International attention is focused on the 17 people that were kidnapped outside of an orphanage near Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Saturday, Oct. 16. Of the 17, five are from Oceana County and those include one parent and four children under the age of 16. These five are members of the Hart Dunkard Brethren Church at 2883 N. 56th Ave. in Hart, 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, releasing this statement Sunday, Oct. 17, “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 sixteen 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.
“He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust . . . For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways.’ (Psalm 91:1, 2,11).”
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.
U.S. Rep. Bill Huizenga issued a statement Monday, Oct. 18 regarding the kidnapping: “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. 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/.
At 12:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 19, Christian Aid Ministries released this statement: “Many people, including CAM management and Haitian and U.S. authorities, are working diligently to bring our loved ones home safely.
“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. Today, we again commit our workers to God’s care. ‘For He shall give His angels charge over you, to keep you in all your ways’ (Psalm 91:11). Pray that our workers could respond to hatred with Jesus’ love, overcome the spirit of fear with faith and face violence with a genuine desire to bless their oppressors.
“We request prayers for the Haitian and American civil authorities who are working to resolve this situation. We believe the command of the Bible in I Timothy 2:2-3— ‘Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence.’
“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.
“God bless you for praying. We immensely appreciate the outpouring of love and support from around the world.”
The other update provided by Christian Aid Ministries was posted Monday, Oct. 18: “We are entering the third day since 17 of our workers were kidnapped by a gang in Haiti. The media has carried this situation across the globe. Civil authorities in Haiti and the United States are aware of what has happened and are offering assistance. We continue to monitor the situation closely and are in earnest prayer.
We greatly appreciate the prayers of believers around the world, including our many Amish and Mennonite supporters. The Bible says, ‘The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much’ (James 5:16).
“Join us in prayer that God’s grace would sustain the men, women, and children who are being held hostage. In a world where violence and force are seen as the solution to problems, we believe in God’s call to Christians to ‘…not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good’ (Romans 12:21). Pray that those being held hostage could find strength to demonstrate God’s love. The kidnappers, like all people, are created in the image of God and can be changed if they turn to Him. While we desire the safe release of our workers, we also desire that the kidnappers be transformed by the love of Jesus, the only true source of peace, joy, and forgiveness.”
As the story has developed, churches across Oceana County have reached out to their congregations to pray for those that have been kidnapped. Please visit oceanaheraldjournal.com for the latest updates regarding this story as it continues to unfold.