Freed Missionaries Tell How They Escaped Haitian Kidnappers

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Escaping captors in the middle of the night, 12 Christian Aid Ministries missionaries hiked silently through the moonlit Haitian jungle, pausing at times to pray for the direction that led to freedom.

For roughly 10 miles, they pressed forward, through thick, thorny brush: a married couple, 10-month-old baby, 3-year-old, 14-year-old girl, 15-year-old boy, four single men, and two single women.

Until now, details of their Oct. 16 kidnapping by the 400 Mawozo gang and their Dec. 15 escape could not be told, for security reasons. Even now, Christian Aid Ministries, is not releasing their names. The missionaries are from Amish, Mennonite, and other Anabaptist communities in Wisconsin, Ohio, Michigan, Tennessee, Pennsylvania, Oregon, and Ontario, Canada.

Originally, 17 missionaries were abducted while on a trip visiting an orphanage. The 400 Mawozo gang demanded $17 million and threatened to kill the hostages unless they got $1 million per person. In time they released five hostages.

Ohio-based Christian Aid Ministries spokesman Weston Showalter, held a Monday press conference with details of the experience and photos of the former hostages. Details are from his speech, as told by the missionaries.

The 17 took a van to visit the orphanage, 90 minutes from mission headquarters. They arrived at 10 a.m. and stayed until about 1 p.m., using that time to interview children and look over the facility.

Shortly into their drive back, they saw a roadblock. While attempting to turn the van around, they were overtaken by kidnappers who chased them in a pickup truck. The kidnappers blocked their way, surrounded their vehicle, and took control.

The driver was removed and the others wondered if they would see him again. “As the kidnappers took over their van and drove wildly to get them to a secluded area, our workers prayed out loud and sang the song, ‘The Angel of the Lord Encampeth Round About Them,’” Showalter said.

The hostages were taken to a small house, where all 17 were placed in a small room, approximately 10 feet by 12 feet. Here they were reunited with the driver who had been taken on the road.

“They spent the first night almost sleepless with nearly no space for all of them to lie down. In this small room, there were several mattresses. Some sat up, some stood, some laid down, and everyone endured heat, mosquitoes, and uncertainty,” Showalter said.
Soon their days fell into a pattern of worship in the morning with singing and praying, sometimes until noon. They were allowed to go outside during the day.

They prayed at 1 p.m. daily to be freed.

The kidnappers fed them but they faced hunger. Some foods provided included Haitian breakfast spaghetti, a half hard-boiled egg per person, corn mush, scrambled eggs, rice and beans with fish sauce, and sometimes vegetable paste. On Thanksgiving they got a traditional Haitian stew.

They were moved several times and in one location they had coconuts.

“Although they received food each day, they were often still hungry after eating what was given to them,” Showalter said. “They provided large amounts of baby food for the small children, for which we are so thankful. Babies are precious and even the guards enjoyed talking to little Laura. As you will notice in the pictures, the little children seemed to get sufficient food.”

By Beth Brelje

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