A group of churchgoers from the Northeastern Massachusetts town of Hamilton were the victims of a carjacking and assault Tuesday during a mission trip to Guatemala, officials said.
The Rev. Dorington Little, senior pastor of the First Congregational Church of South Hamilton, said Thursday that the team included 17 church members riding in vans who were headed to Guatemala City Tuesday evening to fly home after a week of mission work in a rural mountain village. One of the vans was then carjacked, Little said.
“Members of the team were robbed and assaulted,” he said, although he could not say exactly how many congregation members were in the van that was carjacked.
After reaching safety, several church members sought medical attention in Guatemala City, Little said. The travelers were able to fly home Wednesday.
“They felt the presence of God helping them through this ordeal,” he said. “They’re very grateful.”
US Representative John F. Tierney, whose district includes Hamilton, voiced his support for the First Congregational Church following the ordeal.
“I am troubled to learn about the incident involving the First Congregational Church of Hamilton, but I am relieved to hear that everyone is home safely,” Tierney’s statement said. “I have reached out to Pastor Little to express my sincere concern, and my office stands ready to assist the church and its members in any way that we can be helpful during this difficult time.”
The group of mission workers departed from Logan International Airport for Guatemala on July 16, Little said. While staying in the rural mountain village, they assisted in building a house for a homeless family, hosted a vacation Bible school for local children, and helped to clean up a community lot.
Little did not provide additional details on the carjacking.
The mission trip was conducted with the help of Partners in Development, an organization that seeks to improve quality of life in impoverished communities, Little said.
“We do mission trips all over the world,” he said. “ . . . This is the first time we’ve been to Guatemala.”
Little could not say whether the congregation would consider another mission trip to Guatemala in the future following the traumatic incident that endangered the travelers.
“They’re home safe and sound, and we’re so grateful for that,” he said.