MT. JULIET, Tenn. - There is a big sigh of relief for family and friends now that a Mt. Juliet church group is returning home after being stranded in Haiti.
About 20 church members from Providence United Methodist Church were stuck in Haiti after violent protests erupted days before their scheduled departure.
The fiery riots in Port-au-Prince sparked after the Haitian government announced steep increases to gasoline prices.
"There were signs where there had just been massive tire burnings and there was still smoke in the air," recalled PUMC Pastor Mark Youngman.
In partnership withe nonprofit organization Grace & Glory, Youngman and his group traveled to Haiti to help a school in Montrouis, about 40 miles away from Port-au-Prince.
They were scheduled to leave on Sunday but the riots did not let up. Due to road closures from the protests, Americans were essentially left stranded and told to "shelter in place."
"Everybody had confidence we would get out the whole time but we didn't know how," said Youngman. "Not knowing what to do is something that creates extra tension."
Youngman said they felt safe from where they stayed. The church staff back home scrambled to find alternate options to get its members out of the country.
"So it took five round trips back and forth to get the entire team out," said Director of Outreach Jeff Loper.
Despite two tries, a helicopter was finally able to fly the church members back to Port-au-Prince where they took private jets to Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.
From there they traveled to Atlanta and are expected to land in Nashville by 9 p.m.
"Its been exhausting but it's thrilling to know they're coming home. Its been an emotional time
but we knew God would provide a way for them to get home and he certainly did," added Loper.
Despite the ordeal, Youngman said his team looks forward to returning to Haiti.
Even though violence covered television screens, he said it is the warm reception from locals that outshine.