By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent Worthy News
(Worthy News) - The remaining members of a U.S. Christian missionary group abducted in Haiti in October has been released and returned to the United States, their boss confirmed.
David N. Troyer, general director of Ohio-based Christian Aid Ministries (CAM), could “confirm the safe return of all 17 staff members” who were held hostage by a notorious street gang.
He said a “U.S.-flagged plane left Haiti with the remaining freed hostages” late Thursday. “Everyone, including the 10-month-old baby, the 3-year-old boy, and the 6-year-old boy, seem to be doing reasonably well,” he added.
Seventeen hostages, including 16 Americans and one Canadian, were seized by the 400 Mawozo gang outside Port-au-Prince, the capital, on October 16.
Since then, five people were released, but concerns about the others prompted CAM to often urge for prayers. “We thank Almighty God, who so wonderfully answered our prayers, “Troyer said in a statement obtained by Worthy News.
“As it is written in the Bible: ‘You are worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and by Your will, they exist and were created, he added, referring to Bible verse Revelation 4:11.
The Christians were kidnapped as they returned from a visit to an orphanage some 90 minutes from their base. Troyer contradicted reports that the hostages were separated in four locations. “The hostages were able to spend their captivity together as a group. They spent many hours of each day praying, singing, and encouraging each other,” he stressed.
“Unfortunately, they did not have a Bible, but they recited Bible verses by memory among themselves. They prayed for their captors and told them about God’s love and their need to repent,” he added.
Officials from the State Department and the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation were in Haiti to help secure the release of the hostages, U.S. government representatives said.
“We welcome reports that they are free and getting the care that they need after their ordeal,” added Karine Jean-Pierre, the principal deputy White House press secretary. “The U.S. government has been working tirelessly over the past two months to get them released.”
Canadian Foreign Ministry spokesman Jason Kung added that “consular officials stand ready to provide consular assistance to the Canadian involved.” He declined to provide further information, citing “privacy considerations.
The abduction drew international attention to a surge in kidnappings, including Christian missionaries and church leaders, in the Western Hemisphere’s poorest country.
Troyer clarified that the missionaries knew the risks involved in working in Haiti. “We go to dangerous places in many parts of the world. Why? Because that is usually where the biggest needs are. That’s what Christian Aid Ministries has been doing for decades. If we’d go only where it is safe, we’d stay put in our communities.”
However, he admitted that the kidnapping gave CAM “a heightened awareness of the need to strengthen our safety protocols and better instruct our people about the dangers involved.”
It was not immediately clear what would happen next with the various programs supported by CAM in Haiti, where Troyer said missionaries were met “physical and spiritual needs.”
He explained that CAM was “on the ground in Haiti for 30 years. These people, the former hostages, and our other staff, we're there to enable thousands of poor children, often in remote parts of Haiti, to go to school,” he said.
And, missionaries provided “help and hope to widows, the elderly, and the handicapped. And they delivered medicines for the sick and nutritional products for malnourished children all over the country,” Troyer said.
CAM staff was also involved in
overseeing the rebuilding of homes destroyed or damaged by the recent earthquake.
They organized CAM’s “work-for-wages” program, building roads and installing water systems, so unemployed people had jobs with crucial infrastructure for needy communities.
Additionally, the released hostages were involved in teaching pastors, supplying Bibles,
Bible storybooks, and other Christian literature, Troyer, added.
While they were safe in the United States on Saturday, it wasn’t immediately clear whether any of the demands by the kidnappers had been met. 400 Mawozo, known for its brazen kidnappings and targeting Christian groups, said earlier that it demanded $17 million — $1 million a hostage.
One of its leaders, Wilson Joseph, threatened to “put a bullet” in the head of each hostage if the ransom was not paid. However, at least some were released without money being spent, sources said.
The U.S. and Canadian governments have said that they typically do not pay ransoms. Troyer told the kidnappers in a video message that he and the hostages had forgiven them, despite “a lot of suffering.”
“We do not know all of the challenges you face. We do believe that violence and oppression of others can never be justified. You caused our hostages and their families a lot of suffering,” he told them.
“However, Jesus taught us by word and by His example that the power of forgiving love is stronger than the hate of violent force. Therefore, we extend forgiveness to you.”
He also recalled that the “hostages told you plainly how God can also forgive you if you repent. We desire that you and all who hear or read this statement may come to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ, our Savior, the Son of God, and the Prince of Peace. Jesus died [and rose from death] for all so that all can be saved.”
The release of the hostages was welcoming news in an otherwise difficult year for Haiti marked by tragedies.
In July, President Jovenel Moïse was assassinated in a brazen attack at his home that remains unsolved, plunging the nation into turmoil.
The earthquake in southern Haiti the following month killed more than 2,200 people. On Monday, a tanker truck carrying gasoline overturned and exploded in the country’s second-largest city, killing at least more than 70 people and injuring scores more.
The earthquake in southern Haiti the following month killed more than 2,200 people. On Monday, a tanker truck carrying gasoline overturned and exploded in the country’s second-largest city, killing at least 73 people and injuring scores more.
CAM suggested the release of missionaries was a miracle between the hardship ahead of Christmas, citing Bible verse Exodus 15:1b: “I will sing unto the Lord, for he hath triumphed gloriously.”