Missionary group from Martin stranded in Guatemala

Posted at 7:09 PM, Mar 22, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-22 22:17:50-04

(FOX 17) — A missionary group from Martin left for Guatemala on March 10 and are now stranded without a way home.

"We said it's not a big deal, especially down here," group member Glenn Leep said.

"Yeah, when we left, there was no coronavirus in Guatemala," added fellow member Sue Tiemeyer via FaceTime.

Less than a week after arriving to volunteer at an orphanage, the government shut down, leaving the group scrambling for a way out.

"When we got the news, they only gave us 12 hours to try to get flight arrangements and get out of the country," Tiemeyer said, "but all of our flights were cancelled," Leep added.

Not only do the ten members want to get home, but it's turning into a serious situation for one, a 72-year-old with a heart condition and his medical supplies are running thin.

"You anticipate being gone for ten days and then you hear the news that it might be much, much longer," said Leep.

The group is now on day 13 of the prolonged trip, with very few flights leaving the country in the upcoming week. In fact, the flights they have looked into are not only expensive, but some aren't even real.

"1200 dollars a piece," another was a possibility but that was 997 dollars a piece," Leep said, "we couldn't even confirm it was real."

Back here in West Michigan, Phil and Stephanie Broekhuizen are going to do anything they can to get their brother and sisters home.

"It's kind of surreal," said Phil, "you don't think it's going to happen here and to our family and when it does, it's just a jolt of reality."

On Saturday, the group posted a minute long video to Facebook, pleading for help.

"The first time we saw the video they made," Stephanie recalled, "my sister-in-law Nancy usually has a big smile on her face and I said to Phil, 'they aren't smiling,'" she added on when it set in that they were in trouble.

For now, the group remains in good spirits despite the uncertainty of when they'll be back with their loved ones.

"We kept talking with our driver Jose," Leep laughed, "we said Jose, 'you can bring us all the way back to Michigan, it will be awesome,' but no."

It's the 12th consecutive year the group has made a trip to Guatemala and they say even with all of this going on right now, they'll gladly return in the future.

"We'd easily come again, they're family to us, the kids, you wouldn't stop seeing your kids, we'll go again."