Much has changed since this 40-year-old mother of three embarked in late January on what she described as a mission of mercy after the Jan. 12 earthquake in Haiti.
Laura Silsby had wanted to rescue children and raise them in safety and amid Christian teachings in a beachside home, but the trip she led instead left 10 Americans - including two teens - in jail, and changed the lives of all of them and their families.
"The last three and a half months have redefined normal," said Mel Coulter, father of Charisa Coulter, 24, who was part of the group. "I don't think any of us will be the way we were before the trip to Haiti, and I think there's an opportunity to learn and grow. That's good. The events have changed us in a positive way."
Silsby was released Monday and arrived in Idaho on Tuesday afternoon.
"I'm just very glad to be home. I knew this day would come," Laura Silsby said as she entered the Boise Airport terminal. "I entrusted myself to my God."
Silsby and the other Americans were arrested on kidnapping charges Jan. 29 as they tried to bus 33 Haitian children to the Dominican Republic - where Silsby had planned to build an orphanage.
Parents of the children later told the AP that they gave up the kids willingly because the Americans promised to educate and care for them.
The group led national news for weeks, raising more questions when a man who emerged as their attorney turned out to be wanted for child trafficking and other charges in several countries.
The Haitian-born pastor from Atlanta who helped gather the children, Jean Sainvil, faces charges as well but had already left the country.
All charges against the other U.S. Baptists were dropped - but Silsby was tried on an additional charge of arranging illegal travel,based on a law designed to curb human trafficking.
She was convicted, sentenced to time served and released Monday. She spent her first night of freedom in Miami, then flew home to Idaho on Tuesday.
Most of the 30 people who encircled Silsby at the Boise Airport Tuesday were family, friends and other supporters.
"It's probably one of the happiest days of our lives," said Meridian resident Patricia Johnston, part of Silsby's extended family. "This was all a horrible mistake. It was just a misunderstanding."
But one man in the crowd - holding a sign that read "Laura wheres my paycheck?" - was a stark reminder of what else awaits the businesswoman once the elation ends.
"I did it to draw attention to the fact that she's got a litany of problems here in the Valley that she needs to deal with and maybe bring some attention to that," said Bryan Jack, a former employee at Silsby's Web-based business, Personal Shopper Inc., which shut down in March.
The company's directors notified former employees in early May that they planned to file Chapter 7 bankruptcy.
Over the past two years, Jack and others have filed both complaints with the Idaho Department of Labor and civil suits against Personal Shopper, claiming tens of thousands of dollars in unpaid wages.
While she was in Haiti, Silsby's ex-husband, Terry Silsby, filed for sole custody of their two young children. Laura Silsby also has an adult son.
In late April, Robert Williams, who had represented Laura Silsby in child custody issues, filed a motion to withdraw as her attorney.
AMID CHAOS, CARING
Silsby was accompanied on the flight home Tuesday by her father, John Sander, and Coulter, previously a nanny to Silsby's two young children.
Sander, Coulter and her father, Mel, went to visit Silsby in Haiti on May 2.
"We are thrilled beyond words," Sander told reporters gathered at the Boise Airport. "We're praising the Lord."
"I can finally sleep. It's good to have her home," Charisa Coulter said Tuesday afternoon.
When asked about being such a loyal friend, Coulter responded: "I'm giving back to her what she's given to me."
The three visited Silsby twice a day at the Port-Au-Prince jail, where Silsby was held in a roughly 12-by-12-foot cell that had one cot and an ever-changing number of inmates.
Some left the cell with newfound faith, Mel Coulter said.
"She witnessed to at least 10 people who became Christians," he said. "What began as a children's ministry became a jail ministry."
Sander and the Coulters brought Silsby food and supplies. While there, they met a group of young Haitians - all in their 20s - who walked up to an hour each day to offer emotional support to Silsby and bring her water and other supplies.
"One of them is a young Haitian woman whose husband died in the earthquake, and she's seven months pregnant," Mel Coulter said. "Those are the kinds of people who put their own needs aside to help Laura, recognizing that Laura and others put their lives aside to help the Haitians."
Silsby regularly received care packages from home that included reading materials and writing journals.
Mel Coulter left Haiti before Silsby was released and said he hadn't planned to leave Haiti without his daughter, but after seeing the "network of friends and supporters" she had there, he decided she was in good hands.
"We've all learned a lot. I would venture to guess that the Haitian government has also learned through this experience," Mel Coulter said.
"I think we can avoid similar instances in the future by working with some of the established organizations there."
THE FOCUS NOW: HER OWN CHILDREN
At the airport Tuesday, Silsby declined to answer any questions about her legal issues. After hugging her sister, Kim Barton, her mother, Adonna Sander, and others, she joined in a prayer huddle with Pastor Clint Henry.
Henry was camping in the Owyhees when his wife told him Silsby was free.
At the airport Tuesday, Henry thanked God for Silsby's homecoming.
"This whole trip has been for you and about you," Henry said, addressing God. "We keep the suffering people of Haiti in our prayers."
But now it is time for Silsby to be with her family.
"Laura hasn't seen her kids since mid-January. She really wants to spend some quality time with her kids and her family," he said. "The answers to questions that people have been asking will come, but it's not going to be today."
Katy Moeller: 377-6413 Bethann Stewart: 377-6393