Kidnapped Oregon Missionary Back Home

An Oregon man is back home in Madras after he and a band of Christian missionaries escaped their kidnappers in Haiti and returned to the U.S. Austin Smucker arrived home last Monday after being held captive by the 400 Mawozo organization, who kidnapped him and 16 other Mennonite missionaries as they left a rural orphanage east of Haiti’s capital on Oct. 16. As Laura Smucker stocked candles in her Madras shop on Oct. 16, a phone call put her soul on a tortuous journey. The caller told her a notorious gang had kidnapped her son in Haiti along with 16 other missionaries. “I couldn’t believe it was true,” says Smucker.

Her son went to Haiti with Christian Aid Ministries to help people rebuild their homes after the recent earthquake. “It was a six-month project,” says his mother, “and he never even reached the location where he was going to serve.” In Haiti, there is paranoia due to the recent killing of their president that almost claimed the life of the first lady. Some of the killers are believed to be from the U.S..

The 400 Mawozo organization captured the group on their way to their living quarters after visiting an orphanage. The hostages included six men and six women ages 18 to 48, four children ages 6 to 15 and an 8-month-old infant. The New York Times reports the organization as infamous for mass kidnappings. Haitian officials estimate the organization makes $70,000 a week from ransoms and extortion.

On Nov. 21 the mission reported the kidnappers released two of the hostages. The two are safe. The organization did not release names or ages of the freed hostages or if kidnappers received money for their release. The 400 Mawozo organization initially demanded millions of dollars in ransom. Five other captives had earlier reached freedom. It is still unclear if any ransom was paid.