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Freed missionaries from Haiti 'glad to be home'

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Released Americans back home
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Three freed Americans return to Idaho after being detained in Haiti
  • Court hearing for two Americans was delayed due to lack of translator
  • Group is accused of trying to illegally remove children from Haiti

(CNN) -- Two Americans charged with kidnapping in Haiti appeared before a judge Thursday, the same day their eight colleagues who were released on bail returned to their hometowns.

Corinna and Nicole Lankford, and Carla Thompson, arrived home in Boise, Idaho, to a crowd who greeted them with hymns and cheers.

"We're all very happy to be home," Thompson said early Friday. "We're still very overwhelmed. But we felt everyone's prayers.

"Our God is a mighty God and he stood with us every second we were there," she said. "He brought us home. And I want you to continue to pray for Charisa and Laura because he's gonna bring them home too."

All 10 were charged with trying to take 33 children out of Haiti without any legal authorization after a magnitude-7.0 earthquake devastated the country on January 12.

The Haitian judge ruled Wednesday that Laura Silsby and Charisa Coulter would remain behind because authorities want to determine why they traveled to Haiti on an earlier trip before the January 12 earthquake, said Silsby's attorney, Aviol Fleurant.

Video: Freed Americans 'grateful'
RELATED TOPICS
  • Haiti
  • Kidnapping
  • Laura Silsby

Fleurant said Judge Bernard Saint-Vil was unable to ask questions of Silsby and Coulter Thursday because a court-appointed translator did not arrive due to illness. The judge also said he wanted to see the place in the Dominican Republic where the group was supposedly headed when they were stopped at the border, the attorney said.

On their arrival at the judge's chambers, Silsby told CNN that it was "not true" that she had misled the other missionaries in her group. When asked the reason for her visit to a Haitian orphanage in December, Silsby said, "We brought food and clothes and toys to the children."

Full coverage of Haiti earthquake

On her way out of the proceedings and back to her cell, Silsby said the session, which lasted about an hour, "went very well."

"We're trusting God for all truth to be revealed and believing that God will reveal the truth through the Haitian justice system," she said. "They are seeking the truth."

Haitian authorities stopped the group on January 29 as they tried to cross the border with 33 children without proper legal documentation. The group said it was going to house the children in a converted hotel in the Dominican Republic and later move them to an orphanage.

Silsby originally claimed the children were orphaned or abandoned, but CNN later determined that more than 20 of the 33 had at least one parent living.

Some of the detained Americans said they thought they were helping orphans, but their interpreters told CNN that they were present when group members spoke with some of the children's parents. Parents contacted by CNN in a village outside Port-au-Prince, where most of the 33 children lived, said they had willingly given their children over to the Americans, who promised them a better life, and who said the parents could see their children whenever they wanted to.

The eight other missionaries left Haiti Wednesday night after being granted bail without bond, akin to being released on their own recognizance in the American justice system.

They arrived in Florida late Wednesday night and most -- including a Topeka, Kansas, firefighter and an Amarillo, Texas, builder -- returned to their hometowns Thursday.

Jim Allen told a group of friends and neighbors in Amarillo that he was "glad to be home."

"The reason I went was for the relief effort to help these people," a tearful Allen said. "And they still need your help. I hope that that can continue."

The Rev. Clint Henry of Central Valley Baptist Church, said the Americans have been upbeat throughout their detention.

"I'm convinced it's one of those stories that can't be told without talking about their faith," he said.

CNN's John Vause, Dan Simon and Lonzo Cook contributed to this report.

 
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