Student missionaries evacuated safely

Published 6:00 am Monday, January 18, 2010

A Florida-based team of student missionaries with ties toBrookhaven returned to the U.S. from earthquake-ravaged HaitiSaturday morning with the help of the U.S. Army and a team ofAmerican mercenaries.

Brookhaven native Jamie Rutland Grosshans, 32, said her15-year-old sister-in-law Faith Grosshans was part of a team fromFirst Baptist Winter Garden, near Orlando, Fla., that returnedsafely Saturday morning with the help of politicians, diplomats,the military and private military contractors. The 44 studentmissionaries form across the Orlando area had been stranded in thetown of Leogane, near the capital Port-au-Prince, when Tuesday’s7.0 magnitude earthquake spread ruin across the island nation.

“They had to move inland the first night because of tsunamiwarnings, and the aftershocks were so bad they couldn’t sleep inany buildings,” Grosshans said. “They didn’t want to take the kidsthrough Port-au-Prince to get to the airport. The city is so scaryright now.”

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Help arrived Friday.

The students were choppered to safety in the Dominican Republicaboard Blackhawk helicopters flown by the Army and private militarycontractors. They were flown back to Orlando International Airporton a chartered Boeing 737 before dawn Saturday.

The group was working with New Missions, a children-focusedChristian mission, since last Sunday. Several Orlando-area mediacovered the students’ return to OIA to joyous crowds in thepre-dawn hours Saturday.

“They said it was like something from a movie,” said Grosshans,who met her sister-in-law and other students at the airport. “(Themilitary) came in and extracted them out in five minutes.”

Grosshans said the group was participating in a shoebox ministryin which 10,000 shoeboxes filled with necessities and treats weredistributed to Haitian children. None of the student missionarieswere injured by the quake, though several teachers and students atthe mission’s schools were killed.

Across the country, an estimated 50,000 people were killed, andthat number is expected to rise as rubble is cleared away.

Grosshans said Faith and the other student missionaries were sadto leave during the country’s greatest time of need.

“She has such a love for the people, and she said she would goback tomorrow,” she said.