Archive for Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Kansan says he didn’t know Haitian children still had parents

A Topeka resident who was held in Haiti on charges of kidnapping recounted his experiences Tuesday. A number of U.S. citizens spent about three weeks in a Haitian jail.

February 23, 2010, 1:08 p.m. Updated February 23, 2010, 5:43 p.m.


2010 Haiti Earthquake

A 7.0 magnitude earthquake occurred 10 miles southwest of Port-au-Prince on Jan. 12, causing widespread devastation in Haiti's capital and throughout the country.

A Kansas youth pastor and nine other American missionaries jailed in Haiti for trying to take children out of the earthquake-ravaged nation didn’t know the children still had parents, the pastor told The Associated Press on Tuesday.

Drew Culberth, of Topeka, acknowledged he wasn’t involved in making arrangements for the 33 children and didn’t speak directly to officials at orphanages who turned them over to the missionaries. But Culberth said his group was told by the orphanages that the children had no parents.

The AP later determined all the children had parents. Culberth was among eight of the missionaries released last week after spending nearly three weeks in jail on child kidnapping charges. The group’s leader and her assistant still are detained.

He said one child picked up by the group was returned to parents when the his group learned they still were alive.

Culberth granted an interview to AP, but wouldn’t discuss some details of what happened. His attorney, Caleb Stegall, broke into the interview to prevent Culberth from discussing matters Stegall said remain under review in Haiti.

“That was our understanding, that the Haitian officials at the orphanages had said that all the children had no mother or father, and that’s when they were handed over,” Culberth said, without elaborating. “If we had known that they had parents, they would have been given back to their parents.”

Culberth said he’d be willing to return to Haiti and said the nation still needs Americans’ help and prayers.

“I’d like to encourage anybody else that’s considering a mission trip to not let this to be a deterrent,” he said.

Echoing previous assertions by group leader Laura Silsby, Culberth said the missionaries planned to transport the children by bus to the neighboring Dominican Republic and care for them in a hotel. He said he spent two days in the Dominican Republic, helping purchase supplies and do maintenance on the building first.

Disclosures that parents willingly gave their children up in hopes they would get an education and a better life led a judge in Haiti to release eight of the missionaries, including Culberth.

“We know that the court performed a thorough investigation, gathered all the facts, determined that at least with respect to Drew, there had been no wrongdoing,” Stegall said.

Silsby and her assistant, Charisa Coulter, remain in Haiti.

“They need our prayers, and we’re just going to let the court system run its course with them, the same way they did with us,” Culberth said.

Culberth said the five male missionaries who shared a cell in Port-au-Prince, the Haitian capital, were allowed to mingle with Haitian prisoners in the neighboring cell. He said the groups read their Bibles — in English and French to each other— and sang hymns in each other’s languages.

He also took notes on scraps of paper the jail allowed him and the other missionaries to have. One note contained a long list of Bible verses.

With a pencil, Culberth jotted “Haiti 2010” in his compact firefighter’s Bible next to some verses, including Proverbs 16:9, “A man’s heart plans his way but the Lord determines his steps.”


Mary Sucha 8 years ago

If the child doesn't have parents its ok to grab them and take them to another country? I think he just admitted to attempted kidnapping.

Boston_Corbett 8 years ago

I suspicion Culberth and his relatives were well intentioned, but terribly naive. I do not believe the same of their leader, Laura Silsby

Published accounts indicate Silsby was warned several times that what she was doing could constitute child trafficking. She chose to ignore that advice and did what "she" wanted. And she lied about the situation once caught ("these were all ophans"). She knew better.

Just one of many articles:

somedude20 8 years ago

do you know how "hard" it is to get good altar boys these days especially ones who do not speak english and have no family around. did you know that the catholic church now spends over $100,000,000,000 (of donated money)a year in order to keep their priest's moral "up" by importing children to serve as alter boys. these little lambs serve with their right hand of god

somedude20 8 years ago

little kids aint cheap no more (especially if you buy the ones who dont speak the language)

Steve Jacob 8 years ago

I do believe he and most had good intentions. I do agree from what I have read that Laura Silsby has a lot more explaining to do.

Boston_Corbett 8 years ago

Actually Powershopper, eight of the ten were from Idaho. The one from Texas, and one from Kansas are relatives of one from Idaho,

And somedude, these people were Southern Baptists, not Catholic.

denak 8 years ago

did you know that the catholic church now spends over $100,000,000,000 (of donated money)a year in order to keep their priest's..."

Wow, that's pretty impressive considering that the whole annual budget for the Vatican is only 260 million dollars.

Seriously dude, did you just pull that sum right out of your butt or can you prove that????


As to the article, he might not have known. I think some of them were there with good intentions and genuinely thought they were in compliance legally. Of course, some of the children were telling the missionaries that they still had families/parents and I would think that if one were going to a foreign country, one would take some time to actually learn some of the language. You know, common questions and answers: Where are your parents? Are you parents alive? Are you an orphan?

somedude20 8 years ago

sorry, thought what I wrote smelled so badly of bs that no one would take it seriously.

Boston_Corbett 8 years ago

Dena, when the calls looking for volunteer came to some on the trip, they had less than 48 hours before jumping on the plane. The Topeka person was an EMT, and a couple of other participants had construction expertise. They presumed their expertise would be helpful in establishing an orphanage

Also, as a KU professor and nationally recognized expert on Haiti recently wrote, it is not uncommon for parents with children there to seek to export their children to better places. This does not absolve Ms. Silsby from responsibility to follow Haitian law in my opinion. But it does give light to how this situation could occur. I also believe Ms. Silsby knew exactly what she was doing, and that it was not permitted under Haitian law.

beatrice 8 years ago

This guy is a teacher to children. Scary.

srj, good intentions or not, what they did was terribly wrong. As is often said, the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Before snatching up children, you really need to do your homework.

50YearResident 8 years ago

If they wanted orphans they could find thousands of them here in the United States. No need to go to Haiti.

KEITHMILES05 8 years ago

The Topeka guy is a Topeka fire fighter to boot. Talk about terrible naive and embarassing. I bet the fire fighters are cringing at his bone head tactics and elementary critical thinking skill.

What could possible posses a person to act so stupidly in the name of God?

It is people like this who bring shame to the Lord. Where were the people around him? Were they egging him onward or just plain stupid?

yourworstnightmare 8 years ago

Well, I don't see their parents around right now, so I will just assume that they are dead. And all of their extended family, too.

At best, grave naivete. A worst, willful kidnapping.

LoveThsLife 8 years ago

"I suspicion Culberth and his relatives were well intentioned, but terribly naive. I do not believe the same of their leader, Laura Silsby"

I have the same sentiments Boston_Corbett.

beatrice 8 years ago

"What could possible posses a person to act so stupidly in the name of God?"

I think you figured it out yourself with the "name of God."

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