HARTWELL — Members of the community gathered at Mt. Olivet Baptist Church here early Saturday evening to pray for a church mission team waiting out violence in Haiti over gas prices.
Pastor Jason Webb and 21 others from the church were scheduled to return home today. However, after deadly rioting broke out Friday those plans were put on hold.
“They’re absolutely safe and staying in a mission compound,” Associate Pastor Caleb Bond told The Index. “The riots are down the road from them.”
At the gathering, people from throughout the area prayed and heard from Webb through FaceTime.
Earlier today an alert from the U.S. Embassy told the group and all other American citizens to stay put due to the violence. That announcement described roadblocks continuing to appear through the city manned by people throwing rocks. Some of the roadblocks, it stated, were kept by armed demonstrators who would shoot at vehicles trying to run through.
Team held VBS, medical clinic for hundreds
The mission team, comprised of adults and one sixth-grader, had spent the week leading Vacation Bible School at an orphanage, conducting evangelism, and having a medical clinic that helped more than 340 people, said Bond. “The team is positive right now, even if there’s a little bit of fear,” he admitted. “But, in the spirit of 2 Corinthians 4:17-18 they see this as temporary affliction to glorify God. That’s been Jason’s passage and they have full faith in God’s plan.”
Earlier last week, an announced price hike in fuel raised gasoline by 38 percent, diesel prices to 47 percent, and kerosene 51 percent higher. After protests left at least three dead, including one beaten to death, Prime Minister Jack Guy Lafontant announced today a temporary stop to the measures in an effort to bring calm.
CNN reported that earlier a crowd of demonstrators attempted to breach and set fire to a hotel holding an estimated 120 American and 100 Haitian guests. However, there have been no reports of injuries among Americans in the country.
Bond added how the team, obviously, had no way of knowing when it left last Saturday what awaited them toward the end of their stay. By Friday it became apparent unrest was growing, and thus word came back to Hartwell. A return flight home is scheduled for tomorrow afternoon at 4:50, Bond said, but it all depends on safety levels.
“They have a two-hour drive to the airport in Port Au Prince,” he said. “But if the riots are still going on, they won’t be able to get there.”