Riots delay Lowell missionaries’ return from Haiti

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GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — West Michigan missionaries are hunkered down in Haiti after protesters set fires and blocked roads, preventing people from leaving the country.

At least three people died during protests over gas prices.

Though the airport was open again Monday, a group from a Lowell church was still stuck at a secure hotel. All of them are safe.

“The group is honestly doing really, really well,” one of the Impact Church mission leaders, Shay Bogear, told 24 Hour News 8 in a video call. “Everyone is in great spirits. They are taking it in stride like champs. We are not leaving the hotel premises, but we got a little bit of room to walk around and there is a restaurant.”

Twenty people from Impact Church have been in Haiti for the last week on a mission trip, working to provide filtered water for a village.

The group was ready to head home Sunday, but days before, the Haitian president announced he was planning to raise fuel prices substantially. That would mean that the majority of the people wouldn’t be able to afford to get to work or anywhere else that required a car. Protests began Friday with fires, followed by looting and people blocking roads with whatever they had. 

Roads are blocked surrounding the resort in Carries where the Lowell missionaries are staying.

“They are not a violent people. This is a crazy circumstance,” said Dustin Stephens, a mission partner with Grand Rapids-based Haiti aid nonprofit Starfysh.

Stephens is about five miles away from the resort. He said he tried to check on the group, but was stopped in less than a mile because the roads were still blocked.

“I don’t think there is any real danger at all for anybody as long as they are staying in their homes and not going out in the streets,” Stephens said.

Protests have calmed and the Haitian president decided not to raise fuel prices.

“I think our hearts just break for them and what they are going through as a county,” Bogear said.

The group plans to fly home to West Michigan Tuesday. They will have to drive more than an hour to get to the airport in Port-au-Prince.

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