Community prays for Haiti hostages.

October 24, 2021

Community prays for Haiti hostages.

By Allison Scarbrough, Editor.

HART — Approximately 100 community residents and church members gathered at the Hart Commons Sunday, Oct. 24, to pray for a Shelby area family held captive by a violent gang in Haiti.

The family belongs to Hart Dunkard Brethren Church on North 56th Avenue, and many Dunkard Brethren members were in attendance at Sunday’s prayer vigil.  

The hostages, which include six men, six women and five children, were working with Christian Aid Ministries based in Millersburg, Ohio. One of the captured children is an 8-month-old baby. The ministries organization was founded in 1981 and works with Amish, Mennonite and other conservative Anabaptist groups to “minister to physical and spiritual needs around the world.”

“Our hearts have been heavy with news we’ve been hearing over the last week,” said Pastor Ryan Vander Zwaag of First Baptist Church in Hart when he addressed the group. “May there be great hope in this great community around these great families. We love you Jesus, and we pray for You to intervene in a mighty way.”

“Pray that the light of God’s love might shine out into the darkness of sin, and that the gang members might be freed from their bondage to sin and experience freedom in Jesus Christ. Pray for the hostages’ families — that they will have peace that can only come from Jesus. Pray for the kidnappers — that they would experience the love of Jesus and turn to Him. We see that as their ultimate need. Pray for government leaders and authorities — as they relate to the case and work toward the release of the hostages. We appreciate ongoing work and assistance of those knowledgable and experienced in dealing with kidnapping cases.”

Many families in Oceana County perform Christian missionary work through their churches and faith organizations. Pastor Ron Marks of the Dunkard Brethren Church said he doesn’t believe the kidnapping will deter people from continuing to perform missionary work. “If anything, I think it will raise awareness of the need for the world. In our own group, I don’t see any deterrent to this.” Pastor Marks said he thinks the situation will create “more unity and the need to help the world with a message of truth.”

Pastor Marks said he believes more safety measures will be put into place for missionaries, in general, as a result of the crisis. He said technology may play a role in increasing security. “Hopefully they will use that for good.”

In addition to Pastor Vander Zwaag, pastors Steve Gray from Hart Wesleyan Church and Sam Morrison from Saint James Episcopal Church in Pentwater spoke at the vigil.

“In the nine years I’ve lived in Oceana County, I’ve been blown away by the amount of community support we’ve seen in times of need,” said Hart City Manager Rob Splane prior to the ceremony. “With terrorism being involved in this situation, it left a lot of community members in shock because living in our sleepy little west Michigan communities, I think largely we feel like we’re immune to things that happen in more urban populations or densely populated areas. This one sends a reality check to everybody. It doesn’t matter where you live, those evil people are out there. I’m disheartened that someone who was in their country trying to help their country is one of their targets.”

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