Missionaries' escape in Haiti answered Reno County family's prayers – The Hutchinson News

A Reno County native and his young family were among a dozen Anabaptist missionaries who made a daring escape from kidnappers in Haiti last week.
His family in Reno County, who said they were praying almost continuously for him and his family and the other captives, described it as a Christmas miracle.
Ryan Korver was born in Reno County but moved away with family to Wisconsin when he was 7, said his aunt, Carolyn Bontrager of Arlington.
His grandparents, Eldon and Mary Ellen Bontrager, and several aunts and uncles still live here.
Korver, 29, was a box truck driver for the mission, delivering books to schools, his grandfather said. He’d been in Haiti since June.
Korver and his wife, Melodi, and their two children, Andre, 3, and Laura, 10 months, were among 17 members of the Christian Aid Ministry serving in Haiti who were abducted by a Haitian gang after a visit to an orphanage on Oct. 16.
More:‘They faced a lot’: How the 12 remaining kidnapped missionaries in Haiti hatched a daring escape
Leaving the orphanage after a two-hour visit, they spotted a roadblock and tried to turn around when another vehicle sped around them and blocked their escape, CAM staff member Gary Miller said during a press conference at the organization’s headquarters in Ohio last week.
The kidnappers released five of the hostages for medical reasons on two separate occasions, in late November and early December, members of the aid agency reported. But the remainder were held for two months before they escaped. The kidnappers had demanded $1 million ransom for each captive.
“Over the time of their captivity, God gave various hostages a desire to attempt an escape, but it took them a while to all agree on when or how this should take place,” CAM’s Miller said. “They sought God in prayer over and over again, seeking direction from him.”
On a couple of occasions, the captives planned to escape but had decided that if specific things didn’t happen they would accept that as God’s direction to wait, so they waited, Miller said.
The group “finally felt united” that they should attempt an escape the night of Dec. 15, Miller said, and on that night, “they sensed the time was right.”
“They prepared, put on their shoes, and packed water in their clothes for the journey,” Miller said. “They found a way to open the door that was closed and blocked, filed silently to the path they had chosen to follow, and quickly left the place they had been held, despite the fact that numerous guards were close by.”
A mountain feature they recognized in the distance initially told them the direction to go. They also relied on the stars for direction and the moon to light their path.
At times they weren’t sure which way to go as they stayed off roads and instead walked through heavy woods and thick thorny brambles, so they would stop and pray, asking God to show them, then continue on.
As the new day began to dawn, they found someone who helped them call for help.
The group estimated they walked for 10 miles through the night.
Besides the Korver family, the group included a 14-year-old girl, a 15-year-old boy, four single men and two single women.
In captivity, the group prayed and sang regularly, Miller said the hostages relayed, even organizing a continuous around-the-clock prayer effort, with members passing around a watch and trading off every 30 minutes to an hour.
They prayed not only for deliverance but for their captors.
Prayers for the hostages were going up among Amish and Mennonite communities in Reno County and around the U.S. and the world.  A three-day fast earlier this month was organized by CAM praying for the captives’ safety and release. The community also had regular prayer meetings for them, Eldon Bontrager said. 
“We want to thank people for their prayers, from all over the world,” said Eldon Bontrager, who’s lived on Sterling Road since the 1950s. “We are so grateful things turned out the way they did. It strengthened our faith too.”
The organization notified families of the abductions and kept them up to date whenever there was any news, Eldon Bontrager said, praising the agency’s efforts.
“We really felt sorry for them,” Eldon Bontrager said of the Korvers and their family in Wisconsin. “It was hard on them and all the cousins. You just never knew for so long what the outcome would be.”
Some of the kidnapped group had cellphones that were not immediately taken away, which was how news of their abduction initially got out. But the phones soon were discovered, and then the hostages were moved several times over the two months, making it difficult to stage a rescue.
They were usually placed together in a small room, about 10 by 12 feet, which didn’t leave room for everyone to lie down at the same time, Miller said. They were sometimes allowed outside, and a few times their captors provided electric fans to help with the heat.
Often, they were placed in compounds where other hostages also were being held, and they would communicate through fences or walls, sometimes singing and praying together.
The children, popular among their captors, were well fed. The adults, while also fed daily, were often left hungry. They were also provided potable drinking water, though it was limited, and given creek water in which to wash.
Several hostages were released early due to infections from the wash water getting into open sores from bug bites.
Ryan is one of five children. His mother, Marilyn Bontrager, married Dan Korver in 1991 while living in Reno County. Marilyn helped Carolyn Bontrager start her restaurant, Carolyn’s Essenhaus in Arlington, before moving to Wisconsin in 1999. Eldon and Mary Ellen Bontrager also have two sons, Myron, a cabinet maker, and LaVon, who died of cancer 11 years ago.
The last time the family saw Ryan was last Christmas, Eldon Bontrager recalled.
“We’re just so relieved they’re home,” Carolyn Bontrager said. “It’s just kind of amazing they actually escaped while plans and working negotiations were being made on this side. We really didn’t have any idea they were going to make that move.”
“We’re also just very grateful they (the captors) took care of the children during a very bad situation,” she said.
After their escape, the captives were all flown to Florida, where families met them to take them back to their homes.
“I’d say it’s a Christmas miracle,” Carolyn Bontrager said. “It’s awesome, just so awesome. I’d also like to thank everyone for their prayers. Prayer is powerful.”


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