The Haitian kidnapping gang that took 17 hostages from an Ohio-based missionary group has finally released the 12 remaining captives.
“We glorify God for answered prayer - the remaining 12 hostages are FREE!” Christian Aid Ministries said in a statement. “Join us in praising God that all 17 of our loved ones are now safe.”
"Thank you for your fervent prayers throughout the past two months. We hope to provide more information as we are able. 'I will sing unto the Lord, for he hath triumphed gloriously' (Exodus 15:1b)," the statement continued.
How It Happened
The members of the group from Christian Aid Ministries were captured two months ago. The nightmare began on Oct. 16 when the missionaries were kidnapped while traveling to a Haitian orphanage. Sixteen of them are U.S. citizens and one is Canadian.
Among those abducted were five children, including an 8-month-old, and their Haitian driver. Last month the gang members released two hostages, and three more in early December, all without incident. No details on whether any ransom has been paid. It is unclear what led to their freedom. Haitian police have not determined the whereabouts of their driver.
Those responsible are part of the notorious street gang called 400 Mawozo. As CBN News reported the gang had demanded $1 million for each victim. No details have been released as to whether any ransom was paid.
Missionaries Now a Common Target for Haitian Gangs
The apparent targeting of American church groups in Haiti is now sounding alarm bells for other missionaries.
Other missionaries are sharing similar stories of the violence overtaking Haiti. Dr. David Vanderpool left his medical practice in 2010 to serve there for 11 years. He fled Haiti just weeks ago due to growing civil and political unrest.
"In 2018, our base manager was murdered by the same gang on our front base steps, in front of his wife and child," said Dr. Vanderpool. "In 2015, they attempted to kidnap my wife. She was cut with a machete and beaten with a pistol."
He also said the collapse of Haiti's government has given gangs the upper hand, pointing out that gangs run roughly 60% of the country now and kidnappings are up 300%. Americans are the main target. Gangs demand hefty ransoms to fuel their violence.
"They control the fuel in the county and the ports," Dr. Vanderpool said.
The US Embassy Asked All American Missionaries to Leave
Bruce and Mary Melissa Vernon recently told CBN News that the embassy has asked all American missionaries to leave Haiti due to gang violence and rising economic turmoil. The couple returned safely in November and still want to go back when the time is right.
"Sometimes we can hear gunshots from our house that we think are associated with 400 Mowozo gang," said Bruce. "Because of the gangs and kidnappings, we had to move our Bible classes online. There are very few missionaries left in Haiti at this time."
The Vernons have asked people across the globe to join together in prayer, using Scripture as a focal point in the petition:
"Finally, brothers, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may speed ahead and be honored, as happened among you, and that we may be delivered from wicked and evil men. For not all have faith.
But the Lord is faithful. He will establish you and guard you against the evil one. And we have confidence in the Lord about you, that you are doing and will do the things that we command. May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ" (2 Thessalonians 3:1-5 NIV).
'This is Going to Become Another Somalia in Our Own Back Yard'
The U.S. State Department now ranks Haiti as one of the world's most dangerous countries, putting it on the same level as North Korea and Afghanistan. Dr. Vanderpool is urging everyone to heed their warning to not travel to Haiti.
"That should be a clue for people that they shouldn't go there," warned Dr. Vanderpool. The doctor is now using his time to push Congress and the Haiti Caucus to intervene there before the problem spreads.
"Otherwise, this is going to become another Somalia in our own back yard," the doctor said. "And that should get people really worried because Haiti is very close to the United States."