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Youth Group from 4 Maryland Churches 'Safe', Leaving Panama After Being Stranded for Days in Hotel Amid Protests

Randy Mancini 8 Jul 19

Missionaries from four Maryland-based churches are on their way home from Panama after being stuck in a hotel for nearly two weeks due to protests throughout the country.

Churches involved in the mission trip include New Hope Church in Fulton, Maryland; Atholton Seventh-day Adventist Church in Columbia; Spencerville Church in Silver Spring and Adventist Church in Frederick, Maryland, 

The congregations are under the Chesapeake Conference of Seventh-day Adventists (CCOSDA).

Evan Knott, director of communication for CCOSDA told CBN News, that the group of "approximately 30 teenagers and their chaperones left on July 7" and are now headed home. 

"As far as we know, they are en route, coming back today from Panama on their originally scheduled flight. It was a 12-day trip and they are coming home as originally planned," Knott told CBN News. 

"To our understanding, they have been safe and no one has been in any danger. They were always in a safe location away from the protests," he added.

The Washington Times reports that the missionaries planned to work in Las Lajas, on the southwest coast near the Costa Rican border to help build school facilities in the area. 

Knott said the youth group was unable to complete their service project and could not leave the hotel over safety concerns. 

Panamanians took to the streets last week to protest inflation, labor rights, and rising fuel prices throughout the Central American nation.     

On Thursday, the U.S. State Department issued a warning about the protests  and recommended that visitors "exercise caution near any large gatherings or protests and maintain situational awareness."

"Unfortunately, protests and road blockages are a part of life in Panama," the statement reads. "There may be demonstrations to protest internal Panamanian issues or, more rarely, manifestations of anti-U.S. sentiment. While most demonstrations are nonviolent, the Panamanian National Police have used tear gas and/or riot control munitions in response to demonstrations, particularly when roadways are blocked or aggression is used against the police."

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