Community plans to celebrate return of Michigan family kidnapped in Haiti – MLive.com

Prayer vigil for missionaries kidnapped in Haiti
HART, MI – A small, rural town is preparing to welcome back the Michigan family that spent nearly two months in captivity after they were kidnapped during a mission trip to Haiti.
The Hart community is planning a luncheon and prayer vigil this weekend to give thanks for the return of the Noecker family, who escaped from the violent 400 Mawozo gang earlier this month.
The gathering is scheduled for Sunday, Jan. 2 at the West Michigan Research Center, 5185 N. Oceana Dr. in Hart, family friend Carleton Horst told MLive.
A rice and beans lunch is set for noon, followed by a time of “Thanksgiving, Prayer and Praise” at 12:45 p.m. It is a public event, Horst said.
Horst said the Noecker family plans to be back in West Michigan by Sunday and attend the gathering.
Community members in Hart have been leaning on one another, and their faith, over the last two months to get through the kidnapping ordeal, Horst said.
“We’ve just been leaning into one another, and leaning on God, and just continuing to pray for and uphold one another,” he told MLive last week after the family found freedom from the Haitian gang.
The town rallied together to host a prayer vigil shortly after the missionaries were kidnapped in October. More than 100 people attended the Oct. 24 event to sing and pray in support of those involved in the international crisis.
RELATED: ‘It’s in God’s hands,’ says pastor at vigil for West Michigan family kidnapped in Haiti
Ron Marks, minister of Hart Dunkard Brethren Church, said the kidnapping situation has brought the Hart community together like never before. Hart is a small city of roughly 2,000 people, located in rural Oceana County.
“We’re very small community and so therefore we know a very high percentage of the residents of our area,” Marks said. “It’s a very honest community.”
The Noecker family, of Hart, was identified as six of the 17 missionaries who were kidnapped in Haiti in October. The captives included Cheryl Noecker, 48, and her children Brandyn Noecker, 15, Kasondra Noecker, 14, Courtney Noecker, 18, Shelden Noecker, 6, and Cherilyn Noecker, 27.
The father of the children, Ray Noecker, 49, was also on the mission trip but didn’t go on the trip to the orphanage where the group was kidnapped.
The Michigan family who spent nearly two months in captivity of a Haitian gang found freedom in December. This photo of the Noecker and Wadel families was shared during a press conference held via Zoom by family friend Carleton Horst and Hart Brethren Church Minister Ron Marks. (Photo captured via Zoom)
Cheryl and Shelden Noecker were two of the three hostages who were released on Dec. 5. Another two hostages were released in late November.
The remaining four Noecker children were among the 12 remaining hostages who made a daring escape from their captors on Dec. 15. The group trekked through woods and thicket for miles in the middle of the night until they found help, according to church officials.
A total of 17 missionaries – 16 Americans and one Canadian – were kidnapped on Oct. 16 by the 400 Mawozo gang during a trip to a Haitian orphanage near Port-au-Prince. The group was visiting Haiti on a mission trip led by Ohio-based Christian Aid Ministries.
More on MLive:
Michigan family held hostage in Haiti ‘prayed to be home by Christmas,’ father says
Michigan family, other missionaries escaped from Haitian kidnappers in middle of the night, aid group says
Faith, fellowship holds tiny Michigan town together following Haitian kidnapping of mother, 4 kids
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