Diaspora

Madras hostage tells his story to a national TV audience – Portland Tribune





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GOOD MORNING AMERICAN SCREEN SHOT - Austin Smucker of Madras tells his story of being taken hostage in Haiti to reporter Linsey Davis on the nationally televised ABC show Good Morning America.
The entire nation heard about the ordeal when a Haiti gang kidnapped 17 missionaries and held them captive for 62 days. Madras missionary Austin Smucker, 27, was among them. After the group escaped, the nationally televised ABC program Good Morning America called. They wanted to hear his story.
TV report highlights prayerThe reporter, Linsey Davis, focused on how Smucker leaned on his faith throughout the experience.
"I was amazed because it seems like nowadays people try to steer away from anything that relates to God, prayer, faith," said Smucker. "I was amazed for a TV network to share that kind of stuff as much as they did."Smucker hopes his story may influence someone's life for the better.He told about being captured by a gang in Haiti while coming home from visiting an orphanage, about being crowded in to a small room, about inadequate food, and about how they escaped by simply walking out the door in the middle of the night. (People can see the television story online by Googling "Good Morning America Austin Smucker.")PHOTO COURTESY LAURA SMUCKER - The group of missionaries held hostage in Haiti in October met in Michigan with their families for a reunion. Here the hostages share their stories with the rest of the group.

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Hostage family reunion"I almost enjoyed being in the gangster camp," said Smucker. "For me personally, I've seen nothing but good come out of it thus far." Yet Smucker realizes others, particularly the families of the hostages, may not feel the same way. On the last weekend of February, the hostages and their families met in Michigan for a reunion.The group talked through the experience together."I came to the conclusion I think it was actually harder for the families than it was for us in the gangster camp," said Smucker. "There were times when our families didn't know whether we were dead or alive."
Smucker's mother, Laura, found comfort at the reunion. "It was really good to get together in person and share how we had many shared feelings," she said. "And the singing was a foretaste of heaven.""It was great to be able to see everyone again and meet their families," said Smucker. "We have a bond nobody can understand because of what we went through together."PHOTO COURTESY AUSTIN SMUCKER - Austin Smucker met Charilyn Noecker while a Haiti gang held them hostage for 62 days. They're now dating long distance, he from Madras, she from Michigan.
Kidnapping love story
Of all the hostages, Smucker especially wanted to see one young woman, Cherilyn Noecker. She had caught his attention during the two months in captivity."I noticed she spent a lot of time focused on what God was doing as opposed to focusing on the circumstances," Smucker said. In fact, he saw God's hand in bringing the two of them together. A month after their escape, Austin contacted Cherilyn to ask if she'd like to date. She said yes.
Wondering about his captorsAs for his captors, Smucker says he'd like to see them again."The Bible tells us we're supposed to love our enemies. We're supposed to turn the other cheek when someone does something bad to you. You're supposed to continue to love them," said Smucker. "I want to show them we still love them as people. And I want to see if they've changed because of what they saw."The hostages worried gang leadership would hurt or even kill their guards for letting them escape. He learned through the FBI the guards appear to be unharmed."When they woke up the next morning and we were gone, and everything was exactly the same as they had left it when they put us to bed the night before," ponders Smucker, "did they realize that was God that took us out of there? And did that change them?"Christian Aid Ministries has evacuated its base near Port-au-Prince where most of the gang activity centers in Haiti. Smucker says the organization hasn't made plans about that base going forward. Another CAM camp remains in northern Haiti.As for Smucker?"I would go on another mission if the opportunity arises."


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