Diaspora

Michigan family among missionaries released after kidnapping in Haiti – Detroit Free Press

The remaining 12 missionaries held hostage in Haiti since October have been released, including the final four of a west Michigan family, Haitian police and the church group said Thursday.
The family lives in Oceana County and attends church in the nearby small town of Hart. Six members of the 11-person family were kidnapped Oct. 16 — the mother and five children. The father stayed behind that day to prepare a sermon. The two other family members were released on Dec. 5.
The FBI and the U.S. State Department worked to secure the release of the hostages but have yet to provide details on the release or the current state of the hostages.
Kidnapped in Haiti: Hart community prays for safe return of Michigan mom, children
“We glorify God for answered prayer — the remaining twelve hostages are FREE! Join us in praising God that all seventeen of our loved ones are now safe,” said Christian Aid Ministries, the Ohio-based group that organized the mission trip, in a statement. “Thank you for your fervent prayers throughout the past two months. We hope to provide more information as we are able.”
Minister Ron Marks of Hart Dunkard Brethren Church said he felt at peace when he received word from Christian Aid Ministries that the family — who are part of his congregation and longtime family friends — were safe.
“We are rejoicing that God is good, God has answered our prayers,” he said. “We are rejoicing, a great load is lifted, and we are ready for Christmas.”
Carleton Horst, a friend of the family and member of Hart Dunkard Brethren Church, thanked people in their community, around the state and across the world for their prayers. 
Marks said that, as far as he knows, the hostages were treated decently, but only time will tell what impact their kidnapping will have on them.
“I’m sure they weren’t treated supremely,” Marks said. “And I have not received any details. I’m assuming the last ones who had gained their freedom are doing relatively well. I think if there had been any severe problems, any injuries or any illnesses that they had, we would have probably heard. So, as far as I know, they’re relatively in good health.”
Marks said he doesn’t know where the family is right now or when they’ll return home to Michigan, but he’s just relieved that they’re free.
The family is part of a group of 17 missionaries who were kidnapped on their way to an orphanage in Port-au-Prince by the 400 Mawozo gang. 
Kidnappers demanded $17 million for the hostages’ release — $1 million per person.
Authorities say the missionaries were abducted in the community of Ganther, which lies in 400 Mawozo’s territory. Gang presence surged in Haiti after the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse in July and a severe earthquake devastated the region.  
U.S. Rep. Bill Huizenga, R-Holland, thanked everyone involved for the hard work and prayers throughout these challenging few months. 
“Today is the day we have been hoping for, praying for, and working so hard to achieve,” Huizenga said. “I want to thank members of the hostage negotiation team for their diligence in securing the safe release of all the hostages. This is a great day for families in Michigan and across the nation who have been worried about the safety of their loved ones.”
Although the family lives near Shelby, they attend the Hart Dunkard Brethren church in Hart and are a part of that community as well. The town is small, with a population of just over 2,000, and close-knit.
Horst said in October, “Hart is a very rural town, a very small town, everybody knows everybody, so to speak. And so we’re a close-knit community as a whole, and so when one person suffers, it’s kind of suffering for everybody else involved.”
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U.S. Rep. Andy Levin thanked all officials who helped with the hostage recovery effort and expressed relief that the hostages can return home to their loved ones. 
“At the same time, I also want to acknowledge that there are so many Haitians terrorized by kidnappings and extreme levels of violence, even as the humanitarian and security crisis in Haiti continues to worsen,” Levin said. “This year alone, nearly 800 people in Haiti have been kidnapped. I reiterate my fervent belief that the United States and our international partners must work urgently to support Haitian-led efforts to bring about a real and accountable democracy that can bring peace and security to the Haitian people.”
Contact Emma Stein: estein@freepress.com. Associated Press contributed.

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