Baptist Missionaries Return From Haiti

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Updated at 4:40 p.m. ET

A lawyer representing four of the 10 Baptist missionaries who returned to the United States Thursday after being jailed in Haiti said the newly freed Americans were praying for the remaining two they left behind.

"For those who cases have not yet been resolved, we will continue to pray for their safe return," attorney Caleb Stegall told reporters at Kansas City International Airport Thursday.

Group leader Laura Silsby and Charisa Coulter, remained in jail in Haiti Thursday.

The eight missionaries, including the four Stegall represents, still face possible child kidnapping charges in Haiti for trying to take 33 children out of the earthquake ravaged country.

The four freed missionaries themselves didn't address reporters, leaving Stegall to answer questions and read a prepared statement.

"We are deeply grateful to God for our safe return home. Our faith sustained us through this ordeal as have the many thousands of prayers on our behalf," Stegall said for the missionaries. "We are eternally grateful to all of those who prayed for our safe return and to the many we may never meet in person who have worked tirelessly for our return."

The attorney said the Baptists hoped their release "will allow everyone to return their focus to the needs of the dire situation in Haiti."

"People are still suffering there and they continue to lack basic necessities," Stegall said.

(Scroll down to watch Stegall read the missionaries' statement)

Silsby and Coulter arrived at a Port-au-Prince courthouse on Thursday to be questioned by the judge about their plans to set up an orphanage in the Dominican Republic. But the judge rescheduled the appearance for Friday.

"Everything is going well," Silsby told reporters. "I don't know the exact day we are going to be free."

The group was caught Jan. 29 trying to take the children out of Haiti without adoption certificates. The arrests came as aid officials urged a halt to short-cut adoptions in the wake of the earthquake.

Silsby originally said the children were orphans or had been abandoned. But The Associated Press determined that at least 20 were handed over willingly by their parents, who said the Baptists promised to educate their kids in the U.S. and let them visit.

The fact that the children were given up voluntarily helped convince Haitian Judge Bernard Saint-Vil to free the eight without bail on Wednesday. The group was released with the understanding they will return to Haiti if the judge requests it.

Haiti's No. 2 justice official, Claudy Gassent, said he talked to the Americans before their release.

"They know they broke the law," he said.

Saint-Vil said he did not release Silsby, 47, or Coulter, 24, both of Boise, Idaho, because the two had previously visited Haiti in December and planned even before the quake to open an orphanage. After the quake, Silsby rushed to pull together the rest of the group.

Silsby's sister in Idaho, Kim Barton, said learning that her sister could not leave Haiti was difficult.

"At this point, I don't have any comment. I don't know any more than you do," Barton said.

The group denies the child trafficking charges, arguing the trip was a do-it-youself "rescue mission" to take child quake victims to a hastily prepared orphanage in the Dominican Republic.

They returned to the U.S. just after midnight Wednesday, flying aboard a U.S. Air Force C-130 that landed at Miami International Airport. They spent a night at a Miami airport hotel before flying on to Texas, Idaho and Kansas City, Mo.

Gary Lissade, the Haitian attorney for Jim Allen of Amarillo, Texas, said he expected the charges to be dropped against the eight.

"My faith means everything to me, and I knew this moment would come when the truth would set me free," Allen said in a statement issued by the Liberty Legal Institute in Plano, Texas.

A welcome home rally was planned for Allen later Thursday at the Amarillo Civic Center. He is scheduled to appear Friday on "The Oprah Winfrey Show."

Four of the detainees were headed to Kansas City International Airport. They included Drew Culberth, a 35-year-old Topeka firefighter and father of four; Culberth's brother-in-law, Paul Thompson; Thompson's son Silas Thompson, 19; and Steve McMullin.

"All of the family members will be there at the airport," said Caleb Stegall, an attorney for the four. "We will be returning to a private location in Topeka."

Stegall said the Thompsons and McMullin, all from Twin Falls, Idaho, are expected to join Culberth in Topeka for an indefinite stay.

Stegall, who also serves as Jefferson County's prosecutor, planned to make a statement on behalf of the missionaries during the news conference. The missionaries didn't plan to address reporters

News of Culberth's release cheered the spirits of members of his church, but they worried about what awaits him. Culberth has been the youth pastor at Bethel Baptist in north Topeka since 2004.

"Is this really over once he's home?" said Veronica Culberson, a church member and mother of four who works in the church's youth program. "That's what I think the apprehension is. We'll just be happy to have him home."


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