GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Missionaries from City Impact outreach in Cedar Springs left for Honduras on March 12, when there were just over 1,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the United States.
"From there on, it was just a daily spiral of more cases and more cases," group member Kelley Bergsma said.
Just two days after arriving to begin their work, the government of Honduras shut down completely.
"The government shut down all the missions that we were supposed to do," group leader and pastor Jonathan Bergsma added, "they closed the jails, they closed everything to us."
The missionary group was in constant contact with the United States embassy in Honduras but couldn't do much to get home. However, Bergsma and the team met a women's football team from the United States and the two began to work together.
"We started a Facebook group with them," said Bergsma, "communicating, pulling our resources, making news and as much noise as we could to get attention."
Just after 5 AM on Friday morning, the group received some outstanding news.
"We got a call that we were getting out and from that moment, everything started to flow together," Kelley Bergsma added.
The Embassy helped contact help and in came the United States military to rescue the dozens of stranded Americans.
"The military was able to shuttle us out of there on a plane and get to a base, it was a miracle," added Jonathan.
Over 24 hours later, the group of eleven touched down in Grand Rapids, completing a remarkable eight day journey of confusion and prayer.
"Looking back as the weeks unfold, I think we'll catch up on a lot of sleep," Kelley Bergsma laughed. "We'll definitely hug our family members and those back home that we have missed because for a while, it looked like we might not get out."
However, dozens of Americans haven't been as lucky, the group says there are still several stranded in Honduras.
"There are still people there," Kelley pleaded, "it breaks our hearts that they're on the end of not being able to get out. We promised them we would come back and tell people that there are still other Americans there right now."
While the trip maybe didn't have the full impact they had hoped, it's still an experience they'll remember for the rest of their lives.
"We dealt with situations over there to bring back to our family and our kids," group member Steve Malone added. "It just shows how blessed we are with the things we have here, just seeing all of the impoverished areas and things like that."
Of course, the group is happy to be home but now their focus will turn to getting help for the rest of the Americans now stranded.