MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — While many people are self-quarantined in their homes, others are locked out of the country.
A missionary group from Morgantown Church of Christ is trapped in Honduras, after the country closed its borders during their trip. Before they left, they checked travel restrictions and at the time, the State Department classified Honduras as ‘low-risk.’
But it didn’t take long after their arrival for things to change.
“He informed that things were not looking well and we should try to get home as soon as possible,” said missionary, Dennis Allen. “We’re stuck here.”
They’re trapped in Tegucigalpa and trying to find their ticket out, after Honduras closed its borders to fight against COVID-19.
They said that they’ve struggled with the airline they flew in on, Avianca, because the airline is unresponsive and requiring $9,000 to return, because they are classified as voluntarily cancellations, despite the country closing borders.
They are scheduled to fly out on Tuesday through Delta Airlines, but that may not matter if the travel ban continues until then. They explained that they have been in contact with local politicians.
“We’ve been in touch with Shelley Moore Capito’s office, McKinley’s office, and with Manchin’s office,” missionaries explained.
Senator Joe Manchin’s spokesperson, Sam Runyon explained to 12 News that the senator has been in contact with the group and is working quickly to bring them home.
“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,” Runyon explained. “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 also issued a statement, stating that her office and officials will continue to stay on top of the issue.
“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 Shelley Moore Capito
Representative McKinley’s spokesperson Mike Hamilton said “Our office has been in touch with family members of the West Virginians stranded due to travel restrictions imposed by the Honduran government. We are working with the State Department and the U.S. Embassy in Honduras to resolve this issue and will continue to push them for assistance. The Congressman and our team will continue to work on this until the group returns home safely.”
In the meantime, the missionaries are worried that they may be left behind.
“There was a U.S. woman’s tackle football team here in the same town we are in. A military flight was arranged to come into here, sometime in the last two or three days — and picked up that football team… What’s the difference? Why are we different than they are? So far, there’s been no answer.”
The capitol of Honduras is basically at a stand still now, shuttering businesses and prohibiting multiple passengers per vehicle. But despite the challenges, these missionaries explained that they are well-supplied and healthy.
“We made a decision early on to practice good anti-infection measures.” Still, a virus ravaging the world is no match for compassion and human spirit.
“We were able to build one house because the supplies had already been ordered. And we were able to do some food distribution as well,” missionaries explained. “Just let everybody know we’re okay.”