COMSTOCK PARK, Mich. — A notorious Haitian gang that's known for kidnappings and killings is being accused of abducting 17 missionaries, including 5 children, from a U.S.-based organization in Ganthier, which is a community that lies east of Haiti's capital of Port-au-Prince.
A West Michigan-based mission group, which has made over 20 mission trips to Haiti since 1995, and has been caught many times in harm's way, says it's time to re-strategize new ways to make similar impacts in Haiti without physically traveling there.
"We've done a lot of work building orphanages in Haiti, brought relief and were heavily involved in helping Haiti after the 2010 earthquake," said Greg Kelley, CEO of World Mission which is a Christian evangelism organization outreach. "Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere by a long way."
Kelley says the second one gets off the plane in Haiti, they can feel the oppression.
"I think Haiti is an example of a country that's been too dependent," Kelley said. "The people there rarely feel empowered."
During one of his Haiti mission trips, Kelley recalls having a run-in with some of the locals.
"With the work projects we did, you'd have a piece of land and you'd need to build a wall around before you could start on whatever the project was," Kelley recalled. "If you park on a piece of land, and you don't get run off after a certain amount of time, it's yours.
"All of a sudden, one day, people were screaming, as this pickup truck filled with men with sawed-off shotguns and Uzis came upon us, and we're pushing our team out of there. So it's a little hairy, and there was a lot of scared people."
When he heard about the Haiti kidnappings after the weekend, Kelley said he wasn't too surprised, given his personal experiences.
"There's been hundreds of kidnappings in Haiti over the last few years, and again, I think it's evidence of the desperation that's going on there," Kelley said. "I've had many teams into Haiti, and the thought of them being kidnapped would be horrific, so it's definitely something that we need to be concerned about and be praying for these people."
Kelley believes Haiti will likely always need mission help, but American mission groups should consider new strategies of how to impact the war-torn and impoverished country without having to physically travel there.
"Sending Americans into Haiti right now, with the amount of instabilities and the president just being killed, is probably, you know, something we need to reconsider," said Kelley. "What people don't realize is that Haiti is largely a Christian country and there are many Haitian Nationals down there doing tremendous things.
"So I think as Christian organizations, when we're looking at that, there may be an avenue to empower nationals, and help them do the work."
Kelley says he's known a number of missionaries that have had guns put in their face and if they didn't give the individual what they wanted, they were going to kill them.
"They see Americans as soft targets," Kelley said. "The last words, Jesus said were, 'Go make disciples of all nations.' So, we can associate that with ourselves going, and I think Haiti is an example where we can look at it and maybe we can accomplish this without us ourselves going, and still seeing the gospel shared there."
At least 328 kidnappings were reported to Haiti's National Police in the first 8 months of 2021, compared with a total of 234 for all of 2020.
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