ST. LOUIS – A local church group traveling through Israel is stuck in the Middle East as commercial flights out of the country are canceled.

Liz Carter landed in St. Louis over the weekend after leaving Tel Aviv on one of the last flights out.

“It was like a huge celebration everywhere that we went. There are people from all over the world,” she said. “They call it the world capital for a reason, because you hear every language there. It had been an incredible trip for all of us.”

She said it was a trip of a lifetime: two weeks traveling through the Holy Land in Israel with 41 other members from Morningstar Church. She had no idea how lucky she would be when she left the group a couple of days early.

“We left a little bit before midnight, so I didn’t hear anything that was happening, but when we landed in Newark, everyone turns on their phones, and they’re getting alerts and there was just this wave that washed through the plane,” Carter said. “People were getting on their phones; they were crying. Finally, I heard in English, ‘Did anyone see what happened in Israel.’”

Commercial airlines began canceling flights over the weekend. The other 41 members reached out to Senator Eric Schmitt’s office for help getting home. His office is working through multiple agencies and the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem to get the other members back home safely.

“They are all in Jordan. They are all safe there. Some of them will be coming home, we think, as early as Friday. Through Turkey—through Istanbul of all places—but you get out as you can. The other ones are there for another four or five days; they added on to the tour,” Morningstar Church Pastor Keith Scarborough said.

The pastor said he is praying for the safe return of the other members and the people under attack in the Middle East.

“When you’re there, so many cultures all in such a small and confined place and people getting along, it’s a unique spot,” Scarborough said.

In the meantime, Sen. Schmitt is directing any Missourians stranded in Israel to contact his office.

“Helping Missourians solve a variety of issues is a critical role that my office takes seriously, and we are here to help,” Schmitt said. “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.”