Captive missionaries made daring escape from Haitian gang

Captive missionaries made daring escape from Haitian gang

December 20, 2021

Missionaries held hostage in Haiti made daring overnight escape with a baby and four children in tow ‘guided by stars’ – as Christian Ministry says it was given undisclosed amount for ransom

  • The group of 12 navigated by stars to reach safety after a two-month kidnapping ordeal, officials with the Christian Aid Ministries (CAM) said
  • A total of 17 people from the missionary group – 12 adults and five minors – were abducted on October 16 shortly after visiting an orphanage in Ganthier
  • The group included 16 Americans and one Canadian. Five other captives had earlier reached freedom
  • Their captors from the 400 Mawozo gang initially demanded millions of dollars in ransom. It is still unclear if any ransom was paid

A group of 12 missionaries in Haiti made a daring overnight escape, eluding their kidnappers and walking for miles over difficult, moonlit terrain with an infant and other children in tow, officials said Monday.

The group navigated their way by stars to reach safety after a two-month kidnapping ordeal, officials with the Christian Aid Ministries (CAM), the Ohio-based agency that the captive missionaries work for, said Monday at a press conference.

The detailed accounting of their journey to safety comes after news Thursday that the missionaries were free.

A total of 17 people from the missionary group – 12 adults and five minors – were abducted on October 16 shortly after visiting an orphanage in Ganthier, in the Croix-des-Bouquets area. The group included 16 Americans and one Canadian. Five of the missionaries were let go earlier this month.

Their captors from the 400 Mawozo gang initially demanded millions of dollars in ransom. It is still unclear if any ransom was paid.

The group of 12 navigated by stars to reach safety after a two-month kidnapping ordeal, officials with the Christian Aid Ministries (CAM) , the Ohio-based agency that the captive missionaries work for, said. Five other captives also pictured had earlier reached freedom


The 12 who fled last week carried the infant and a 3-year-old, wrapping the baby to protect her from the briars and brambles

A caravan drives to the airport after departing from the Christian Aid Ministries headquarters at Titanyen, north of Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Captive missionaries in Haiti made a daring overnight escape, eluding their kidnappers and walking for miles over difficult, moonlit terrain with an infant and other children in tow

CAM General Director David Troyer said supporters of CAM raised funds for possible use for a ransom, but he refused to say whether one was paid for any of the releases.

The 12 who fled last week carried the infant and a 3-year-old, wrapping the baby to protect her from the briars and brambles, said CAM spokesman Weston Showalter.

‘After a number of hours of walking, day began to dawn and they eventually found someone who helped to make a phone call for help,’ he said, his voice beginning to choke. ‘They were finally free.’

The 12 were flown to Florida on a US Coast Guard flight, and later reunited with five hostages who were released earlier.

CAM displayed photos at the news conferences showing the freed hostages being reunited, along with a video of the group singing a song that had inspired them during their captivity.

The missionaries were taken hostage on their way back from the orphanage on the afternoon of October 16.

‘They had no idea what was ahead of them,’ Showalter said. Only five or 10 minutes after getting underway, they saw a roadblock up ahead. 

They missionaries were not physically harmed by the kidnappers. The main physical challenges included the heat, mosquitoes and contaminated water for bathing, which led some of them to develop sores. Sometimes the young children got sick.

Their captors from the 400 Mawozo gang initially demanded millions of dollars in ransom. It is still unclear if any ransom was paid. Mawozo leader Lanmò San Jou aka ‘Death Without Days’

The missionaries were traveling from the Croix des Bouquets area, where they had been building an orphanage, to the Port-au-Prince airport. They were abducted near Carrefour Boen and La Tremblay 17 on the road to Ganthier

The group’s driver – the one Canadian in the group – turned around, but a pickup truck pursued them, and ‘gang members surrounded the van,’ CAM spokesman Weston Showalter said. 

He said early reports that the driver was a Haitian national were not accurate.

He said they were initially crowded into a small room in a house, but were moved around several times during their captivity.

They were not physically harmed by the kidnappers, Showalter said. 

He said the main physical challenges included the heat, mosquitoes and contaminated water for bathing, which led some of them to develop sores. Sometimes the young children got sick.

However, he said everyone appears to have emerged from captivity in good health.

The adults received small food portions, such as rice and beans for dinner, although the captors provided plenty of food suitable for the small children, he said. 

Unidentified people board a vehicle departing to the airport from the Christian Aid Ministries headquarters at Titanyen, north of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, December 16, 2021

The hostages gathered multiple times during the day for prayer and religious devotions, and sometimes singing loud enough for each other to hear when they were in separate rooms, Showalter said.

They also sought to encourage other hostages who were being held for ransom in separate kidnappings, Showalter said.

Over time, the hostages agreed to try to escape, and chose the night of December 15 to flee.

‘When they sensed the timing was right, 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 were held, despite the fact that numerous guards were close by,’ Showalter said.

Based in Berlin, Ohio, CAM is supported and staffed by conservative Anabaptists, a range of Mennonite, Amish and related groups whose hallmarks include nonresistance to evil, plain dress and separation from mainstream society.

None of the freed hostages were at the press conference. They came from Amish, Mennonite, and other Anabaptist communities in Wisconsin, Ohio, Michigan, Tennessee, Pennsylvania, Oregon, and Ontario, according to CAM.

After the news conference, a group of CAM employees stood and sang, ‘Nearer My God to Thee’ in the robust, four-part acapella harmony that is a signature of conservative Anabaptist worship. 

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