LUBBOCK, Texas — As the FBI now joins forces with Haitian authorities to secure the release of 17 missionaries — 12 adults and five children — who were kidnapped by a gang over the weekend, local missionaries who have served in Haiti said they were “shocked” but not “surprised.”
They said during their service trips, they never experienced anything like this, but they still heard the stories — and the gunfire. They blame political unrest combined with natural disasters for fueling recent increased gang activity, and in Haiti, they said violence is an ever-present threat on a missionary’s mind.
“It’s one of those things where you’re not really surprised by it. Your hearts and prayers go out to the families involved, but Haiti is and can be a very dangerous place,” Garrett Behrends, co-youth minister of Sunset Church of Christ, said.
Behrends went to Haiti on a mission trip in 2015. He said hearing about what happened over the weekend was like a punch to the gut. His sentiment was shared by fellow Lubbock missionary and teacher Gina Moore. She’s done four medical mission trips to Haiti.
“We spent a night in a hotel in Port-au-Prince [on one of her trips], and I didn’t sleep. It was easily one of the most terrifying experiences of my life because it was constant gunfire all night long,” Moore said.
She spent her time in Haiti helping out with a medical clinic and visiting an orphanage. Right now, she said she’s not only worried about the missionaries but also about the Haitian children caught in the crossfire of the gang violence.
“Emotionally, it’s so hard because I know those people. It’s not just something you read on the news,” Moore said.
Behrends said any missionary will tell you, their work is “a calling” and “well worth” the danger.
“God calls us into some dangerous places at times, and the heart of a missionary is one that will step into those dangerous places to preach the word of God,” Behrends said.
Both missionaries said sometimes the most dangerous places are the ones that need them the most.
While some missionaries may think twice before going back, they hope stories like this don’t eclipse the still desperate need for help in Haiti.
“Good work can still be done in Haiti,” Behrends said.