The tiny town of Yako swallowed them up with need. Days were filled with checking in on orphans, widows, teachers, infants, and even the washerwoman who cleaned the diapers for their dozen or so babies.
After preaching a sermon at the local church — and services can last all day, Anderson said — the Ridderings would return home at 8 or 9 at night, only to answer knocks from a constant stream of visitors.
“Someone will bring a live chicken to their front door, and you can’t turn it down. That would be a terrible thing in that culture,” Anderson said. “They’re bringing a live chicken and you’ve got to do something with it. It’s just a crazy existence. But that’s the way life is in a developing country.”
Anderson told them once, “You guys gotta take time off. You guys are going to wear yourselves out with this schedule.”
But the Ridderings never complained, never turned anyone away, and never expressed fatigue.
“I got worn out just watching them. They were energized by all the craziness,” Anderson said. “They were just constantly helping people.”
During his five trips to Burkina Faso, Anderson said, his favorite thing was watching Riddering interact with the children. On a medical mission, he remembers seeing hundreds of children flock to the big American.
When Riddering would enter the courtyard at the orphanage, the kids would scream, “Big Mike!” or “Papa!” and rush him.
“They just loved him,” Anderson said. “They just thought he was the greatest thing. He was. He would start chasing them, and they’d chase him back. It was a good relationship.”
Imagine the adventures you’re having now
That all ended on Jan. 15 at the Cappuccino café in the capital city. When the terrorists opened fire, Riddering and Valentin ran in separate directions. Valentin, who somehow had Riddering’s phone, called Amy Riddering and asked her to pray.
When the line went dead, she tried calling back, but the connection was bad and she couldn’t get through. She didn’t receive word about her husband’s whereabouts until another Sheltering Wings missionary named Philip Matheny found his body in a morgue Jan. 16.
Riddering left behind his wife and four children. Delaney, 19, and Haley, 23, live in the United States, and Biba, 15, and Moise, 4, were adopted in Burkina Faso. His family was struggling to cope with the loss, but expressed hope.
“God be glorified!” Amy Riddering wrote in an update on her Facebook page. “I can only imagine the adventures you are having now.”
Anderson said some good must come out of this story. “We’re the hands and feet of Christ, and they’re the best examples I’ve seen,” he said. “God knew Mike and Amy were an amazing couple doing amazing work. If He’s going to let a martyr die, He’s not going to waste it.”
The Michael James Riddering Memorial Fund has been set up to help Mike’s widow, Amy, and his four children at www.Sheltering-Wings.org.