9th Haiti Volunteer Welcomed Home as Team Faces New Charges

After six weeks of being detained in a Haitian jail, Charisa Coulter finally arrived home in Idaho Saturday night.

Dozens, including her father, Mel, and some of the volunteers who had been jailed with her, sang "Amazing Grace" as they welcomed her at the Boise, Idaho, Airport.

Coulter, 24, was the ninth of 10 Christians to return home after Haitian judge Bernard Saint-Vil ruled that there was no evidence to support charges of kidnapping and criminal association against her.

The team of ten American Christian volunteers, mostly from two Baptist churches in Idaho, was arrested in late January while trying to take 33 Haitian children by bus to an orphanage in the Dominican Republic.

Haitian officials say the group did not have permission to take the children out of the country. The American team was subsequently charged with kidnapping a minor and criminal association.

The volunteers say they simply wanted to help the Haitian children who lost their parents after the massive earthquake devastated Port-au-Prince in January. Complications, however, arose when the team was found without the proper paperwork and when it was discovered that many of the children they tried to transport had at least one living parent.

Coulter commented Saturday, "We are 10 Christians who obeyed God's calling and we went to help the nation of Haiti and its children."

"It didn't go the way we planned," she said, according to the Idaho Statesman "It's hard to understand."

Laura Silsby, the leader of the team, remains jailed in Haiti.

On Friday, Judge Saint-Vil brought additional charges of "organizing irregular travel" against the team after discovering an earlier attempt to take the children out of the country, according to CNN. On Jan. 26, the team attempted to take 40 children to the Dominican Republic, a Haitian officer, who requested not to be identified for fear of reprisals, had reported. The officer thwarted the group's plan after he was alerted by a concerned citizen about the bus loaded with Haitian children.

The new charge carries a penalty of three to six years of imprisonment. The nine volunteers had been released on the condition that they promise to return if needed as investigators continue to examine the case.

The Haitian judge said he has until early May to decide whether to release Silsby or order a trial.

Silsby's sister, Kim Barton, and Mel Coulter urged people to continue to pray for the day when all 10 of the volunteers can be reunited in the U.S.

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