Oceana Pastor Reacts After Local Family OF 5 Kidnapped in Haiti

Todd Deuling is Pastor at Shelby Wesleyan Church in Oceana County.

But at one point in his life, he traveled to Haiti on mission trips to work for the Wesleyan hospital on Gonave Island. The hospital serves 100-120,000 people.

“I used to lead work teams that would come in from the U.S. and Canada, and in one year, even through their clinic, they will see a quarter to a third of those people on the island,” says Deuling. He says it as a example of living conditions in the country.

Fifteen minutes before meeting with 9&10 News, Deuling learned from his wife that a family of five from Oceana had been victims in a kidnapping in Haiti on Saturday. The family, one adult and four children, were taken along with 11 other Americans and one Canadian. The gang – 400 Mawozo – is being blamed for the crime and many more like it.

“I would say that they’re more apt to target foreign groups just because they know that the majority of Haitian people, they’re not going to get a lot of money from them like with foreign groups. They can get thousands of dollars,” says Deuling. ” I had seen one report where these gang members demand upwards of a million dollars. So they’re not going to get that from your average Haitian. I honestly think that’s all it is. They need money. There was opportunity.”

In the past few months, Haiti has experienced earthquakes and the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse. Now, the country is again seeing an increase in kidnappings.

The 17 people who were kidnapped were taken outside an orphanage on their way home from working there, according to the Ohio-based Christian Aid Ministries in which they were associated with.

“To have it hit that close to home is extremely heartbreaking,” says Deuling.

His niece was also a victim of an attack while on a mission trip in Haiti.

“We had one incident that happened in early 2000, that a small, teaching team went down, and one of them happened to be our niece,” says Deuling. “Some people followed them home from the airport. And when they got to where they were staying, they broke into their house at night and robbed them. They let them all go. I don’t believe they hurt anyone, but they robbed them of whatever they had and took off.”

Deuling says he never worried about his own safety on the 19 separate occasions he worked in Haiti, from 2000-2014. He would go back tomorrow, where he enjoys meeting people and eating the food. But he understands areas like Port-au-Prince or Soleil are different then other parts of the island nation where kidnappings and rioting are increasing.

“One of the main streets in Port-au-Prince, a lot of the businesses have their metal panels, kind of like an accordion, that they will pull over their windows because it happens so frequently.”

Deuling says the protocol for other missionaries, after an incident such as this, is hazy.

“There are a lot of times when a missionary goes down there, even a short time or short term, they’re supposed to register with the US embassy,” he says. “I may have registered once, maybe twice, out of the 19 times that I’ve been down there, so most of the time they don’t even know anybody’s down there. ”

Authorities haven’t released any more details about Saturday’s kidnapping. Deuling says all that’s left to do is pray.

Congressman Bill Huizenga (MI-02), released the following statement regarding Haiti:

“It’s a sad day for West Michigan. It appears that individuals from West Michigan have been kidnapped while serving on a mission trip in Haiti. My office is working in cooperation and consultation with the State Department and the Biden Administration to secure the safe return of the missionaries and their family members. I hope you will join me in praying for those who have been taken as well as those working to secure their safe release. Out of respect for the privacy and the safety of all involved, I will be limiting public comment until this very fluid and dangerous situation is resolved. ”