Just a few weeks ago, local people were hanging red ribbons to welcome Candi and Marc Dunlap home from a mission trip that turned into a terrifying ordeal.
Now for the first time publicly, the Meridian couple is sharing their story.
One week, Candi Dunlap was a busy mom, wife and emergency room nurse. The next, she was a prisoner in a dirty, cold jail in Macedonia.
After about a month, Dunlap was free again but her life was forever changed.
By all accounts, it seemed to be a glorious week in Macedonia for a medical mission team from Meridian's 15th Avenue Baptist Church. The team measured vital signs, gave shots and passed out medicines to people in the small villages outside the capital city of Skopje.
Dunlap, a nurse practitioner, treated as many people as she could. She says some walked two hours for the opportunity.
Her husband, Marc, was part of the set-up crew and got the word out to the villages about the clinic. Candi said grateful patients would bring her gifts:
"It's a gesture of gratitude," said Candi Dunlap. "They baked me bread, made me dolls. They gave me all kinds of things."
Included in that were old coins that inspectors at the airport found in her bag.
"All of them would fit in the palm of your hand," said Dunlap. "They didn't look like anything important."
Candi says the next thing she knew, she was in a dark room being interrogated for hours.
"They just couldn't believe we would pay our way," she said. "They thought someone sent us. They just couldn't fathom that."
Dunlap thought her delay would be short. She asked the rest of the team to go ahead and get on the flight. Team leader Jim Hayes stayed behind to fly with her on the next flight out.
Instead, Dunlap was arrested and taken to a primarily men's prison in Shutka that had just three cells for women. She said there were seven other women in a filthy room. But Candi soon realized she had greater concerns than the conditions.
"My blood pressure was so high I lost the vision in my right eye," she said. "All I could think of was that I was having a stroke."
In Part 2, Dunlap shares the rest of her story.