OCEANA COUNTY, MI – A small community in West Michigan is attempting to stick together in response to a local family being kidnapped in Haiti.
A Hart-area minister describes it with this message: “Strongest together.”
Ron Marks, minister of Hart Dunkard Brethren Church, shared that message Sunday, Oct. 24, after more than 100 people gathered together to pray and sing in support of the 17 missionaries, including a family from West Michigan, who were recently kidnapped during a mission trip to Haiti.
“With the will of God, we have peace in this way,” Marks told MLive following the Sunday prayer vigil in Hart, a small town in rural Oceana County.
Five of the kidnapped missionaries – one parent and four children – are Hart residents and members of Hart Dunkard Brethren Church. The local family is not being identified due to safety concerns, but the youngest from the family is under age 10, Marks said.
RELATED: West Michigan family, including four kids, among 17 missionaries kidnapped in Haiti
Marks said he spoke over the phone on Saturday with the father of the West Michigan family, who attended the Haiti mission trip but was not one of the kidnapped missionaries. The minister said the father was doing “remarkably well” and staying strong through “God’s grace.”
Mayor Vicki Platt said the kidnapping has been devastating for the small, tight-knit community of Hart.
“The reaction in the community is just, ‘Wow, how can this happen to us? Those are our folks, and they’re down there helping feed children and showing kindness,’” Platt said. “It takes a really big heart to go move out of a tiny, southern part of Oceana County to go to Haiti. It’s no easy thing.
“We’re just asking for safe return.”
The mission trip to Haiti was organized by Christian Aid Ministries, a Ohio-based nonprofit supported by Amish, Mennonite and other conservative Anabaptist groups, according to the group’s website.
Hart Dunkard Brethren Church did not sponsor the mission trip to Haiti, but Marks said it is common for members to go on mission trips with other groups like Christian Aid Ministries.
The group of missionaries reportedly arrived in Haiti earlier this month. The abduction of the 16 Americans and one Canadian was reportedly carried out by the 400 Mawozo gang, a group with a long record of killings, kidnappings and extortion.
The gang is reportedly demanding a $1 million ransom per person, according to the Associated Press.
The group of kidnapped missionaries includes five children ranging in ages from 8 months to 15 years, and adults ranging from 18 to 48, according to a statement from Christian Aid Ministries.
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