Many of you may have heard that on Wednesday, March 3, two of our drivers were kidnapped by a gang in Port-au-Prince.
We feel immense gratitude for each of you who were praying during the highly stressful hours while they were held and for the speed at which the prayer request was shared with so many around the world. We wanted to share the story with you in more detail so that you would have a more complete understanding of what happened and of how you can pray for us.
If you have been following our updates and blog posts, you will know that back in the fall we opened a community store known as MACOL. To put it briefly, the purpose of this store is to bring glory to God and serve our community through business. (For more details, please read this post hereand the second half of this post here.) Thus far we have been thrilled to see MACOL really beginning to achieve the purposes for which it was created.
But in order to run a store, you must have product. As the political and security situation has continued to degenerate here in Haiti, we have been extremely wary of making any trips to the cities, particularly to the capital. Absolutely no trips were made to Port-au-Prince in February for this reason. Eventually, however, MACOL leadership felt that to continue to serve the community, they simply had to replenish their stock of certain essential items. Trying to maximize their trip into the capital, they decided to pick up as much stock as possible. Early Wednesday morning, two of our trucks entered Port-au-Prince. Two staff members had gone into the city the day before to place orders and make all payments, so that the following day the trucks could quickly pick up the product and head back the same day.
All went as planned that morning. The driver picking up construction supplies got his load and headed back to the Plateau. The second truck picked up its portion of the construction supplies and headed to a second and third location to pick up the bulk food. Around noon, with the truck now fully loaded, the drivers headed out of the city to catch the main road North. A few minutes later the truck was stopped by armed gang members, and the driver and co-driver were forced from the truck at gun point. They were quickly blindfolded, forced into the back of an SUV, and driven to a remote location. They were placed with an armed guard in a small room, told to lay face down on a dirty mattress, and warned against moving or lifting their heads. They laid in that position for about six hours.
Around 3:30PM, unaware of anything that had taken place, the co-driver’s sister called him to check in and find out how they were doing. The phone was answered by a man who said he had kidnapped both drivers and that money would have to be paid to get them back. After some further threats, the man hung up and turned off the phone. For the next four hours this was all the information we had. We had no way of finding out where the drivers were or what demands would be made to ensure their safe release. We began sending out messages asking for prayer and trying to gather any information or contacts that could possibly be helpful in such a situation. We prayed and we waited. As hours passed, we were desperate to hear from those who had taken the men as to what they planned to do with them and how we could secure their release. We pleaded for God’s protection on their lives.
From Manis' perspective:
When I received the call that someone had answered Rolmy’s phone and claimed to have kidnapped him and our other driver, I felt like I was drowning. Every time I have to send a staff member to the city, I dread that I will receive this call - and now it was really happening. My mind recalled every terrible story I have heard of how kidnapping victims are treated, how often they are beaten and even killed, and what may lie ahead as far as ransom negotiations. I thought of the families of these men and how much they depend on them. Rolmy’s father died less than a year ago and he has been his mom’s greatest support since. How could she face losing her son? I felt like I was mentally grasping for something solid to hold on to, for a way to catch my breath, but it eluded me.
With my mind so troubled, I drove up to a hill that overlooks our community. As I looked down on all the work that has been done over so many years, I cried out to God for help. I felt as if He were standing there before me. As I prayed, these things were laid on my heart:
Manis, look out there at all that has been done. Who has done all that? Was it your strength? Was it your money? This is my work. I have brought you this far, do you trust me?
Psalm 41:1-2--Blessed are those who have regard for the weak; the Lord delivers them in times of trouble.The Lord protects and preserves them; they are counted among the blessed in the land, he does not give them over to the desire of their foes.
Joshua 1:9--Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.
As these thoughts flooded my mind, I felt as if my feet had finally struck something solid. I stopped sinking; my head was above the water. I gained strength. I knew what my role and my place was to be. I had to trust God and remain strong for the rest of my staff that was looking to me for guidance. I had to find my strength in the One who never changes, who is in control, and who loves my people and my community more than I do. I felt a sense of peace as I drove back down to the DDL/MACOL campus. I prayed with our administrator (an incredible young man named Kerby), who was coordinating communications between the other staff members in Port-au-Prince, family members here on the Plateau, and our leadership team, and we all got back to work.
At 7:47PM, we received a call from Kerby saying that he had just spoken to our drivers. They had been released in a remote location in the dark and had been walking confusedly, trying to find their way back to the main road - never knowing who they could trust to ask for directions or whether they were heading right back to the gang. Unsure of how much time had passed, but feeling utterly exhausted, they finally found someone who lent them a phone and so were able to make contact with Kerby and tell him where they were. Kerby then contacted our two other staff members who were still in Port-au-Prince, and they jumped in their car to go pick them up - another risk in that area and at that time of night.
For a few moments after receiving the news that our drivers were safe, we were almost paralyzed with relief. All we could do was praise God and thank Him over and over. We then jumped to getting the good news out to all those who were praying and to coordinating plans for the next day.
Around 10:00PM, when everyone was completely exhausted mentally, emotionally, and physically, and ready to fall into bed, we got a call that one of our staff members here on the Plateau had fallen ill. Upon arrival at her house, we found that she was having some sort of panic-induced loss of consciousness as a result of hearing what had happened. We had no idea what to do, but after working with her and telling her repeatedly that everyone was ok, by God’s grace, she was able to regain some level of consciousness. We helped her to bed and prayed with her, and within an hour we were all able to sleep.
When our drivers had been released, they had been told where they could pick up the truck - now empty of the over $7,000 worth of food and construction materials that had been purchased. The gang had no interest in holding onto a large truck that the police would be searching for. So, the following morning was spent following the legal processes to retrieve the truck. It was found where the gang had said it would be, but reports had to be made and the police and a justice of the peace had to give permission for our staff to reclaim it. By 12:30PM - almost exactly 24 hours after their ordeal had started - the truck and drivers were on their way home. They arrived around 9:30PM to the great joy and relief of everyone in Lemuel and in the community.
So, these are the sorts of challenges we are facing every day:
an insecurity problem that keeps us from being able to function on a most basic level without incredible risk and stress
the need to constantly weigh the risks involved in continuing to function vs. the disastrous consequences of ceasing to function
the heartache and despair of seeing one’s country descend deeper and deeper into an abyss of chaos and violence
a constant barrage of situations that surpass our abilities and knowledge
As we look at these and more, we can only cry out to God for His wisdom and guidance. But there, on our knees, we can realize with a smile that these challenges that so often threaten to overwhelm us are the very things that are strengthening and refining us. We can laugh as we see God using for good what others intended for evil.
First, these situations cause us to depend all the more on Christ who said, “My grace is sufficient for you. My power is made perfect in weakness.” And then we can say along with Paul, “for when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Cor. 12:9-10)
Second, these situations remind us to “set [our] minds on things above, and not on earthly things,” (Col. 3:2) and to pour ourselves into that which is eternal even while trying to bring God’s love, peace, and joy to the here and now.
Thank you for standing with us, for praying with us, for seeking with us to see God glorified.
As you praise God with us for the safety of our drivers, please pray:
For Haiti. We cannot see a way forward for this country through the political stalemate, gang control, and utter chaos that it is in. But we pray that God will make a way where we cannot see one.
For the wisdom and strength that we need each day.
That God would use our weakness to demonstrate His strength, and that our minds would be continually set on Him.