happen anywhere in the world. Not only Beslan. Anywhere in the world. I don't want kids in the world to feel that and know that and have this experience.
He was just a 14-year-old when he gave up his family, his friends and his country for something he believed in. Later nicknamed "Steve-O" by the American troops he aided, this Iraqi teenager approached a U.S. checkpoint in Husaybah, Iraq, telling the American soldiers that his father was an officer under Saddam Hussein and that he knew where enemy cells were located. All he wanted in exchange was for the American soldiers to pretend to arrest him. The soldiers handcuffed him, put a sandbag over his head and brought him to the headquarters of the border checkpoint.
First Sgt. Daniel Hendrex and Capt. Chad M. Roehrman led Dragon Company in Iraq and say Steve-O became invaluable to American forces. Over several months, Steve-O went on 20 missions with Dragon Company and identified mujahadeen who were trying to gain access to their base. "Steve-O just happened to look at pictures of several high value targets," First Sgt. Hendrex says. "He started calling them by name. He knew where they lived, how they were connected. He turned out to be one of the greatest informants we had."
Word quickly spread that Steve-O was assisting the Americans. There was a bounty on his head. His mother had been shot and killed. "We did everything that we possibly could to keep him protected, covering him so people couldn't identify him," Capt. Roehrman says. For five months Steve-O lived with the company and became very close to many of the soldiers. The bond the company had with Steve-O would prove unbreakable, and the soldiers' No. 1 priority became the teen's safety. "I just wanted him to know how much he had meant to us and this company would never give up on him to get him out of harm's way," First Sgt. Hendrex says.
Oprah: How did you get the courage to go to the American soldiers?
Steve-O: [My father] asked me to be with the mujahadeen, to kill Americans, and I [didn't] want that—because I saw the Americans were good…. They didn't come to harm us. They helped us.
Steve-O is now in the U.S., as his mother has been killed and he is unprotected in Iraq with other family and friends. First Sgt. Hendrex says he's working to get Steve-O medical attention for wounds inflicted by his own father, as well as funds for an education.
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