A group of volunteers from a Chapin church is stranded in Haiti, where violent protests and civil unrest prompted airlines to cancel flights off the Caribbean nation.
“Please continue to pray for the nation of Haiti and for the mission teams including one from Chapin UMC,” Chapin United Methodist Church said in a Facebook post Sunday morning. “Our team is safe. Please pray they can return home soon!”
Violent protests in response to an announced sharp hike in fuel prices have rocked the nation since Friday, even after Haiti’s president suspended the fuel hike. The unrest forced U.S. airlines to cancel their flights out of the country, stranding many — including the group of roughly a dozen volunteers from the Chapin church.
“They’re perfectly safe,” Marcy Kenny, assimilation minister for the church, said Sunday afternoon. “They’re just waiting for things to die down a little bit and for flights to resume.”
The Chapin group, comprised mostly of high school-age students and young adults, left June 30 from Atlanta on Delta Airlines and planned to return to the U.S. on Saturday, according to Kenny. After the unrest broke out, they had hoped to catch a flight home Sunday, but some of the roads are still blocked.
“It just wasn’t completely safe to go yet,” Kenny said.
A Delta spokesperson said Sunday that flights in and out of Haiti have resumed. However, it was not immediately clear when the Chapin group might leave.
The U.S. Embassy in Haiti said in a release Sunday afternoon that demonstrations, roadblocks and violence are ongoing, and that U.S. citizens should continue to shelter in place.
“Do not travel to the airport unless you confirmed your flight is departing,” the release states. “Flights are canceled today and the airport has limited food and water available. Telecommunications services, including Internet and phone lines, have been affected throughout Haiti. It may be difficult to reach people through normal communication methods.”
At least three people have died and two police stations have been set on fire in the violence that erupted Friday, The Miami Herald reports.
The church spent the past week working with other church groups and Mission of Hope Haiti, a nonprofit that provides a variety of services in the impoverished nation including education, nutrition, healthcare and orphan care. The Chapin group has remained safely in the Mission of Hope compound amid the unrest and Kenny said they are staying in contact with Mission of Hope and the Chapin United Methodist staff member who is leading their group.
“They were just singing worship songs and having a good time together and enjoying each other’s company,” she said. “The parents, I’m sure, are extremely concerned and extremely worried about the safety of their kids. We all have our hope in Jesus. That’s where we know the Lord will protect them.”
As turmoil continued in Haiti on Sunday, some 1,200 miles away, those worshiping at Chapin United Methodist prayed not just for the safety of their members, but for peace in the country. Kenny noted that last week they had a special patriotic service to celebrate the Independence Day holiday.
“This is just a big eye opener that not every country is as free as we are and subject to quite a bit of violence and turmoil that we seem so far removed from,” she said.
People protest over the cost of fuel in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Friday, July 6, 2018. Major protests erupted Friday in Haiti as the government announced a sharp increase in gasoline prices, with demonstrators using burning tires and barricades to block major streets across the capital and in the northern city of Cap-Haitien. Dieu Nalio Chery AP Photo