Locals in Haiti during earthquake
For Bruce and Ian Blumer, it started as a simple mission trip, designed to provide medical services to needy Haitians.
But after an earthquake Tuesday ripped through Portau-Prince, relatives of the Blumers are relieved to hear that they, and other members of the Methodist mission group, are safe.
The Blumers -- Bruce is traveling with his 21-year-old son, Ian -- are part of a 12-person team that landed on the island of La Gonave, northwest of Port-au-Prince, Jan. 7. The team's Haiti mission is to provide medical care to people of all ages who live in the village of Anse-A-Galet, located on the eastern side of the Haitian island. They also are charged with evaluating the medical needs of the area.The earthquake hit at approximately 3:53 p.m. and has devastated the island nation, located 681 miles southeast of Florida. Authorities report the magnitude-7.0 quake killed thousands and destroyed schools, hospitals and the country's parliament building.
"Everybody is just totally, totally freaked out and shaken," Henry Bahn, a U.S. Department of Agriculture official in Port-au-Prince, told The Associated Press. "The sky is just gray with dust."
Jason Currie-Olson, associate director of communications for the Dakotas Conference of the United Methodist Churches, said the group is scheduled to return home Tuesday, but the timeline is now "pretty liquid."
It's also unclear whether or not the focus of the group, who allegedly felt tremors from the earthquake, will change.
"They're over there doing God's work," Currie-Olson said. "Our goal now was to best facilitate their continued mission and get them home safe and sound."
The rest of the team includes residents of Hot Springs; Lusk, Wyo.; and former Mitchell resident Sarah Baker, now of Bismarck, N.D.
While the family hasn't received direct contact from the group since the earthquake, Sharon Blumer on Wednesday said she received word from a Methodist spokesman that all members of the group -- including her husband and son -- are safe.
Although she said the ordeal has "been trying," she knows her family members are providing necessary help to the impoverished country.
"I'm sure they're glad that they can help," said Sharon. "They enjoy it very much."
This month's trip to Haiti is the third for both Bruce and Ian.
The example they set by traveling to Haiti is a positive one, said the Rev. James Persons, of the First United Methodist Church of Mitchell.
"It adds a vitality and a passion to the whole church," Persons said. "As they come back with their enthusiasm, it really infects the ... other members for the important work that these mission teams do."
Bruce's father, Boyd Blumer, said he and his wife, Evelyn, were anxious upon hearing news of the earthquake. However, with news of the team's safety came relief, and Blumer said he knows the entire team is doing its part to help Haiti.
"The needs must be so tremendous there that any kind of help would be appreciated," Boyd said.
Some South Dakota mission workers from Sioux Falls and Tea are hoping to fly to Haiti soon to assist with recovery efforts. They include people with Helping Hands for Haiti, Mission Haiti and Kids Against Hunger.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.