Haiti Missionaries tell of danger, death

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  A tearful Aahmes Kubicki gives husband Marty Kubicki a kiss at the customs corridor after arriving home from Haiti Sunday. She was with a group of 10 missionaries from Mission Viejo Christian Church who was in Port-Au-Prince when the 7.0 earthquake hit. Kubicki suffered an injured foot.

A tearful Aahmes Kubicki gives husband Marty Kubicki a kiss at the customs corridor after arriving home from Haiti Sunday. She was with a group of 10 missionaries from Mission Viejo Christian Church who was in Port-Au-Prince when the 7.0 earthquake hit. Kubicki suffered an injured foot.

Haiti missionaries tell of danger, death

By ERIKA I. RITCHIE | eritchie@scng.com | Orange County Register January 17, 2010 at 3:47 pm

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LOS ANGELES – It was a race.

Holly Taylor and her daughter Sara each wanted to be the first to greet daughter and sister Heather, one of nine missionaries from Mission Viejo Christian Church returning from quake-ravaged Haiti Sunday afternoon at Los Angeles International Airport.

Holly and Sara positioned themselves at strategic points near the LAX customs area. Suddenly, cheers, laughter and shouts of “Praise God!” erupted as waiting families and friends spotted the missionaries walking down the corridor about 30 feet away.

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Holly got to Heather first, with Sara right behind her. Tears streamed down their faces as Holly, 47, Sara, 20, and Heather, 19, clutched each other.

For Sara the reunion with her sister came none too soon.

“We’ve only been apart for 10 days in our whole lives,” she said. She’s my sister but she’s also my best friend.”

“I wasn’t really ready to leave,” Heather said of Haiti, adding that her father, Robert Taylor – one of the original 10 missionaries – stayed behind at the orphanage where the group had gone to volunteer. “I have a huge heart for Haiti and what we’re doing there.”

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More than 50 anxious relatives, friends and church Pastor Mike Maiolo took a bus to LAX earlier Sunday to await the missionaries, who had gone to Maison de Lumiere orphanage in Port-au-Prince just days before Tuesday’s 7.0 earthquake. They were to care for the 90 orphans and to distribute food to the hundreds of homeless children who live in the impoverished island nation.

After the devastating earthquake, the missionaries said they became caretakers of the dying and injured, dealing with critical wounds, dehydration and amputations. They served as makeshift medical workers when one of the buildings in their orphanage was turned into a triage center.

Judy Beltis, the mother of six daughters and grandmother of five, went to the church-sponsored Haiti orphanage for the first time. What she saw after the earthquake is etched in her mind.

“I was on a shift in the kitchen and someone carried down a stainless steel pot and told me to sterilize the things inside,” said Beltis. “Inside were two hacksaw blades, vice grip blades, and a carpenter’s wood file. There was also a bicycle inner tube in there. Those were the tools used to do amputations.”

The nine missionaries were airlifted by helicopter from the orphanage late Friday by a security team from Deloitte. Paul Beltis, Judy’s husband, is a partner with the worldwide consulting firm.

Russel Long, 57, of Mission Viejo, said even though the missionaries were in the orphanage behind high walls and protective wire with security guards, the climate was dangerous.

“It’s worse than anything you will see on TV,” he said. “They are out of food and water. There are dead bodies everywhere. They have all these supplies at the airport and can’t get them out.”

Once the missionaries decided to leave – after a medical team arrived from France – they were taken to a safe house near the airport and then sneaked into the airport.

“The air space at the airport was closed because (Secretary of State) Hillary (Clinton) was arriving,” said Long.

From there the missionaries were flown to Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic early Saturday, then on to San Juan, Puerto Rico, and a direct flight to Los Angeles.

“My lovely husband rescued us,” said Judy Beltis. “To see faces that I thought I might never see again ... I’m full of joy and relief. But to have seen those people and have them in my heart and to leave them behind was one of my worst moments. When we left I broke down and cried.”

The group left for Haiti from Orange County on Jan. 8. The church has worked with the orphanage founders for the past five years.