JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – As American officials work to rescue 17 missionaries kidnapped in Haiti, a Jacksonville pastor says his work in the troubled country will continue.
Twelve adults and five children connected with an Ohio-based missionary group were abducted outside Port-au-Prince over the weekend by a gang notorious for killings, kidnappings and extortion, police said.
It’s happening amid widespread protests in the country where citizens are demanding better security.
“The reason that people don’t go is the reason why we do go. It would be easy to not go, but it’s not supposed to be easy,” said Pastor Rick Reed, of Faithbridge Church in Arlington.
Reed leads missions from the church, plus he and his wife started an orphanage and school in Haiti through their ministry, TheVine.co.
He’s been dozens of times and said the abduction is concerning, but not surprising. He’s praying for everyone’s safe return.
The latest report is that 12 adults and five children, including a 2-year-old, are being held hostage.
Pastor Reed and his team run a mission house in Canaan, Haiti. That’s only about 20 minutes from where these kidnappings happened. He plans to visit there this weekend for a meeting with other pastors.
Desperation makes the country so dangerous, he says, pointing out a lack of a legitimate government and intense poverty lead to crime, with abductions increasing.
Gangs hold their victims captive for ransoms, sometimes as high as $1 million. They’ve also been known to kill.
It’s why Pastor Reed says he’s so careful when he leads a mission.
“We have 24-hour security,” he said, telling News4Jax that he employs a local police chief as a director of security. “We have armed guards at the mission house. We have armed guards when we leave the house. We don’t go anywhere without them.”
He said his mission caravans take different travel routes, using police intelligence to stay ahead of threats.
It’s an investment that he said is worth the money as he continues doing good for people who’ve seen so much bad.
However, he worries that the spike in violence and increased danger will discourage missionaries and donations.
“Over the past six months, we’ve probably had five or six teams cancel from going,” he said. “Over the past three years, we’ve probably had 14 to 18 teams cancel from going. And that’s OK if you don’t feel safe or if you don’t feel right about it. We want you to do that. We want you to cancel.”
The mission isn’t over.
Reed has nine trips planned in 2022 as he hopes local volunteers continue to make a difference.
Without knowing the details of the security for the mission group that was kidnapped, he said he hopes everyone is well-prepared for any threats before they visit.