Volunteers from churches in Florida, South Carolina, Georgia and Alabama were stranded this weekend in Haiti as protests over fuel costs left flights grounded.
The group from Woodland Community Church in Bradenton, which includes about 18 teens, plus ministers and a handful of parents, are now on their way home.
17-year-old Brianna Knighting was supposed to return home Saturday night after the mission trip, which involved community projects and helping with a youth soccer camp through “my LIFE speaks,” a nonprofit organization that promotes mission trips to Haiti.
But the roads to the Port-Au-Prince airport were blocked by people protesting a sharp hike in fuel prices. So the group returned to Neply where they were volunteering.
Evan Knighting, Brianna's father, said while he wishes his daughter could have come home sooner, “we were also just kind of, to come extent, to realize they weren't in harm's way directly, and they made the right decision to just head back to the village.”
U.S. officials later warned that getting to an airport could be risky. On Sunday, the U.S. State Department issued an alert urging its citizens on the island to shelter in place and avoid the airport unless travelers had confirmed their departing flight was taking off.
Some comments on the church's Facebook page - in light of the looting, arson and other forms of protest in Haiti - suggested the mission trip was a mistake.
But the church – and Knighting - disagree. He said his daughter was never in any immediate danger.
"You hear a lot about, ‘Why do people do to some of these locations? Why would we send a mission team from our church there?' Our answer is we’re called to go, called to be in service to people,” Knighting said.
“There's probably a lot of places in the United States that I would almost be more cautious to send my daughter than to send her back to Haiti.”
Knighting said his daughter is now expected to return home Monday night, but her group may be split up between flights, with some coming home Tuesday.