COLUMBUS (WCMH) – Seventeen people working with an Ohio-based missionary organization remain captive in Haiti, with the FBI involved in negotiations to get them free.
Christian Aid Ministries said their members were kidnapped over the weekend by a gang in the country.
Potter’s House Church based in Columbus has an orphanage in Haiti, with members traveling to it for more than 20 years.
Rick Alford, originally from central Ohio, has been to the church’s orphanage more than 200 times.
He is hoping the 17 people with Christian Aid Ministries kidnapped in the country over the weekend are safe and released soon.
Alford went on his first mission trip to Haiti with Potter’s House in 1999. Now he’s president of Destiny Village, the church’s orphanage in Haiti.
“I drive the bus, I drive the truck, I unload sand and gravel,” Alford said. “You just do whatever has to be done.”
He said there are always armed guards with them when they travel in the country.
The orphanage has helped thousands of children over the years, is surrounded by concrete barbed-wire walls, and is in a safer place than from where the Christian Aid group was kidnapped.
“It’s not the first time we’ve seen things like this happen in Haiti,” Alford said. “Haiti is always a ball of confusion, but this is taking it to a different level when they start capturing and kidnapping Americans. They usually leave the Americans somewhat at a safe distance.”
Alford will be leaving for Haiti Tuesday on a mission unrelated to the kidnapping. However, some of those scheduled to travel with him have changed their minds.
The latest kidnapping update on Christian Aid Ministries’ website said, “We are entering the third day since seventeen of our workers were kidnapped by a gang in Haiti. Authorities in Haiti and the United States are offering assistance. We continue to monitor the situation closely and are in earnest prayer.”
Tirtzah Rarick said she spoke with the family of one of the missionaries taken hostage.
“It’s heartbreaking, but I guess there’s just much home, that we’re going to pray,” she said.
While he doesn’t know any of the kidnapped missionaries, Alford said he’s seen some of the dangers of the country, from shootings to robberies.
“Just some of the craziest stuff,” he said. “It’s almost like you’re watching a movie, but you’re just sitting there right in the middle of it. But through all of that, we’ve come out unscathed, so we’ve been very fortunate.”
He said a lot of the trouble caused in Haiti is done by a small minority. Despite the risks, Alford goes back because the people he helps are important to him.
His trip Tuesday is to attend the wedding of someone he watched grow through the orphanage.
“When you get to the orphanage, when you get home, when you get inside the walls and know you’re protected again, you breathe a sigh of relief,” Alford said. “The kids are there and they’re all laughing and jumping up and down and you forget about all the stuff you had to go through to get there.”