BRIDGEPORT, W.Va. (WDTV) -- UPDATE 3/26/2020 - 12:15 p.m.
A group of 16 church members from Morgantown is about to leave Honduras to come home after days of uncertainty surrounding when they might get a flight out of the country.
A group of missionaries from a Morgantown church are stuck in the capital city of Honduras with no telling when they'll be home as the country closed its borders to contain the coronavirus. (Photo: Kyle Andrew Di Giandomenico)
The Honduran government closed all borders to contain the coronavirus after the group landed for a weeklong mission trip. The border closure was lifted Sunday.
The group from the Morgantown Church of Christ had a flight scheduled for Tuesday, but it was canceled.
Today, they're expected to board their long-awaited flight home. One member of the group tells 5 News they made it through airport security and are waiting to fly out of the country this afternoon.
ORIGINAL STORY 03/20/20 - 4:00 p.m.
It started as a weeklong missionary trip to the Central American country of Honduras.
The group of 16 members of the Morgantown Church of Christ went to work at an orphanage, serve meals, build six houses, and help get work started on a daycare center.
But one hour after landing in the country's capital of Tegucigalpa, their trip to serve became a scramble to get out.
"Our local contact told us we should turn around and go back home as soon as possible," said Dennis Allen, one of the church members.
The Honduran government closed all borders - air, land, and sea.
"It's been very taxing on us emotionally and mentally," said Richard Moore, another church member on the trip. "It's been very taxing on our families back home. We try to keep them reassured that everything's okay, but it's hard when you're a few thousand miles away."
They say they've had little luck communicating with the U.S. Embassy or airline that got them here.
They're not the only ones stuck in the developing country.
A women's tackle football team is also trying to get home. The only difference? Many of them have.
American Football Events Team USA, a semi-pro nonprofit team of 55 members, said 25 of their 55 members got a flight home with embassy personnel at an air force base.
"My question is, what makes us different from a football team?" Moore said.
The church group was able to make arrangements for a flight home next Tuesday, but there are no guarantees. The government's initial border closure was scheduled to last for seven days, but that could still change.
West Virginia's congressional delegation is working with the church members now to ensure they can get to the airport safely, and their flight will be allowed to enter and leave the country.
"If we don't get out of here Tuesday, I don't know when we'll get out of here," Moore said.
Through the chaos and confusion, the group still managed to accomplish some of their missionary work, building one house and serving hundreds of meals.
"A week or two of foods in the forms of rice, beans, and pasta, we were able to deliver those," Allen said.
The group has members from 13 to 73 years old. They're all healthy and say their faith is getting through.
"From a spiritual standpoint, it has been a really good growing time for us," Moore said. "Sometimes God's will isn't our will. And we've come to accept that."
Senators Capito and Manchin released statements regarding their work to get the group home:
“My office has heard from these constituents that are on a mission trip in Honduras and are having trouble getting flights home to West Virginia due to actions taken by the country in response to the coronavirus outbreak," Capito said.
"I am concerned for the group, but my office has been in touch with them directly to help. I have also asked for the State Department’s help on this and I will continue to stay on top of the issue.
"These actions taken by the Honduras government are to help stop the spread of this virus. In the meantime, my focus is to make sure all West Virginians are safe and healthy during this time of uncertainty."
“Senator Manchin’s office has been in contact with the mission group from Morgantown and his staff is working around the clock to find a way to bring them home. This includes communicating with the Department of Defense and Department of State to exhaust all available options. We will stay in close contact with this group until they are safely returned home,” said Manchin spokesperson Sam Runyon.