Sunday Service Remembers Missionaries Held In Haiti

As the congregation of Central Valley Baptist Church near Boise, Idaho, gathered for Sunday services, their thoughts and prayers were with ten church missionaries being held in Haiti. The Idaho group has been charged with trying to take Haitian children out of the country illegally.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

And now the latest on those 10 Baptist missionaries who are being held in Haiti. Theyll appear before a judge today. And he may consider their request to return to the U.S. while they await trial on kidnapping charges. The missionaries were arrested for trying to leave the country with a group of Haitian children.

A number of them are associated with the Central Valley Baptist Church, just outside Boise, Idaho. NPRs Jeff Brady spent the weekend in Boise gauging local opinion.

JEFF BRADY: The Sunday sermon at the church was a simple one, based on the 23rd Psalm and designed to comfort the congregation. Afterwards, worshipers filed out the front doors, declining requests to talk with reporters. Senior Pastor Clint Henry later held a press conference.

Pastor CLINT HENRY (Central Valley Baptist Church): Though we do not know exactly what transpired down in Haiti, we know that we care for those that we -that find themselves in this hour of need. Were going to continue to pray around the clock not only for the safety of our people, but for a quick resolution.

BRADY: Henry also thanked U.S. Senator Jim Risch, from Idaho, for calling and encouraging members of the church while they wait for news.

(Soundbite of chime)

A few miles away at a store that sells used children's clothing, owner Nancy Batine(ph) also is waiting for news about the missionaries. She first met Laura Silsby last summer. Silsby is the Boise woman who led the group of missionaries down to Haiti after the earthquake. Batine says even last summer, Silsby was talking about helping Haitian children.

Ms. NANCY BATINE: She was just passionately driven about opening an orphanage in the Dominican Republic.

BRADY: Batine says she started donating supplies for Silsbys effort. Then shortly after the earthquake Batine says Silsby decided to take a group of missionaries down to Haiti.

Ms. BATINE: Because of the earthquake, they were going to really speed things up. And they were going down on more of a rescue mission to, you know, see if they could save some of these orphans.

BRADY: Batine says a few weeks later, she came home, turned on the news, and saw Silsby and her group had been arrested on kidnapping charges.

Ms. BATINE: I thought, oh my gosh. She had told me that they had permission from the Dominican Republic to bring the children in there to the temporary housing that they had gotten at the hotel. She said they have permission to bring the children in, never said anything about taking them out of Haiti. And, you know, I didnt even question that.

BRADY: Batine says shes still feels like Silsbys heart was in the right place. She has no doubt that all she wanted to do was help those children.

(Soundbite of noise)

BRADY: Outside a nearby grocery store, shoppers like Mary Ricksbee(ph) are less generous when it comes to Silsbee.

Ms. MARY RICKSBEE: Well, it sounds to me like the woman thats in charge wasnt entirely honest, and that some of these other people probably got caught up in something that they arent really responsible for.

BRADY: Attitudes toward Silsby seemed to change after the local newspaper, the Idaho Statesman, ran stories critical of Silsby. Apparently, she had some financial difficulties; past employees of her personal shopping business sued for back wages; and Silsbys house was foreclosed on last fall. Now, it seems, public sympathies are with those who followed Silsby down to Haiti. Heres Regina Einsley(ph) of Meridian, Idaho.

Ms. REGINA EINSLEY: They were kind of duped, and I just feel bad for them. Because, I just feel everybody needs to be rewarded for their good deeds and these people are being punished for their good deeds.

BRADY: Later today in Port-au-Prince, a judge has scheduled a hearing, where he may consider the missionaries' request to be sent back to the U.S., pending their trial.

Jeff Brady, NPR News, Boise.

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