International attention is focused on the 17 people that were kidnapped outside of an orphanage near Port-au-Prince, Haiti, last Saturday and of the 17, five are from Oceana County.
Those five — a parent and four children under the age of 16 — are members of the Hart Dunkard Brethren Church at 2883 N. 56th Ave., according to the church’s pastor, Ron Marks, who spoke with The Detroit News about the kidnapping.
The group was on a mission trip through Christian Aid Ministries out of Millersburg, Ohio. The ministry’s website has been providing regular updates on the abduction, stating Sunday, “We request urgent prayer for the group of Christian Aid Ministries workers who were abducted while on a trip to visit an orphanage on Saturday, Oct. 16. We are seeking God’s direction for a resolution, and authorities are seeking ways to help.
“The group of 16 U.S citizens and one Canadian citizen includes six men, six women and five children. Join us in praying for those who are being held hostage, the kidnappers and the families, friends and churches of those affected. Pray for those who are seeking God’s direction and making decisions regarding this matter.
“As an organization, we commit this situation to God and trust Him to see us through. May the Lord Jesus be magnified and many more people come to know His love and salvation.
According to the Associated Press, it is believed that the group was taken by the 400 Mawozo gang that operates along the border of Haiti and the Dominican Republic. The gang was also blamed for kidnapping five Catholic priests and two nuns earlier this year. They are known to kidnap people from cars and buses, and then ransom them as a group, instead of individually to avoid scrutiny. They are currently seeking $17 million in ransom for the missions group.
The FBI has been reported to be actively working to free those that were abducted.
“It’s a sad day for West Michigan. It appears that individuals from West Michigan have been kidnapped while serving on a mission trip in Haiti,” stated 2nd District U.S. Rep. Bill Huizenga, R-Zeeland, in a statement. “My office is working in cooperation and consultation with the State Department and the Biden Administration to secure the safe return of the missionaries and their family members. I hope you will join me in praying for those who have been taken as well as those working to secure their safe release. Out of respect for the privacy and the safety of all involved, I will be limiting public comment until this very fluid and dangerous situation is resolved.”
Huizenga’s office is working closely with the Herald-Journal to provide any updates it can. The Herald-Journal was unable to contact Pastor Marks by press time Tuesday, but was told by a member of the church that the most current information is being posted on the Christian Aid Ministries website at christianaidministries.org/updates/haiti-staff-abduction/.
“Many people, including CAM management and Haitian and U.S. authorities, are working diligently to bring our loved ones home safely,” Christian Aid Ministries stated Tuesday afternoon.
“The ages of the adults being held captive range from 18 to 48. The ages of the children are 8 months, 3 years, 6 years, 13 years and 15 years…
“We request prayers for the Haitian and American civil authorities who are working to resolve this situation. … This group of workers has been committed to minister throughout poverty-stricken Haiti. Their heart-felt desire is to share the love of Jesus.
“Before the kidnapping, their work throughout Haiti included supporting thousands of needy school children, distributing Bibles and Christian literature, supplying medicines for numerous clinics, teaching Haitian pastors and providing food for the elderly and vulnerable.
“In recent months, they were actively involved in coordinating a rebuilding project for those who lost their homes in the August 2021 earthquake. When kidnapped, the group was returning from a visit to an orphanage that receives support from Christian Aid Ministries.
As the story has developed, churches across Oceana County have reached out to their congregations to pray for those that have been kidnapped.