Many of us have followed the tragedies in Haiti, wondering what could be done to help them faster. Then arrives a group of missionary volunteers, armed with information about how to help orphans. Their desire is to help. But, from all appearances at this moment, someone coordinating the group made decisions that has cost this group their freedom. Why does such as this happen? What entered into the mind of the "leader" that would justify what some news sources report as an attemt to circumvent the law? Are missionaries and their volunteers above the law? Or should we also follow the norms and statutes of a country where we may happen to be serving?
I am speaking from personal experience. Not that I have attempted to be above the law (that I am aware of!); there have been volunteers and others who have come down and decided that their cause is a noble one and, therefore, they do not have to obey the law.
Take, for example, those who arrive here, rent vehicles, and then drive off as though they were in a cross-country rally. Speed limits mean little or nothing. Respect for local laws in the target community may be ignored as well. The thought seems to be, "I am an American (or Candadian, or Englishman, whatever) and I have my rights." Those rights do not include trampling local laws, though, to the surprise of many.
Others have arrived here in the airport with as much as 20 thousand dollars of meds that they intend to smuggle in. Why? Because they don't agree with the tax laws! Neither do I, for that matter; but the law is the law and we leave a bad testimony when those bags are opened and the customs agents discover a swimming pool of prescription drugs.
The group melting in the oven-like jail in Haiti serves as a stern example for us. If they had gathered the proper paperwork for their trek into the D.R., this group would be newsworthy for a different reason.
We can only hope someone shows them mercy for their recent attempts that led them down this unfortunate road.
Meanwhile, let's try to remember: our heritage does not give us the right to trample the laws of our host countries when we travel out on mission for Jesus. As said Peter, we don't need to be surprised when we suffer persecution because we broke the law, just as we should not be surprised when we suffer for the glory of Christ. This group's best move will be to ask the court's mercy. Let's pray they find it.