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New Jersey church rejoices that Haiti mission team is safe

Leaders of Trinity United Methodist Church in Hackettstown, N.J., gather in prayer after learning that a mission team from the church was safe following the Haiti earthquake. UMNS photos by Robert Sciarrino/The Star-Ledger.

A UMNS Report
By Kathy Gilbert and Joey Butler*

11:45 AM EST Jan. 14, 2010

Congregants applaud after receiving
word that a mission team from
the church was unharmed.

They worried. They prayed. And then members of a United Methodist church in Hackettstown, N.J., rejoiced that members of their mission team in Haiti were safe, even as they continued to grieve and pray for the thousands who died following a massive earthquake.

More than 400 people filled the sanctuary at Trinity United Methodist Church in prayer for all those affected by the earthquake, including mission volunteers from the congregation at a Haiti orphanage.

“We had an amazing service last night,” said Louise Spender, assistant for the Rev. Frank Fowler, pastor of Trinity and mission team leader. “We stood hand-in-hand and sang and prayed. It was an amazing, spirit-filled service.”

The prayer service was at 7 p.m. Jan. 13. At 10:30 p.m., they received word that the team had safely evacuated from Haiti and was staying overnight in the Bahamas. They hoped to return to the U.S. today or tomorrow.

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News has been hard to get from the team but Fowler was able to borrow a phone from a CNN reporter the morning after the quake to call the church and report everyone was safe.

"We are all thankful that they are safe, that family and friends are well and not hurt," Karen Fowler, the pastor's wife, told the Newark Star-Ledger. "But we are still grieving for our brothers and sisters in Haiti and for the children found there."

Spender said the church found out the team was at an orphanage outside of Port-au-Prince when the quake hit. They spent the night outside on Tuesday and took a school bus from the orphanage to the airport in Port-au-Prince.

The school bus was one the church had helped buy for the orphanage and one of the mission team members, Frank Projcaccini, was instrumental in the fund raising for the bus, Spender said. Projcaccini is a bus driver, she added.

“It was a God thing,” Spender said, laughing.

The church and community have surrounded the Fowlers and all the mission team’s families with support.

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“I am not surprised they have embraced them but I am still in awe and humbled by the outpouring,” Spender said.

Trinity Church opened its sanctuary Jan. 14 for prayer. A message on the church Web site asked that people “Please continue to pray for the wonderful people of Haiti who - most having nothing - have lost everything, as well as for the safe return of our team members.”

*Gilbert is a news writer for United Methodist News Service in Nashville, Tenn. Butler is a content editor for United Methodist Communications.

News media contact: Kathy L. Gilbert, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org.   


Photos from team in Haiti

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UMCOR Field Office: Haiti

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