Archive for the ‘International’ Category

Antioch missionaries stranded in Niger on flight to France Friday morning

Friday, August 4th, 2023
Antioch missionaries serving in Niamey, Niger and at the airport Friday morning, August, 4, 2023. Photos courtesy of Cornerstone Christian School.

Niger had refused to refuel plane, State Department negotiated

“Just pulled up from the runway. Super emotional.” – Pastor Steve Miner of Cornerstone Christian Center

“They have passed the borders and are three-and-a-half hours out of Paris.” – Logan Heyer, Principal, Cornerstone Christian School

Holly and Madison Heyer on the plane to France Friday, August 4, 2023. Photo courtesy of Logan Heyer

By Allen D. Payton

A team of 11 missionaries from Antioch’s Cornerstone Christian Center and School were stranded in the West African country of Niger, following a military coup, last week. They were supposed to fly back last Friday, July 28 and be home by Saturday. But they were not permitted as the borders had all been closed. (See related article)

According to Ron Eckstein, spokesman for U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein’s Office in Washington, D.C. in a phone call at 11:45 AM Friday, August 4, 2023, “the 11 individuals are on a flight to France. We were told by the State Department. It departed about 11 AM Pacific Time. Our office has been working on it since Tuesday, August 1.”

“I was not expecting such a positive resolution. But good news,” he added.

A post on Corrnerstone Christian School’s Facebook page at  11 a.m. Friday reads, “On behalf of Cornerstone Christian Center and Cornerstone Christian School we are so incredibly grateful to be able to announce that our Niger Mission team is safely on their way home. We would like to thank the offices of Senator Feinstein and Congressman Garamendi for their consistent support and vital information over these trying days. We are so thankful for the help of the State Department and the U.S. Embassy in Niger. We would also like to recognize the effort of KTVU FOX 2, KRON 4 and the Antioch Herald for their assistance in spreading awareness of this serious situation and their care and attention for our family members back home. The professionalism and concern that was demonstrated for this situation by our local media was truly amazing. Last, and most importantly, we would like to thank our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ for his continuous protection and care for our team while they were serving in Niger.

Our focus now turns solely to the people of Niger and our thoughts and prayers will be directed for peace in that nation and that democracy will continue to be pursued so that the nation of Niger can be free. Thank you for all your prayers and support during this challenging time. The people of Cornerstone are what make this place one of a kind and I am personally grateful to be a part of such a special place. Our team landed in Niger 16 days ago with the goal of making much of the name of Jesus and we return knowing that His name was high and lifted up.”

School Principal Says Niger Was Not Going to Refuel the Plane

When reached for details at 12:15 p.m., school principal Logan Heyer, whose wife, Holly and daughter, Madison are among the 11, exclaimed, “They have passed the borders and are three-and-a-half hours out of Paris.”

“They got to the airport about 2 AM our time, which was 10 AM their time and sat there for about an hour but Niger was refusing to refuel the plane,” he shared. “So, I got a hold of Senator Feinstein’s office and they said they had been in contact with the State Department who were already negotiating with whoever is in charge of Niger, at this point.”

“I got a Whatsapp from Holly saying, ‘we’re on the plane. We don’t know where we’re going,’” Heyer stated. “Then a few minutes later she shared ‘it looks like we have enough fuel to get to France.’”

“Then we got the photos from them in the airport and one of Holly and Madison in the plane,” he continued. “Then I got a Whatsapp message from Pastor Steve that read, ‘just pulled up from the runway. Super emotional.’”

Asked if they expect to be back in Antioch tomorrow Heyer said, “She didn’t even have time to tell me the rest of it. She just knew they were going to Paris. They’re expected to arrive in about three hours.“

“Senator Feinstein’s and Congressman Garamendi’s office have been very helpful. They’re everything you could hope for in a representative. I was proud to be an American, today,” he added.

Antioch missionaries stranded in Niger following military coup

Thursday, August 3rd, 2023
Instagram post on July 28, 2023 of Cornerstone Christian Center & School missionaries in Niger. Source: Hannah Gabrielle

Team of 11 from Cornerstone Christian Center and School

“We sent our team to Niger to make much of the name of Jesus in that country and believe they are still doing that, and we are trusting in Him to bring them home, safely,” Principal Logan Heyer

By Allen D. Payton

A missionary team from Antioch’s Cornerstone Christian Center and School, led by Pastor and Superintendent Steve Miner has been stranded in Niger, Africa following a military coup.

In a post on her Facebook page on Wednesday, August 2, 2023, Hannah Gabrielle wrote, “My family is stranded in Niger Africa. The US government has evacuated part of its embassy staff but has been unhelpful in helping us get our family out! Help me spread the word. Share and pray. Whatever you can do. Email a congressman or senator. Call the local news. Anything helps. They are in a group of 15 US citizens ages ranging from 11 to 73.

On Friday, the team posted a photo from capital city Niamey, Niger, on the church’s Instagram page that reads, “Our Cornerstone Team has had an amazing week serving at Vie Abondante kids camp in Niger!”

Photos courtesy of Logan Heyer, Cornerstone Christian Center & School.

A Sunday report by the Marine Corps Times confirmed her information about the U.S. Embassy that reads, “The Marine security guards stationed at the American embassy in Niger will remain there as the United States evacuates all but essential staff because of a coup in the country.”

A Wednesday, Aug. 2 post on X (formerly Twitter) by U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken reads, “Today, we ordered the temporary departure of non-emergency personnel and eligible family members from Niger. The U.S. is committed to our relationship with the people of Niger. The embassy remains open, and our leaders are diplomatically engaged at the highest levels.”

Logan Heyer, Principal of Cornerstone Christian School, said about the missionaries, “They were supposed to be back on July 29.”

He learned of the coup, early last week.

“I looked at an article in the news that there was a coup in Niger, and I heard about it on the 25th,” he stated. “The coup closed all the borders in Niger.”

The team left for their trip on July 20th.

“They were supposed to leave on Friday, July 28th to return,” Heyer shared.

Asked if any students are on the trip, Heyer said, “No. One former student, my daughter, Madison. My wife, Holly is also there and my father-in-law, Scott Wells. School starts again on Aug. 21st. No teachers. But our head pastor and school superintendent is over there, Steve Miner, with his wife, Maria.”

“There are 11 from our church and school, about 15 total,” he added.

“We have partnered with a missionary that lives there in the country,” Heyer explained. “They went to do a Vacation Bible School and get their school ready for the fall, too.”

This is the second time the team has gone to Niger.

“Pastor Steve has led two teams,” he added.

“It sounds like, from what I understand, the Royal Guard kicked out the president. It’s not targeted at Christians.

According to a July 27 report by NPR, “Soldiers in Niger have announced a coup, imposing a curfew and closing borders in a country that is a key U.S. ally in West Africa. The president of…Niger was removed in a coup late last night, local time, despite frantic diplomatic efforts to save his government.”

Asked about efforts to get the team out of the country Heyer said, “We saw online that Senator Ted Cruz got missionaries out from Niger – teenagers on a mission trip not from our group. But they met up with them. Their parents were very frightened, like we are. Senator Cruz was able to get them out of the country on an Italian plane. We saw that the Italians and French got people out.So, we contacted Senator Feinstein and Congressman Garamendi on Tuesday, and they have been pushing whomever at the State Department to get our people out.”

A KRON4 News report about the stranded missionaries, quotes Garamendi saying, “My team is working closely with the state department and the constituents to get them home safely. However, I cannot share additional details at this time due to operational security issues.”

According to a report by Reuters early Wednesday, Niger has reopened it’s borders with several neighboring countries “a week after a coup that has sent shockwaves across West Africa’s Sahel region, one of the poorest and most unstable in the world.”

‘The land and air borders with Algeria, Burkina Faso, Mali, Libya and Chad are re-opened from today, August 1, 2023,’ junta spokesperson Colonel Amadou Abdramane said in a televised address.”

“We sent our team to Niger to make much of the name of Jesus in that country and believe they are still doing that, and we are trusting in Him to bring them home, safely,” Heyer stated.

Private prayer vigils are being held for the team, he shared.

Antioch-Chichibu Sister City organization raising funds to send student delegates, chaperones to Japan

Monday, May 22nd, 2023
Antioch’s 2023 Student Delegates for the trip to Chichibu, Japan in July. Source: Antioch Chichibu Sister City Organization.

The Antioch-Chichibu Sister City organization is an incredible nonprofit organization that works independent from the city of Antioch, raising their own funds. The purpose of the organization is to give Antioch and Chichibu students, ages 15-18, the life changing opportunity to experience each other’s country and culture while developing new, lifelong friendships abroad. The program teaches students the importance of communication, teamwork and integrity. Student delegates are selected from deserving applicants that will best represent our city.

Unfortunately, with increasing costs and no city support, students and adult chaperones are finding it difficult to participate in this worthwhile opportunity. Our young delegates are working tirelessly to make this trip a reality!

The 2023 trip to Chichibu, Japan is scheduled for mid-July. Any funds raised after that date will continue to contribute to this ongoing program and future delegates.

The goal is to raise $40,000. Contributions can be made on the GoFundMe page.

Your support in any amount helps provide a culturally immersive educational opportunity to our students. Thank you!

Antioch-Chichibu Sister City Organization to hold Park Day and Community Garage Sale May 20

Tuesday, May 16th, 2023

Introduces 2023 Student Delegates

The Antioch-Chichibu Sister City Organization is excited to announce that we are back! After a short hiatus due to travel restrictions related to the pandemic, we are up and running again!

The Antioch/Chichibu Sister City Organization is a volunteer, non-profit organization comprised of interested citizens in both cities.

We are hosting a fun filled day at Chichibu Park on May 20th from 10am-3pm. Our activities will include a park clean up, fun kids’ games, snacks for sale, voting on our new organization logo, as well as local vendors and a community garage sale. We are still accepting vendors and garage sellers. We look forward to meeting and sharing information about our organization with many community members on Saturday!

The purpose of the organization is to give citizens of Antioch and Chichibu the opportunity to experience each other’s country and culture. The benefits of our program include the making of many friends between the two cities. We alternate years with Chichibu to send delegations to each other’s city for a roughly two-week home-stay. We last hosted our friends from Chichibu in 2018! This being an odd year, it is our turn to send a delegation to Chichibu. Our visit is scheduled for July 13th to the 23rd.

We have elected a new board: President Antwon Webster, Vice President Jessica Davis, Treasurer Jim Davis, Secretary Grace Mangaoang, Public Relations Abe Rodriguez, Board Member Cheryll Newberry, Board Member Margaret Skupa.

Source: Antioch Chichibu Sister City Org.

Our student delegates are: Noah Engle-Senior Antioch High, CoraRose Adams-Junior Antioch High, Albert Wong-Junior Antioch High, Abigail Monfil-Sophomore Antioch High, Madilyn Davis-Sophomore Antioch High, Haylee Wong-Sophomore Clayton Valley Charter High, Zion Engle-Sophomore Prospects High, Hillary Tam-Freshman Dozier Libby High, Alexander Ferguson-8th Grade Antioch Charter Academy

Our adult delegates are Antwon Webster, Jessica Davis, Cheryll Newberry, Grace Mangaoang, Abe Rodriguez and Tom Stinson.

Hosts needed for international high school students throughout San Francisco Bay Area

Wednesday, April 5th, 2023

Source: AFS

Experience the world without leaving your home

By Meaghan Airey, AKCG – Public Relations Counselors

NEW YORK, New York – In an age when international relations are often tenuous, AFS-USA Intercultural Programs, a leader in international high school student exchange for 75 years, is focused on providing opportunities for intercultural exchange that can help lead to a more just and peaceful world. 

AFS-USA invites families and individuals from the San Francisco area and surrounding communities to become hosts for international students for 12 weeks, a semester, or an academic year.

Hosting provides individuals, families, high schools, and communities with opportunities to learn about the unfamiliar by exploring a diversity of cultures, all while sharing their own culture with a young person from a different country.

“AFS-USA nurtures active global citizens who make the world a better place,” AFS-USA President and CEO Tara Hofmann said. “Every new AFS student is another global citizen in progress—an individual primed to help build a more just world that reflects peace and fellowship. The impact doesn’t stop with the students. Host families’ lives are transformed by students from across the globe and host communities gain greater cultural diversity.”

Exchange students represent nearly 80 countries and cultures, including Kenya, Ukraine, Egypt, Türkiye, Italy, Germany, Chile, Thailand and more. They are among the more than 1,000 international AFS students hosted in the U.S. each year.

AFS-USA host families represent a broad range of U.S. cultures, including individuals and families of multi-national/ethnic backgrounds, those with and without children, those who are members of the LGBTQ+ community, and more.

In addition, AFS-USA has a more than 50-year partnership with the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA), which offers numerous sponsored scholarships for international students to study abroad in the U.S. including the following programs:

  • Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study (KL-YES): Through the U.S. Department of State’s YES program, high school students from countries with significant Muslim populations live and study for an academic year in the United States. Participants live with a host family, attend an American high school, acquire leadership skills, and engage in activities to learn about U.S. society and values; they also help educate Americans about their home country and culture. 
  • Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange (CBYX): Jointly funded and managed by the U.S. Department of State and German government, CBYX provides full scholarships for German students to live and study abroad in the U.S. for an academic year. Participants live with a host family, attend an American high school, acquire leadership skills, and engage in activities to learn about U.S. society and values; they also help educate Americans about Germany and German culture.
  • Future Leaders Exchange (FLEX): Through the U.S. Department of State’s FLEX program, high school students from Europe and Eurasia live and study for an academic year in the United States. Participants live with a host family, attend an American high school, acquire leadership skills, and engage in activities to learn about U.S. society and values; they also help educate Americans about their home country and culture. 

Once students and host families are matched, they receive ongoing support from trained staff and are welcomed into their local chapter of dedicated volunteers, alumni, and fellow host families. One thing that sets AFS-USA apart is the network of almost 3,000 volunteers throughout the U.S. Many volunteers have hosted international exchange students or studied abroad with AFS and will support families, students, and schools in gaining the most from their hosting experience.

Hosts are expected to provide their student(s) with a bed, meals and support and encouragement throughout their program. Students arrive with their own spending money and medical coverage.

“These students attend local high schools, participate in local community life, and are encouraged to share aspects of their culture,” Hofmann said. “They also discover first-hand what it’s like to live in America and form lasting friendships that create enduring links between the U.S. and other countries. In many cases, the bonds that form between AFS students and their host families last a lifetime.”

AFS-USA is the largest organization within the international AFS network that includes 54 partners around the globe.

For More Information 

Those interested in hosting an AFS Exchange Student are encouraged to contact 1-800-AFS-INFO or visit for more information. For those interested in studying abroad please browse our programs and apply now to start your journey. You can also get involved as an AFS-USA Volunteer. Visit to get started or learn more about opportunities to make a difference.

Contra Costa Republican Party raising funds for body armor for Ukrainians

Saturday, March 19th, 2022

Dinner in Pleasant Hill with Ukrainian Consul General in San Francisco Tuesday, March 22

The Contra Costa Republican Party is hosting a dinner with the Ukrainian Consul General in San Francisco, Dmytro Kushneruk, next Tuesday, March 22 and will be donating 100% of the profits to buy body armor for those fighting in Ukraine.

Within 48 hours of announcing the dinner, the Contra Costa Republican Party raised nearly $20,000 towards this effort. Tickets and sponsorships can be purchased at www.ContraCostaRepublicanParty/Ukraine.

“Contra Costa Republicans are demonstrating that they are enthusiastic to step up and personally support Ukrainians fighting the Russian invasion,” said Contra Costa Republican Party Chairman, Matt Shupe (@MattShupePR). “We stand in solidarity with both our neighbors that previously fled the horrors of socialism in Eastern Europe and the Ukrainians who stand and fight against tyranny now.”

The Contra Costa Republican Party partnered with the Ukrainian American Coordinating Council to host the dinner event. UACC has obtained the permits required to transport the body armor to Ukraine.“The battleground is in Ukraine, but the battle is for western civilization and freedom,” said UACC Board Member, Lydia Stoykovych. “Ukrainians are fighting for a better future, not just for Ukraine, but for the world, where individualism, democracy, peace, and innovation reign. All Americans need to understand that Putin’s aggressive ambition extends far beyond Ukraine.”

The dinner will also feature Ukrainian immigrant turned Republican candidate for California’s 10th Congressional District, Oleksii Chuiko. It will be in Pleasant Hill on Tuesday, March 22nd and will start at 6 p.m.

The Contra Costa Republican Party hosts a monthly fundraising dinner called the Chairman’s Circle Dinner Series. Dinners include a hosted bar, three course, filet mignon dinner, and very prominent speakers.