Ohio mission group prays for Haiti hostages amid threat

$17 million ransom demanded for Christian Aid Ministries staff, family members

People protest for the release of kidnapped mission workers Oct. 19 near the Christian Aid Ministries' facility in Titanyen, Haiti. (Joseph Odelyn/AP) People protest for the release of kidnapped mission workers Oct. 19 near the Christian Aid Ministries’ facility in Titanyen, Haiti. (Joseph Odelyn/AP)

Families of the 17 Christian Aid Ministries mission workers and children held hostage in Haiti since Oct. 16 thanked Christians around the world for prayers in a statement shared Oct. 21 by CAM during a day of prayer and fasting in support of the hostages’ release.

The statement came a few hours before the leader of the “400 Mazowo” gang threatened in an online video to kill the hostages if the $17 million ransom is not paid. Reuters reported a U.S. State Department official called the video “legitimate.”

The group was kidnapped Oct. 16 after they visited an orphanage outside Port-au-Prince. CAM, based in Berlin, Ohio, is a mission and relief organization supported by Amish and conservative Mennonite groups.

“God has given our loved ones the unique opportunity to live out our Lord’s command to ‘love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you’ (Matthew 5:44),” said the family members in the Oct. 21 statement. “God invites us to call upon His name in the day of trouble (Psalm 50:15). We thank Him that He is God, and ask Him to hear our prayers and bring our families home.”

The families members, who come from Amish, Mennonite and other conservative Anabaptist communities in Wisconsin, Ohio, Michigan, Tennessee, Pennsylvania, Oregon and Ontario, asked for continued prayers for the hostages, kidnappers and government authorities.

“Pray for the hostages, we desire their release and also pray that they could endure faithfully and display a spirit of Christlike love,” read CAM representative Weston Showalter outside the Berlin, Ohio, headquarters. “Jesus, when nailed to the cross, said, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.

“Also pray for the kidnappers, that they would experience the love of Jesus and turn to Him. We see that as their ultimate need.”

CAM supporters have not waited for an invitation to pray. The New York Times reported churches have been sharing schedules through social media to ensure prayer is unceasing.

The staff of Mountain View Nursing Home in Aroda, Va., which is sponsored by the Beachy Amish Oak Grove Mennonite Church, gathers at 8:30 a.m. daily to pray.

Rosemary and Delbert Petersheim, who are part of a Mennonite congregation in Cuba, Mo., set an alarm for 2:45 a.m. to pray.

Ezra and Marlene Streicher of Milverton, Ont., who learned about the crisis on their way to Zion Mennonite Fellowship Church, pray every evening at 9 p.m. They have the same time slot as all of the families at Fincastle Mennonite Church, a Beachy Amish Mennonite congregation in Virginia.

“We have died for our faith, particularly in the early days,” bishop Timothy Weaver told the Times. “So we are willing to do that, but we certainly pray for life. We pray for deliverance.”

Also on Oct. 21, the United Nations Children’s Fund called upon the Haitian government to take action to address gang violence against children. The number of children and women abducted for ransom in the first eight months of this year has already surpassed last year’s total.

“Nowhere is safe for children in Haiti anymore,” said Jean Gough, UNICEF regional director for Latin America and the Caribbean. “Whether on their way to school, at home or even at church, girls and boys are at risk of being kidnapped anywhere, at any time of the day or night. This is every parent’s worst nightmare.”

UNICEF estimates, based on official sources, that 71 women and 30 children have been abducted this year.

“Criminal gangs are using children as bargaining chips and making money off of parents’ love for their children,” Gough said. “Amidst widespread poverty and rampant criminality, child abductions have become a lucrative business. This is abhorrent.”

Local media reports suggest many of the hostages are from the area in and around where CAM is located in Ohio. The Zanesville Times Recorder reported U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson’s congressional office said at least one member of the group is from Heritage Mennonite Church, part of Beachy Amish Mennonite Fellowship, in Byesville, Ohio. Johnson’s office said most of the other captives are from a neighboring congressional district that includes Coshocton, Holmes, Ashland and Tuscarawas counties, among others.

Another family is from Hart Dunkard Brethren Church in Michigan. The Detroit News reported five members of one family are from the church and arrived in Haiti around Oct. 10. A mother and her four children were kidnapped, while the family’s father had stayed at CAM’s base in Haiti and wasn’t with the kidnapped group when the incident occurred.

CAM invited words of encouragement, prayers and personal stories of God’s faithfulness to be shared with family members of hostages at prayers@christianaidministries.org.

Anabaptist World

Anabaptist World Inc. (AW) is an independent journalistic ministry serving the global Anabaptist movement. We seek to inform, inspire and Read More

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