TWIN FALLS, Idaho (BP)--Paul Thompson reads the media accounts describing the journey of him and nine other jailed Baptist volunteers in Haiti who are all now free, and scratches his head. He was there. What he reads is not what he experienced.
Thompson, pastor of Eastside Baptist Church in Twin Falls, Idaho, was one of those 10 Baptist volunteers who went to Haiti in late January with the goal of taking orphans out of the earthquake-ravaged country and into an orphanage being started in the Dominican Republican. That trip took a disastrous turn Jan. 30 when the 10 were shocked to learn they were being charged with child kidnapping, with allegations swirling that the group had plans to sell the kids into slavery, or worse, to harvest and sell their organs.
"This was a complete setup. They [UNICEF] were beginning to build their case for us as being kidnappers and child traffickers."
-- Paul Thompson
Such rumors were false, but it took more than 100 days to finally resolve the matter. Eight of them were freed in February, a ninth one released in March, and the final one -- Laura Silsby -- was let go May 17, more than 100 days after the ordeal began.
The story Thompson tells is far different from what has been described repeatedly in most media accounts.
"It's radically different," Thompson said.
-- The 10 Americans did not, as has been alleged in some accounts, go through the streets of Port-au-Prince passing out flyers and going door-to-door looking for children, Thompson said. Instead, the 33 children they were trying to take across the border in a medium-sized bus came from two orphanages, and orphanage workers told them that none of the children had parents.
-- The group was told multiple times before they got to the border that their documentation and paperwork -- the source of the controversy -- was sufficient, Thompson said. Read More