Missouri church group stuck in Israel, working with Sen. Schmitt for safe passage home

Sen. Eric Schmitt (R-Missouri) says his office is offering help to those stuck in Israel, including a local church group that is having trouble returning home.

DARDENNE PRAIRIE, Mo. — Between canceled flights and closed border crossings, the past 24 hours have been a scramble for members of Dardenne Prairie’s Morning Star Church. Flights were canceled shortly after Israel declared war against the Palestinian military group Hamas on Sunday, carrying out attacks in the Gaza Strip. 

The group made it to Jordan, a place they expect to be safe from conflict. The office of U.S. Senator Eric Schmitt says it is currently working with the members of the Morning Star Church to get them back home safely. 

What started as a joyful pilgrimage to Israel, turned into an urgent call for help. “I know they heard sirens, I know there was a lot of concern,” Morning Star Church member Trevor Wolfe told 5 On Your Side.  

The 42-member group was visiting Israel for a Holy Land tour and was scheduled to fly back to the United States this weekend. The attacks happened during their visit to Jerusalem. Commercial flights out of Ben Gurion Airport were canceled due to safety concerns, stranding the U.S. travelers. 

Schmitt’s office provided group leaders with information on how to register for the STEP program (Smart Traveler Enrollment Program) and crisis intervention resources. Schmitt’s office submitted several congressional inquiries and reached out to the Department of State including the embassy in Jerusalem to support the group’s safe return to Missouri. 

“The first time you call out to a US Senator, one of a hundred people in the entire country you don’t expect immediate results,” remarks Wolfe, “there was no lag. It wasn’t make a call and five hours later you hear back. It was minutes between phone calls, just absolutely amazing.”

About 10 members will fly to Istanbul on Tuesday while others have to wait until Friday to fly out of Amman. 

“Helping Missourians solve a variety of issues is a critical role that my office takes seriously, and we are here to help,” Schmitt said in an emailed statement. “If there are any Missourians who find themselves stuck or stranded in Israel, please reach out to my office. We will do everything in our power to assist you and get you home safely.”

Any Missourians who are stranded in Israel can contact Schmitt’s office here and find resources to help them such as federal agency assistance.

There are several southern Illinoians who are also stuck in Israel. For those interested in reaching out to the office of Rep. Mike Bost in Murphysboro, Illinois, they can call 618-457-5787. 

Eleven Americans are known to have been killed in the fighting and more are unaccounted for.   

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