By JOHN B. BRYANand TOMMY BRYANThe Wilson Post
A mission team from two Lebanon-based churches have found themselves stranded in Honduras awaiting that country’s political unrest to ease long enough for the return trip home.
As of Tuesday, the airport in Tegucigalpa, Honduras remained closed as government soldiers lined the runways not allowing flights in or out of the country.
Nine volunteers from Immanuel Baptist Church and two from Crossroads Community Church left for the mission trip Monday, June 29 and were set to return Monday, July 6.
Due to that country’s political upheaval, the return trip has been postponed until possibly later this week.
Planned as a medical /evangelistic mission trip, members of the 11-person team were to help doctors and nurses care for impoverished village people.
Evangelism was planned in the villages and with the natives as they awaited medical treatment.
Those on the trip from Immanuel include Rachel and Chad Lanning, Travis and Trina Johnson, Eleanor Gibbs, Stephanie Ruckman, Jean Prior, Bobby Hall and Linda Wilcox.
The members from Crossroads on the trip are Mallory Cook and Phil Johnsey. Cook, a nursing student at Cumberland University and the daughter of Randy and Jenny Lee Cook of Lebanon, was one of two team members contacted by this newspaper via Facebook.
“We are at the mission house in the capital city Tegucigalpa. Our group from Lebanon is stuck here until at least Thursday morning when we head out for San Pedro Sula to get a flight leaving at 2 o’clock and should land back in Nashville at midnight Thursday night,” Cook said.
“As of right now we are very much well taken care of. The airport here in the capital is shut down indefinitely. We were supposed to be home last (Monday) night at midnight…now it is Thursday night.”
Rachel Lanning, a registered nurse, said while current plans are for the group to fly out on Thursday, she worries about the four-hour drive to another airport in nearby San Pedro.
“We have switched flights to fly out of San Pedro’s airport on Thursday at 5 a.m. which is a four-hour drive…I worry about the drive and road blocks on the way,” she said.
Both women reported the team was being well-fed and passing time at the mission house playing board games and communicating with family and friends via Internet.
“Our adult team was united on going to Honduras when they heard about the coup while in Miami, Fla,”said pastor John Hunn of Immanuel Baptist Church. “Had this been a team of students we would have brought them home. I am inspired by the encouraging reports we are receiving from this team.
“Obviously, they are dealing with a situation that demands extreme flexibility and patience. When we get communiqués from the team they speak about how God is changing lives, not how difficult it has been to get home.
“Our family of faith at Immanuel has been faithful to unite with our team from afar in prayer. I do look forward to praising the Lord when our mission team returns to American soil. My hope is that all believers in Jesus will find ways to get the message of Christ to all nations, developed and undeveloped,” Hunn added.
“Crossroads has always been a church with both a local and global missions’ vision,” said Randy Cook, pastor at Crossroads Community Church.
“We realize that there will be times when things in other countries may seem unstable but we will approach each situation with care and caution. We felt that this situation was okay since Phil Johnsey was already on the ground in Honduras.“We anticipate the team will be back on Thursday, three days later than scheduled. The airport was closed and that postponed them leaving on Monday as they were supposed to,” Cook added.
The airport Cook is speaking of is in the capital city of Honduras and was shut down after Honduras President José Manuel Zelaya Rosales was seized by government soldiers, acting on the orders of the Honduran Supreme Court and taken to an air force base.
Honduran radio station HRN reported that Zelaya had been sent into exile. He was flown to Costa Rica and dropped off there.
Zelaya has attempted to return to the country but troops at the airport have not allowed his plane to land.
“It is a terrible situation, a dangerous impasse. In the 1970s we had groups of guerrillas but they were always isolated, the country never felt in danger of civil war. Today there is the risk because both sides have a wide social base, they are completely polarized and they have weapons and resources.” said Rodolfo Pastor Fasquel, culture minister in the ousted government, on a BBC website.
According to the website, the interim government said if Zelaya did manage to return he would be arrested for 18 alleged criminal acts including treason and corruption.
The interim government also said it was prepared to hunker down until November when a presidential election would select a new leader - under the constitution Zelaya cannot run for a second term - and supposedly end the crisis.
Jarrod Brown, president and co-founder of Mission Lazarus in Honduras, keeps an update on events in Honduras through his website www.missionlaza-rus.org.
Mission Lazarus is a holistic ministry that focuses on basic primary education, skill development, health education and treatment, agricultural development, and preaching and teaching the Word of God. Brown’s efforts are supported by Lebanon’s College Hills Church of Christ.
Brown sent his wife and children back to the United States last week along with several interns working at the mission.
He is presently on-site at the mission with his father Bill Brown and gives detailed updates on the happenings in the country.
In one blog update, Brown writes, “Raining really hard right now. All has been calm today. Large military road block on the edge of Choluteca…they are primarily looking for foreigners who want to support the ousted president. Tomorrow the ousted president will be meeting with Hillary Clinton in Washington. This seems like its going to drag on forever.”