64 Bangor-area residents caught in Honduran coup

Posted June 28, 2009, at 10:40 p.m.

BANGOR, Maine — Members of a youth missionary group from Bangor are among Americans currently in Honduras, where a military coup on Sunday overthrew the government of President Manuel Zalaya.

Under the leadership of the Rev. James Haddix and the Rev. Renee Garrett of All Souls Congregational Church, 64 young people and supervising adults are staying at a missionary training center, Campo Monte Carmelo, about 10 kilometers north of the Honduran capital of Tegucigalpa.

Most of those in the group are members of All Souls, but a few belong to other Bangor-area churches, including St. John’s Episcopal Church. All Souls has been leading the youth mission trips to Honduras for several years.

The mission group this year includes James Haddix and his wife, Fay-Ellen, and Renee Garrett and her husband, the Rev. Rex Garrett. The team is focused on building homes in Honduran villages as well as staffing medical clinics and leading Bible study groups.

At a meeting and prayer service at All Souls on Sunday evening, the Rev. Robert Carlson, who is filling in at the church while Haddix is in Honduras, read an e-mail from Renee Garrett that had been sent earlier that afternoon.

The message was upbeat and reassuring, indicating that there was no evidence of violence and that the airport was reportedly open with all airlines operating. The group, which is now staying at the mission camp and not venturing into the countryside, is scheduled to leave Honduras this Wednesday and be back in Bangor on Thursday.

“We are doing our best to be God’s hands and feet here in all that we say and do,” Garrett said. “Please continue to pray for our well-being and safe travels in the days ahead.”

Group members have very limited access to telephone or computer communications, Carlson said after the meeting.

Carlson said he was in the church office preparing for Sunday’s 10 a.m. service when he answered a phone call from Garrett apprising him of the military coup. She assured him that everyone was safe and that there was no immediate danger to the group. Carlson broke the news to the congregation during the 10 a.m. service, af-ter first initiating a “telephone tree” system to notify families of group members and then contacting the offices of Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins.

At the Sunday evening gathering, meeting moderator Janet McIntosh read a statement from Collins saying she had provided names and passport numbers of all group members to the U.S. Embassy in Tegucigalpa.

“The situation is being monitored very closely and they cannot predict if the airport will remain open,” Collins said. She included a direct telephone number for a U.S. Citizen’s Services official at the embassy and said she will be receiving regular e-mail updates.

In a statement issued to the press Sunday evening, Snowe said that she too is working with the U.S. Embassy to ensure safe passage home for the Maine residents.

Carlson assured those at the meeting that they would be kept apprised of all developments. The mission group, he said, may be far away in miles, “but they are not separated by a nanosecond from the spirit of a loving god.”

The meeting concluded with the reading of the names of all 64 members of the group.

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