12 missionary hostages in Haiti made escape after sign from God

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The final 12 missionaries who remained captive in Haiti executed a daring escape plan to free themselves from their captors after they were “nudged” by God, officials from Christian Aid Ministries said at a press conference on Monday.

The final group of captives – a married couple, four single men, two women and four children, including a baby and three-year-old – had agreed that they would make an attempt to escape if they were given a sign from God, CAM spokesman Deston Showalter said.

On two occasions, he said the group received divine signs to stay put, but after receiving a sign to flee, they snuck out under the cover of nightfall following a sign on Dec. 15.

“At times they felt God prepared a path before them,” Showalter said. “God was leading them.” 

The hostages readied themselves for their great escape by putting on their shoes and packing water in their clothes. They slipped out of the small 10”x12” room where they were being held with guard all around and headed for a mountain in the distance.

Captive missionaries in Haiti found freedom the week before by making a daring overnight escape
Captive missionaries in Haiti found freedom by making a daring overnight escape.
Courtesy of Christian Aid Ministries via AP

The group made it safely and was flown by the Coast Guard to Florida where they reunited with other hostages after two months in captivity. All are expected to be reunited with their families on Tuesday, he said.

Since their return back to the United States, “all of the hostages seem to be reasonably well,” David Troyer, the director CAM said Monday.

The 17 Christian missionaries were kidnapped by the 400 Mawozo gang after visiting a local orphanage in Port-au-Prince on October 16. The group, which was made up of Amish, Mennonite and other conservative Anabaptist communities, included 16 US citizens and one Canadian. Five of those kidnapped were children. Their Canadian driver was also kidnapped.

Hostages after escaping in Haiti on 12/18/2021
Hostages after escaping in Haiti, December 18, 2021.
Christian Aid Ministrires

The leader of the notorious gang, Wilson Joseph, threatened to kill the hostages, demanding $1 million for each.

On Nov. 21, two hostages were released, followed by three more on Dec. 3.

At the press conference, Showalter showed pictures of the 12 adults and five children taken by the Haitian gang, including a photo that showed a beaming 10-month-old girl and a 3-year-old boy reading a book. He said the captors seemed to have taken good care of the children.

Unidentified people board a vehicle departing to the airport from the Christian Aid Ministries headquarters at Titanyen, north of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Dec. 16, 2021.
Unidentified people board a vehicle departing to the airport from the Christian Aid Ministries headquarters at Titanyen, north of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Dec. 16, 2021.
AP Photo/Odelyn Joseph

Showalter said he has spoken to the hostages who seem to be in good spirits and whom he called “very resilient.” He said the group’s faith has carried them through the difficult times.

While held captive, the group spent their days praying and singing, he said. They were permitted to go outside daily.

They were fed Haitian meals regularly, such as spaghetti and half of a boiled egg for breakfast, and rice and beans for dinner. On Thanksgiving, they were fed Haitian stew.

Unidentified people depart on route to the airport from the Christian Aid Ministries headquarters at Titanyen, north of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Dec. 16, 2021
Twelve remaining members of a missionary group who were kidnapped two months ago have been freed.
AP Photo/Odelyn Joseph

While the adults would go hungry sometimes, the captors always provided ample baby food. “Babies are precious to everyone,” he said, adding the guards enjoyed playing with the baby. They also had access to basic items of hygiene like toothbrushes and soap.

While they remained uncomfortable in the humid Caribbean heat and some children experienced some illnesses, they were never physically abused.

Showalter said that the group has decided to forgive their captors.

On of the hostages being reunited with his brothers on Saturday
One of the hostages being reunited with his brothers, December 18, 2021.
Christian Aid Ministrires

“In their mind, the true hostages are those who took them,” he said. “Our prayer is they hostage-takers be transformed. We choose to extend forgiveness to them. We would love for them to become brothers in Christ.”

CAM has worked in Haiti for over three decades but will reexamine its security protocols for future missions.

“We can not abandon them in their greatest time of need,” Troyer said. “We want Haitians to flourish economically and spiritually.”

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