MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — A church group on a mission trip is hoping to be allowed to leave Honduras early next week.
Sixteen members of the Morgantown Church of Christ landed in Honduras Saturday, March 14, to help the hungry, build houses and work on orphanages but soon the delegation received frantic messages from people back in West Virginia to make arrangements to back to the United State immediately due to the COVID-19 crisis.
John Sausen, a retired Morgantown-based architect, is on the trip and he’s been communicating with his son, Garrett Sausen, in Morgantown. The younger Sausen said their efforts to quickly arrange travel back to the U.S. was complicated when Honduran President Juan Jose Orlando Hernández announced a full border closure for seven days last Monday.
“Everyone there is safe, no one is in immediate danger, no one is injured or anything. They have food and they’re in safe place,” Garrett Sausen said. “The challenge is just getting them back.”
“They’re well-fed, they’re happy and they’re hanging out. The country is on lockdown, so they aren’t able to do what they went there to do,” Sausen said.
Some members of a ladies soccer team and diplomats were able to get back to the U.S., but officials from the State Department told them there were no plans for additional military flights out of Honduras.
Sausen told WAJR News U.S. Senators Joe Manchin and Shelley Moore Capito are working with the State Department.
“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,” Manchin spokesperson Sam Runyon said. “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.”
Senator Capito’s office released the following statement:
“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. 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 Capito said.
The group is hoping the border will reopen at the end of the ordered 7-day shutdown.