Exactly two months after being abducted by a Haitian gang, the remaining 12 Christian Aid Ministries (CAM) missionaries found freedom following a harrowing overnight escape and a “chance” encounter with a sympathetic Haitian.
Once the group arrived back to the U.S., and was safely reunited with friends and family, CAM shared details of the missionaries’ time in captivity.
The initial group of 17—12 adults and five children—were taken hostage by the gang known as 400 Mawozo outside of the capital city of Port-au-Prince on Oct. 16 after visiting a local orphanage.
“They were initially crowded into a small room in a house,” said CAM spokesman Weston Showalter, “but were moved around several times during their captivity.”
The gang kept the group together, allowing the missionaries to spend hours each day in communal prayer and song. Although they didn’t have access to a Bible, the missionaries often encouraged each other by reciting Scripture from memory. They even made concerted efforts to share the Gospel with their captors.
A month into their captivity, the group agreed to set up an around-the-clock prayer schedule. During the day, the missionaries would take turns praying for 30 minutes each. At night, the shifts were an hour long. According to CAM, they prayed not only for freedom but also for their captors’ salvation.
The missionaries report that their captors never physically harmed them and provided plenty of baby food for the 10-month-old and toddler in the group. The 400 Mawozo members also provided basic hygiene products, such as toothbrushes and toilet paper, and set up fans in an attempt to protect the captives from heat stroke.
Even so, several in the group experienced sickness and sores as a result of intense heat, mosquito bites and contaminated bathing water.
In November, the 400 Mawozo gang released two hostages, and then freed three more in early December.
After much discussion and prayer, the final 12 missionaries unanimously agreed that God was telling them to attempt an escape. Twice they had planned to flee, but various circumstances convinced them it was not the right time.
Then on the night of Dec. 15, they sensed the Lord telling them to act.
“They found a way to open the door that was closed and blocked, filed silently to the path that they had chosen to follow, and quickly left the place that they were held despite the fact that numerous guards were close by,” Showalter said. “In the distance, they could see a mountain. … They identified this landmark before, and they knew that this was the direction they needed to go. They also followed the sure guidance of the stars as they journeyed through the night.”
The group reportedly trekked at least 10 miles—carrying the two smallest children—through dense forest, brambles and gang territory. As morning dawned, the missionaries came upon a Haitian who helped them make a phone call for help.
Later that day, the 12 were flown on a coast guard flight to Florida, where they were reunited with the five missionaries that had been released earlier.
“Freedom is not a place,” Showalter said. “Our staff members that were held hostage would confirm that. They say that despite the difficulties, they experienced freedom even as they were being held. … In our minds, and in theirs, the true hostages are the hostage-takers. God invites all of us, including the kidnappers, to seek and find freedom through Jesus from the bondage of sin. … Our prayer, and the desire of the hostages and their families, is that the kidnappers would be transformed through the cleansing power of Jesus Christ.”
CAM General Director David N. Troye echoed that sentiment, and went further, addressing the gang members themselves.
“We do not know all of the challenges you face,” he wrote in a press release. “We do believe that violence and oppression of others can never be justified. You caused our hostages and their families a lot of suffering. However, Jesus taught us by word and by His own example that the power of forgiving love is stronger than the hate of violent force. Therefore, we extend forgiveness to you.”
Above: The 17 missionaries, along with one of the hostage’s husband (far right).
Photo: Christian Aid Ministries