For days, the missionaries prayed that God would reveal the right moment for their escape.
Twice when they planned to flee, God told them to wait. But during the night last Wednesday, the group of 12 missionaries who had been held hostage for two months in Haiti put on their shoes and packed water in their clothes.
“They found a way to open the door that was closed and blocked, filed silently to the path that they had chosen to follow and quickly left the place that they were held, despite the fact that numerous guards were close by,” Weston Showalter, the spokesman for Christian Aid Ministries, said on Monday, recounting the story for the first time at a press briefing.
They used a mountain as a landmark, and followed the light of the moon and “the sure guidance of the stars,” he said.
They zigzagged north and west for about 10 miles, carrying two small children, “traveling through woods and thickets, working through thorns and briers,” he said.
As the daylight broke, they found someone to help them make a phone call. Later that day, they were on a Coast Guard flight to Florida.
“They were finally free,” Mr. Showalter said, through tears.
Last week, the world learned that the 12 remaining members of a group of 17 North American missionaries who had been kidnapped in Haiti two months ago were released. But until Monday, no one knew that their release was actually a dramatic escape, or that a ransom had been paid.
Leaders for Christian Aid Ministries recounted the story at a press briefing at their home office in Ohio on Monday morning, five days before Christmas. It was the first time they revealed details about the ordeal that began two months ago, when the group was kidnapped by a gang called 400 Mawozo in a neighborhood of Port-au-Prince after visiting an orphanage.
The group that escaped included a married couple, a 10-month-old baby, a 3-year-old child, a 14-year-old girl, a 15-year-old boy, four men and two women, he said. Five other members of the group had been released during the past month.
Some people, who were not identified, “provided funds to pay a ransom and allow the negotiation process to continue,” David N. Troyer, general director of Christian Aid Ministries, said at the press briefing. “We are not able to say anything further in respect to these negotiations.”
The group would “no doubt” pause their work in Haiti given the current conditions, he said.
(This is a developing story and will be updated.)
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