COVINGTON -- All 15 missionaries from Sandy Creek Baptist Church in Madison, including a Newton County resident, are safe and back in the United States three days after surviving the magnitude-7.0 earthquake that hit Haiti Tuesday.
The men were flown on U.S. military planes from the American Embassy in Haiti on Friday and were expected to be reunited with their families Friday night.
The men were all supposed to be on the same flight, but were separated in the confusion of loading planes at the embassy, said the wife of Newton County resident Roger Hall.
"There was mass confusion. They were being shoved onto the plane. Three made it onto the plane and once the plane was full, they cut them off. The plane was full by the time (the others) got there, so they sent them back to the embassy," Pierrette Hall said.
Three men landed at an Air Force base in New Jersey and the other 12, including Roger Hall, landed at a base in Homestead, Fla.
They were being flown by private plane to Georgia, said Cindy Lee, wife of Sandy Creek Baptist Church Pastor Butch Lee, who is among the missionaries.
Butch Lee and another man were being flown from New Jersey to Atlanta and were expected to arrive between 7 and 8 p.m. Friday. The third man lives in Maryland.
The other 12 men, including Hall, were expected to arrive at either the Madison or Greensboro airport at around 10 p.m. Friday.
Most of the men are residents of Morgan County and members of Sandy Creek Baptist Church, which sends missionaries to Haiti at least once a year.
More good news was reported Friday by Wendy Zehner, children's minister at Crosspointe Christian Church in Conyers.
Zehner was planning to leave on a mission trip to Haiti on Jan. 22 along with several others. Zehner has been on several trips there, including one in October, and was worried about the well-being of her friends, including staff members with Haitian Christian Mission, an organization the church has partnered with for mission trips.
Zehner was especially distraught that she had not been able to find out the whereabouts of a 29-year-old Haitian man who served as her interpreter during her October trip.
Workers at one of the Haitian Christian Mission medical clinics saved the man's life when he was a teenager, and he wanted to give something back, so he signed on as an interpreter, she said.
On Friday, Zehner received word the man had been found alive.
"He is like my son," she said.
Zehner also found out that several other staff members of the mission have been located alive.
The mission's headquarters, church and medical clinic are all still standing, despite being just two blocks from the presidential palace, which was completely demolished, she said. Further, every student in a high school run by the mission escaped the building alive, Zehner said.
"We are really blessed," she said.