PORT AU PRINCE – Haiti is a popular country for short-term missions trips because its needs are great and it is a relatively short distance for small church groups. As the pastor of a church in Mt. Juliet, Tennessee, said, “We want to serve the Haitians with compassion and offer real hope.” That pretty well describes the short-term trips sponsored and taken to Haiti by churches across the southeastern United States.
This week, many of those groups got an opportunity they weren’t expecting. They are unable to leave due to riots in parking lots, streets, and highways.
The riots began to break out late last week after fuel prices skyrocketed. Diesel and kerosene rose 51%. Gasoline prices increased by 38 percent to about $5.00 per liter or the equivalent of $20.00 per gallon. As outrageous as that amount would be in the United States, it puts gasoline financially out of reach for Haitians where the average annual minimum wage is $817 USD.
Although no injuries have been reported and a few of the many teams have managed to leave, others have been advised by the U.S. Embassy to shelter in place until calm is restored. Some of the protesters are reportedly armed and shooting their weapons into the air.
Obstacles, including burning cars, tires, and mattresses are littering the highway making it impossible to travel to the airport. Many flights have been canceled. There have been reports that rioters were manning some of the barriers and demanding ‘tolls’ for vehicle wishing to pass. To do so, however, could easily lead to a group being caught between that barrier and the next, unable to move very far in either direction.
A group of 10 adults and two teenagers from a church in Albermarle, North Carolina, has taken refuge in an orphanage.
The group from Mt. Juliet arranged for a helicopter to transport them to the airport.
A group from the Charleston, South Carolina area had a frightening experience when they heard multiple gunshots and saw armed men approaching the place where they had taken shelter.
The government has relented and rescinded the price hike, but it could take several days to clear the roads.
American Airlines, JetBlue, and Spirit Airlines have temporarily canceled their flights to Haiti.
Pray that the rioting will end, that the mission teams will return safely, and that the situation will be one in which the Lord is glorified through them.
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