Community plans to celebrate return of kidnapped Michigan family to Haiti


HART, MI – A small, rural town is preparing to welcome back the Michigan family who spent nearly two months in captivity after being kidnapped on a missionary trip to Haiti.

The Hart community is planning a lunch and prayer vigil this weekend to thank the return of the Noecker family, who escaped from the violent 400 Mawozo gang earlier this month.

The rally is scheduled for Sunday, Jan. 2 at the West Michigan Research Center, 5185 N. Oceana Dr. in Hart, family friend Carleton Horst told MLive.

A lunch of rice and beans is scheduled for noon, followed by a time of “Thanksgiving, Prayer and Praise” at 12:45 pm. This is a public event, said Horst.

Horst said the Noecker family plan to be back in western Michigan by Sunday and attend the rally.

Members of Hart’s community have leaned on each other and their faith over the past two months to overcome the ordeal of the rapture, Horst said.

“We just lean on each other and on God, and continue to pray for and support each other,” he told MLive last week after the family freed herself from the Haitian gang.

The city came together to hold a prayer vigil shortly after the missionaries were kidnapped in October. More than 100 people attended the October 24 event to sing and pray for those involved in the international crisis.

RELATED: “It’s in the hands of God,” says pastor at vigil for West Michigan family kidnapped in Haiti

Ron Marks, minister at Hart Dunkard Brethren Church, said the kidnapping situation had brought the Hart community together like never before. Hart is a small town of about 2,000 people, located in rural Oceana County.

“We’re a very small community so we know a very high percentage of residents in our area,” Marks said. “It’s a very honest community.

Hart’s Noecker family have been identified as six of the 17 missionaries who were kidnapped in Haiti in October. Captives included Cheryl Noecker, 48, and her children Brandyn Noecker, 15, Kasondra Noecker, 14, Courtney Noecker, 18, Shelden Noecker, 6, and Cherilyn Noecker, 27.

The children’s father, Ray Noecker, 49, was also on a missionary trip but did not make the trip to the orphanage where the group was kidnapped.

The Michigan family who spent nearly two months in captivity by a Haitian gang were released in December. This photo of the Noecker and Wadel families was shared at a press conference held via Zoom by family friend Carleton Horst and Hart Brethren Church Minister Ron Marks. (Photo captured via Zoom)

Cheryl and Shelden Noecker were two of the three hostages who were released on December 5. Two other hostages were freed at the end of November.

Noecker’s other four children were among the 12 remaining hostages who daringly escaped their captors on December 15. The group walked through woods and thickets for miles in the middle of the night until they found help, church officials said.

A total of 17 missionaries – 16 Americans and one Canadian – were kidnapped on October 16 by the gang of 400 Mawozo during a trip to a Haitian orphanage near Port-au-Prince. The group was visiting Haiti as part of a mission trip led by Ohio-based Christian Aid Ministries.

Learn more about MLive:

Michigan family held hostage in Haiti “prayed to be home by Christmas,” father says

Michigan family and other missionaries escape Haitian kidnappers in the middle of the night, aid group says

Faith, the fraternity brings together a small town in Michigan after Haiti abducts her mother and 4 children


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