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WEEK 15: Silsby trial begins; prayer urged

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (BP)–An Idaho pastor who spent nearly three weeks in a Haiti prison is urging Christians to pray for jailed Baptist volunteer Laura Silsby, whose trial began May 13 and who will complete her 15th full week in prison this weekend.

Paul Thompson, Silsby and eight other Baptists were arrested Jan. 30 in Haiti on charges of child kidnapping because they allegedly did not have the proper documentation to cross into the Dominican Republic, where they were taking 33 children to an orphanage that was being started. Thompson and the rest of the group have been freed and are back in the U.S., but Silsby — the group leader — remains in jail.

Prosecutor Sonel Jean-Francois told the judge that Silsby knew she was breaking the law and he recommended she spend six months in jail. The time she has served in prison might count toward that, according to various reports.

Silsby maintained her innocence. The trial in the earthquake-ravaged city took place in a tent.

“I just want to remind people to not forget to pray,” Thompson, pastor of Eastside Baptist Church in Twin Falls, Idaho, told Baptist Press. “Laura has been in jail more than 100 days now. Pray for her wellbeing. Pray for her spiritual strength. Pray for her family. Pray for the judge and pray for the lawyers.”

Thompson and the others contend they were innocent and were simply trying to help children and that they had the paperwork Haiti officials told them to have.

“I don’t know what they are referring to when they say she knew she was breaking the law,” Thompson said. “Every attempt was being made in the process to abide by and to follow every law that we were aware of.”

Child kidnapping charges were dropped against all 10. Silsby is being tried on the ill-defined charge of “irregular travel.”

Friday was a day off for the trial, which apparently will restart Monday or Tuesday. A verdict could come within days.

Silsby read the Bible for much of the trial, the Associated Press reported.

“One week after the earthquake I left my family and my home to help children that had been orphaned in the earthquake,” Silsby said, according to AP. “We came here with a heart to help.”

Last month Thompson released a statement urging concerned citizens to pray for Silsby and also to contact their senators, the State Department and the White House and urge them to work for her release. Senators’ numbers are available through Senate.gov. The State Department switchboard number is 202-647-4000, and the White House comment line is 202-456-1111.

“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,'” Thompson said.

Silsby is a member of Central Valley Baptist Church in Meridian, Idaho.
Michael Foust is an editor of Baptist Press.

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  • Michael Foust