Beloved missionary Roberta Edwards, 55, who was gunned down in a brazen attack in Haiti on Saturday, told elders at the Estes Church of Christ in Henderson, Tennessee, who supported her work there that she had grown "tired" and "scared" just two months ago but never said what was driving her fear.
Edwards was administrator and "mom" at SonLight Children's Home in Port au Prince, where dozens of children received foster care over the years. She also directed a nutrition center that feeds 160 children two meals a day, five days a week, in addition to providing funds for these children to attend school.
Harold Pirtle, a church elder who traveled from Tennessee to comfort the children at the now motherless home in the Croix-des-Bouquets suburb of Port-au-Prince, told The Associated Press that Edwards said she was tired and scared but she never mentioned any specific threats.
A statement issued earlier by the church shortly after her death on Sunday said: "Roberta was a light to those in the community and dedicated to bringing hope to the hopeless. She knew that she worked in a dangerous setting, but had committed herself to care for children in Haiti despite these risks."
Pirtle said Edwards, who had served in Haiti for 20 years, initially moved to the Caribbean nation with her Haitian husband but the marriage failed.
She had been doing great work with the children, but about two months ago while on a trip to back to Tennessee, she mentioned that she was scared but didn't want to leave the children.
"You can imagine being here and doing this work — she'd been doing it for 20 years. And so she had considered leaving the work, but then she said: 'I can't leave the kids,'" Pirtle told the AP.
Edwards was reportedly traveling with three children when she was attacked by two gunmen on Saturday. She was returning from a gas station on a dirt road near the home and a food-distribution site located on the outskirts of Port-au-Prince, explained the AP.
"Roberta's car was stopped by another vehicle which intentionally blocked her path. Armed gunmen emerged from the vehicle and fired into Roberta's car, causing her death," according to eyewitness account of the murder provided by the church. She was shot multiple times while still at the wheel of her car.
Haiti's National Police have still not yet established a motive for Edwards' murder. Two of the children who were with her at the time of the attack managed to escape while a third, a 4-year-old orphan boy who Edwards had cared for since he was 9 months old, was kidnapped.
The boy has been identified as Jonathan "JoJo" Paul and fellow missionaries told the AP that the gunmen took him in a vehicle with tinted windows.
"Hearts are breaking for him. And we certainly hope that whoever took him, wherever he is, whoever has him, will return him as soon as possible," said Larry Waymire, a longtime colleague and friend of Edwards.
Those who knew Edwards in Haiti and the U.S., where one person described her as "Jesus on Earth," have been grieving in prayer.
Hundreds of people mourned outside the gates of the children's home in Haiti the morning after her death and on Wednesday they planned a memorial service for the woman they all knew as mom.
More than 100 students and members of the Freed-Hardeman University in Henderson also grieved in prayer on the campus of the Christian university Wednesday night.
Freed-Hardeman senior Andy Maach told the Jackson Sun that he suggested the school community come together in prayer to Jon Paul Gulledge, spiritual life committee chair of the Student Government Association, as a way to unite those affected by Edwards' murder.
"It pulls us together and it unifies us," Gulledge said of the meeting Wednesday night. "We genuinely believe that there is nothing else better that we could do than just pray and ask God to comfort those hurt by the situation."
Maach, a missions major, explained that he met Edwards on a short trip to Haiti in 2012 and was struck by her faith in God.
"If I ever met someone who I thought was Jesus on Earth today, it was her example and who she was," he told the Sun. "Everything that she said and did you could tell that her complete trust was in God. I really think that can be an example for us today."