Ransom paid for all missionaries kidnapped in Haiti but gang was divided on release: family member
A family member of several of the formerly kidnapped Christian Aid Ministries missionaries in Hait said a ransom had already been paid for their release but the gang refused to set everyone free before the remaining 12 managed to escape.
“There had been a ransom agreement reached with the hostage-takers, and to my understanding that ransom was actually delivered the Sunday night that my wife and son and the other lady were released,” Michigan resident and missionary, Ray Noecker, told MLive in an interview published Monday.
The final 12 of 17 missionaries reportedly staged a daring escape from the clutches of the 400 Mawozo gang in Haiti last month while their kidnappers were busy making sure their phones were charged, WZZM reported. The daring escape of the 12 missionaries on Dec. 15, after two months in captivity, came just 11 days after the release of three others on Dec. 5, including Noecker’s wife, Cheryl, and his 6-year-old son, Sheldon. His four other children, Cherilyn, 27; Courtney, 18; Brandon, 16; and Kosandra, now 14, were among the Dec. 15 escapees.
Two weeks prior to that, the gang released the first two of the missionaries, reportedly for medical reasons.
While he doesn’t know how much money was paid and who paid for the release of the missionaries, Noecker insisted that payment was made for the entire group kidnapped on Oct. 16.
“The ransom agreement was for the entire group but there was some division within the gang so they were not able to release all of them at that time (Dec. 5),” Noecker said. “So that would be one of the reasons the gang would have told the group that were in captivity that they were being released because of the sores, the medical condition of my wife and the other lady.”
A source with knowledge of the first two releases told The Miami Herald that no ransom was paid even though the 400 Mawozo gang leader, Wilson Joseph, had threatened to kill all the missionaries if his gang didn't receive $1 million each for their release.
Christian Aid Ministries previously shared how the group of kidnapped missionaries repeatedly plotted and prayed about their escape and waited for the right signs from God.
During a luncheon and prayer vigil celebrating the safe return of his family at West Michigan Research Center, Noecker explained in a WZZM report how rain opened up a window for four of his children and the other missionaries to escape on Dec. 15.
Noecker, who was preparing for a day of teaching pastors when the missionaries were abducted, explained that the guards who watched them at night usually gathered around an extension cord to charge their phones.
Heavy rains on the night of their escape put the cord under water and forced the guards to move the charging of their phones to the opposite side of the building, opening the door for their eventual escape.
Last month, CAM spokesman Weston Showalter said once the missionaries were away from the hostage camp, they moved toward a mountain feature identified as a landmark and journeyed Northwest under starlight.
“With God’s help, protection, and leading, they quickly made their way through the night. They walked for possibly as much as 10 miles, traveling through woods and thickets, working through thorns and briars. One of the hostages said, ‘Two hours [of the walk] were through fierce brambles. We were in gang territory the whole hike,’” Showalter noted. “The moon provided light for their path. During times they weren’t sure which way to go, they stopped and prayed, asking God to show them.”
Noecker said when he was first reunited with his entire family after the kidnapping he yodeled.
“I just started yodeling,” he recalled.
On Sunday, just days after the missionary and his family returned to West Michigan, their community came out to thank God and celebrate their safe return.
"We just want to celebrate what God did," Pastor Ryan Vanderzwah said. "We prayed and He answered."
Despite the kidnapping in Haiti, Noecker told WZZM that if God calls his family to go back and minister there he plans to answer that call.
"God calls us to minister to the hurting people," he said. "So that would be why we went as a family, because there was a need and an opportunity to make a difference in people’s lives."