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Pastor who was in Haiti jail speaks out, asks for help

TWIN FALLS, Idaho (BP)–A Southern Baptist pastor from Idaho who was held in a Haiti jail for nearly three weeks has issued a plea for prayer for Laura Silsby — the lone member of that original group of 10 still in prison — as well as a request that concerned citizens contact their senators, the State Department and the White House and ask that they work for her release.

Paul Thompson, pastor of Eastside Baptist Church in Twin Falls, Idaho, told Baptist Press that Silsby “has been a consistent minister to the other inmates,” sharing Creole Bibles and even food and water, but made clear he believes the group was “falsely accused and arrested” Jan. 30 in Port-au-Prince on charges of child kidnapping. Although the other nine have since been released and are back in the U.S., Silsby — the group leader — has been in jail for nearly 10 weeks and faces a new charge. Her supporters fear the charge could keep her in jail for an indefinite period of time due to Haiti’s slow-moving legal system.

“On behalf of Laura Silsby I invite you to call your U.S. Senators, the U.S. State Department, and President Barack Obama requesting them to engage with the Haitian government for her immediate release,” Thompson told BP in a statement to be circulated.

Thompson and the others were charged with not having the proper documents to take children from the earthquake-ravaged country to an orphanage being started in the Dominican Republic.

He told Baptist Press that since their arrest, one border guard and about 10 inmates have accepted Christ. Some of those decisions have come through Silsby’s testimony.

Prayer for Silsby is particularly needed, Thompson said.

“I am thankful for everything God has done and is doing in my life as a result of this,” Thompson said. “Laura Silsby, director of New Life Children’s Refuge, remains in jail and I am asking that followers of Christ everywhere continue to pray for her release. I am confident that God is in control. I invite you to join me in continued prayer for all relief efforts in Haiti, the judge, Laura’s safety and release, and her family.”

More Creole Bibles were delivered to Silsby this week to distribute to fellow inmates, Thompson said.

“The church in Haiti continues to visit Laura on a regular basis, bringing her food, water and other necessary items,” Thompson said, adding she has had enough water and food to share with fellow inmates. “God has been kind and generous through His people to provide. I invite you to engage with us in all appropriate ways that God would lead you to ask for her release. She is a sister in the Lord, ready to return home to her family, yet satisfied to minister to the people God has placed her with. I invite you to live Hebrews 13:3 with me and ‘Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them.’ Will you use this reminder of Laura still being in jail to pray for followers of Christ everywhere who are in a jail suffering with joy for the name of Christ?”

Haitian law requires that prisoners be fed by outsiders, and Silsby is no exception, Thompson said.

“There was a period about six days into our arrest where the jail began to provide one meal a day for us,” he said. “But that is no longer taking place. She is on the dependency of people to bring food to her.”

Thompson listed several specific prayer requests for Silsby:

— her continued ministry among the inmates and guard.

— her family back home (children, parents, brother, sister).

— her release.

— that she will see “the hand of Almighty God behind the bars” and that “she will be used to display that glory to the watching world.”
Michael Foust is an assistant editor of Baptist Press. The State Department switchboard number is 202-647-4000. The White House comment line is 202-456-1111. Senators’ numbers are available through Senate.gov. Visit Thompson’s website, http://bridgebloggin.blogspot.com/, to read additional thoughts about his time in jail.

    About the Author

  • Michael Foust