American missionaries and relief-and-development workers escaped unharmed from Monrovia last month as Liberia's capital became a chaotic scene of looting and violence among rival warring factions. Many had been stranded for days until an armed United Nations convoy brought them to the U.S. Embassy.

World Relief (WR) Liberia director Brian Johnson and his family were evacuated on a military helicopter after being held hostage in a Christian radio station and clinic compound. Rebels tried to hit the helicopter with AK-47 machine gun fire and rocket-propelled grenades as it took off.

Johnson and about 70 others had holed up at the ELWA missionary radio station compound. Armed looters confiscated food and stole vehicles from the complex.

Throughout Monrovia, mobs hot-wired vehicles owned by international relief and missionary agencies. Eight Southern Baptist missionaries sped away in an embassy security vehicle as armed rebels broke into their compound. The vehicle sped up to 90 miles per hour in an attempt to avoid gunfire.

United Nations and Red Cross workers fled when pillagers overran their offices. Drug-intoxicated gangs of teenagers brandished weapons and roamed the streets in stolen vehicles.

WR's Johnson plans to continue directing relief efforts from Liberia's countryside once the situation has stabilized. WR nurse Enid Grey remained in Monrovia with Christian nationals to provide trauma counseling and medical assistance. Those left behind face the immediate risk of starvation.

But the destruction has been so widespread that some veteran missionaries see little reason for hope.

"The whole city is being destroyed," says Bradley Brown, a Southern Baptist missionary in the nation for 33 years. "I'm afraid this was our farewell ...

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