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‘God was nudging them to attempt an escape’: Haiti captives fled under cover of night, missionary group reveals

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Christian missionaries and children who were kidnapped in Haiti endured meagre meals and sweltering conditions for two months before five of them were released and 12 of them escaped in the night, a leader from their organization revealed Monday.

Weston Showalter, spokesperson for the Ohio-based Christian Aid Ministries recounted in detail the ordeal of the group members who are now all safe at home with their families.

A group known as 400 Mawozo is believed to have kidnapped members of Christian Aid Ministries as they visited an orphanage in Ganthier — about 30 kilometres east of Port-au-Prince — in October.

Five children and 12 missionaries, one of whom is Canadian, were taken.

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Showalter said the group had gathered into a van for a one-and-a-half-hour drive to visit an orphanage on the day of the kidnapping. After visiting with the children, they were blocked on their return journey by multiple cars, which quickly surrounded their vehicle.

“Gang members surrounded the van and quickly escorted them, going very fast, out of that area,” Showalter said.

The Canadian member was driving the van, but gang members eventually took over the driving, removing the Canadian from the group.

He was later reunited with them, when they were all placed in a room of about three metres by four metres on their first night in captivity.

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That night, Showalter said, was sleepless.

What followed was more than a month of difficulty for the hostages, but no outright physical abuse, Showalter said. They were provided basic food for the adults, and lots of baby food for the 10-month-old baby who was with them. They prayed, initially three times a day, then in a round-the-clock cycle.

On Nov. 21, two of the hostages were released by the gang members, followed by three more on Dec. 6.

The remaining 12 hostages, including the Canadian, began talking of escape.

“The hostages had a sense that God was nudging them to attempt an escape,” Showalter said.

One day, they all agreed that the timing was right, something they called a “miracle,” because they had not all agreed before.

So they gathered up water and left.

“They quickly left the place where they were held. They sensed the time was right even though guards were posted nearby,” Showalter said.

They walked through thick forests in gang territory through the night. The hostages estimated they walked a distance of 16 kilometres, before morning broke and they were able to call for help.

“They were finally free, thanks be to God,” Showalter said. “Later that day, all of them flew on a coast guard flight to Florida.”

Christian Aid Ministries Monday shared photos of the captives who are free following a two-month ordeal in Haiti.

All 17 of those who had been kidnapped are all home with their families, the missionary leader said.

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“Was their time difficult in captivity? We’re grateful for what they were able to have, but, yes, their time was difficult and intense,” he said.

He shared a video of the group of hostages singing hymns, something they did frequently in captivity.

More to come.

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