[SLIDESHOW=48497,48498]PORT-AU-PRINCE (BP) — Safe flights from Haiti following a violent citizen uprising have allowed most Southern Baptist mission teams to return to the U.S., Baptist Press has learned.
Teams from Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, North Carolina and Tennessee returned to the U.S. beginning July 9 after air travel resumed from the island nation. As recently as July 10, a team from Mt. Olivet Baptist Church in Hartwell, Ga., was still awaiting a flight to return this weekend, according to Facebook posts.
A 35-member team of Louisiana Baptists arrived most recently at 1 a.m. today (July 11) in New Orleans and traveled to their respective homes from there. In one day of outreach in Haiti’s capital city, the team recorded 20 decisions for Christ during Vacation Bible School, installed a tile floor at a church, and trained 140 pastors and wives at a leadership conference, Tommy Middleton told B.P.
Middleton, director of missions of the Baptist Association of Greater Baton Rouge, described the condition in Haiti as “a perfect storm,” an already impoverished citizenry hit by “astronomical gas prices” that fueled riots of gunfire and flames. While BP previously reported gas prices of $5 a gallon, Middleton said the cost was actually $5 a liter, about $20 a gallon.
“There are wonderful people there,” Middleton told BP, “and I pray one day [Haiti] gets a government that would be more reflective and responsive” to people’s needs. Middleton has traveled to Haiti perhaps 10 times among 50 or more international mission trips, he said, but has never encountered such unrest in Haiti.
He believes team members were strengthened by the experience.
“These things grow your faith. There was never a point when the group … reacted with a spirt of panic,” Middleton said. “The Lord kept us in the eye of the storm.” A leader in Haiti who partners with Louisiana Baptists risked his life to walk to the Croix-des-Bouquets compound almost daily from July 7-10, he said, where Louisiana Baptists sheltered in place with perhaps 90 Southern Baptists on mission from other states.
James Jenkins, church planting director of the Louisiana Baptist Convention, was driving to Shreveport when he spoke with Baptist Press around noon today.
“It was calm” when the team left Port-au-Prince, he said, where riots days earlier had left four Haitians dead and forced officials to close the airport over the weekend. “We left very early in the morning. The roadblocks were open.”
With their mission outreach only active one day before rioting began, team members were resolute and resolved to return to the island on future mission trips, said Jenkins, pastor of Baptist Bible Fellowship in Shreveport.
“I think for the most part, most are ready to go back,” Jenkins said. “I can speak for me; I’m going to go back.”
Robert Bailey Post Jr., minister of missions at The Glade Church in Mt. Juliet, Tenn., arrived safely home around 9 p.m. July 9 with his team of seven. In Haiti, the team served at My Life Speaks ministries in Neply, alongside a mission team from Woodland Community Church in Bradenton, Fla. The Florida team also arrived safely home, the church reported on Facebook.
In Neply, the team was safe from danger and “didn’t feel the effects of the riots,” Post said. The team led several Bible studies and a soccer camp daily, he said.
“When they got back their spirits were high and they were encouraged,” Post said. While Neply is only 20 miles from Port-au-Prince, poor road conditions and congestion in Haiti made the trip to the airport two hours long, Post said.
Other teams safely back in the U.S. are from North Albermarle Baptist Church, Albermarle, N.C.; First Baptist Church, Russellville, Ala.; and Faith Community Church (SBC) Trussville, Ala. GracePointe Church in Douglas, Ga., planned to return around 10 p.m. July 10, the church said on its website.
See BP’s earlier story on the status of the mission teams in Haiti.