North Texas mission team trapped in earthquake-ravaged Haiti

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by JANET ST. JAMES / WFAA-TV

wfaa.com

Posted on January 13, 2010 at 6:07 PM

Updated Thursday, Jan 14 at 5:12 PM

HIGHLAND PARK — Members of Highland Park United Methodist Church are praying for the safe and healthy return of a 12-person mission team, trapped in earthquake-ravaged Haiti.

The group left Saturday and was to return this Sunday. Highland Park UMC's global mission team has helped with an eye clinic in Haiti for some 30 years. A team of doctors, nurses and support staff fit Haitians with glasses and perform surgery on those in need each year.

David Arnwine's wife, Jean, is part of the group. She has no cell phone with her. He has received only second-hand information from text messages sent in the hours following Tuesday's quake.

"They slept in a soccer field," Arnwine said he was told. "Better to be away from any structures. Down there, they've been taking malaria medicine for a week before they left, so I'm hoping it works really well if they had to sleep in a field because they're probably just wearing scrubs out there with no real protection."

Jean works at Texas Retina Associates, which reportedly has four members -- including an ophthalmologist -- on the mission.

Arnwine said his wife joined the group after a member of the team dropped out. She readily volunteered for what she had hoped would be a week-long adventure.

"She probably had 800 pairs of donated glasses to take down there to fit people with," Arnwine said.

The group has reportedly worked at the hospital in Port-au-Prince -- two days before the structure collapsed in the earthquake. The clinic they were working in at the time of the quake was in the coastal town of Petit Goave, about 68 kilometers south of the capital.

Highland Park UMC has been unable to determine if anyone in the group was injured in the quake.

"We heard the team is together, which is comforting, good to know," said Rachael Faubion, the global mission coordinator for HPUMC. "Then kind of just some mixed reports; we don't really know what's going on."

Arnwine has been unable to contact his wife, adding that the U.S. Embassy in Haiti has been too overwhelmed to provide information to individuals. He's relying on his wife's co-workers, the church, and television to keep him updated.

Still, after 30 years of marriage, he feels confident his wife is OK.

"There's just kind of that feeling you have at that point. You just kind of know they're there," he said of Jean. "That's what I have to go on."

E-mail jstjames@wfaa.com

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