A United Methodist Volunteers-In-Mission team from the Detroit Conference has landed in the Bahamas after being safely airlifted from Jeremie, Haiti, this afternoon (Monday, Jan. 18). The 17-member team, led by the Rev. Don Gotham, pastor of St. Clair: First United Methodist Church, has been in Haiti since January 1 and was stranded in Jeremie following the earthquake that devastated Port-au-Prince and its surrounding areas.
“We are grateful that we got our team safely out of Haiti, and the flights that came in to get them were able to leave relief materials for the people of Jeremie,” said the Rev. Dr. Jerome (Jerry) DeVine, Detroit Conference Director of Connectional Ministries. “The effort to get the team home was a close collaboration between Detroit Conference leadership, family members, and an extended network.”
The team was airlifted from Haiti by three planes from Bahamas Habitat (www.bahamashabitat.org), a United States-based Christian non-profit organization that provides housing and disaster relief in the Bahamas. Bahamas Habitat has been running airlift operations with volunteer aviators between the Bahamas and Haiti since January 15, delivering relief supplies and evacuating missionaries and mission teams.
In addition to Bahamas Habitat, the team was also supported by the office of Senator Carl Levin (D-Michigan), which was coordinating with Detroit Conference officials for ways to support the evacuation of the team from Haiti. The North Central Jurisdictional United Methodist Volunteers-In-Mission Coordinator, Lorna Jost, also aided in the effort by putting the conference office in contact with Bahamas Habitat to airlift the team out of Haiti.
The Rev. Paul Doherty, chair of the Michigan Area Haiti Task Force, contacted the families of team members to notify the safety of their loved ones once the airlift took place. The Rev. Joanne Bartelt, Port Huron District Superindentent, will be coordinating post-trip counseling for the team members once they return home.
The VIM team was in Haiti to work with the Methodist Church of Haiti on the construction and painting of a school in Jeremie. The team also delivered medical supplies to a clinic and planted fruit trees. The team was originally scheduled to depart Port-au-Prince on January 16, but travel between Jeremie to Port-au-Prince became impossible after the earthquake rendered roads between the two cities impassable.
The team is scheduled to arrive on several flights at Detroit Metropolitan Airport on Tuesday (Jan. 19). No further details are available at this time.
About the Detroit Conference
The Detroit Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church is made up of 450 churches, 730 clergy members and approximately 100,000 lay members. The conference is headquartered in Flint, Mich., and includes all United Methodist Churches in Michigan's Upper Peninsula and the eastern half of Michigan's Lower Peninsula.
The Detroit Conference has had a long-standing relationship with the Methodist Church in Haiti and supports it with financial support and Volunteers-In-Mission teams in collaboration with the Michigan Area Task Force and the West Michigan Conference.