Members of a mission team from Chapin United Methodist Church (Chapin UMC) expected to fly back to the United States Monday after being delayed in Haiti for two days because of protests, have safely made it to the airport in Port Au Prince. Jody Flowers is lead pastor of the Lexington County church. Monday morning he said they were cautiously optimistic about the news of the group leaving the country.
"We are very, very hopeful that things hold and the demonstrations don't rise to a higher level today that would prevent them from being able to get from the camp to Port Au Prince."
The group was stationed at a mission's camp about 20 miles North of the capitol. They arrived June 30 and was expected to return Saturday, July 7. Protests started in Port Au Prince and surrounding areas when the government ordered a fuel price increase. Saturday, the U.S. Embassy in Haiti warned citizens to shelter in place amid the demonstrations. Sunday, the Embassy announced all non-emercgency travel into the country by its employees was prohibited and all other personnel were still under a Shelter-in-Place order. Currently posted to its website, are phone numbers for US cititzens in Haiti to call if they need assistance and for US citizens in the States to call to check on citizens on Haiti.
Flowers said his church group is part of a larger mission group hosted by the nonprofit organization Mission of Hope. Churches from across the Southeast including Florida, Alabama, North Carolina and Georgia have members in the same mission camp as those from Chapin. Together, Flowers said there were 160 people in the camp and was unsure if everyone from the camp was scheduled to fly out of the country Monday, or if its just his members.
Flowers has been giving updates on the group via the church's Facebook page. Monday afternoon, he shared that the group safely made it to the airport and should arrive in Atlanta, Ga at 7:01pm.
The group's primary focus was conducting Vacation Bible School for the area children. Flowers said the groups also provided basic human needs like providing food and hygiene items; conducting training for leadership and doing some contruction.
This is Chapin UMC's seventh year in the country. Flowers said this incident will not stop the congreagation for fulfilling their Christian duties.
"Recognizing that there's always the possiblity for something like this to occur, will not deter us from going." Flowers said the church will always be discerning as they listen to travel alerts given by the United States and host countries, but "we just believe that the Lord said go into all the land; and so that's what we try to do," he added.