GOLDEN TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — A family friend says six people from a Hart-area family, not five, were among the missionaries kidnapped for ransom by a gang in Haiti.

News 8 is not using the names of anyone in the family because the situation is ongoing and for security reasons.

A friend and fellow church member said the family of seven went on the mission. The mother and her five children were abducted. One of the children is over the age of 18. The husband and father is also in Haiti, but he was not with his family when they were taken.

“I would say they are very genuine. They are loving people. They had a heart for missions,” the friend, who asked not to be identified, said. “I grew up with them, knowing them really well, and to see them go through this, just to think of what they may be thinking, it’s just really tough.”

Hart Dunkard Brethren Church. (Oct. 18, 2021)

She goes to Hart Dunkard Brethren Church with the family. That church didn’t sponsor their trip; rather, they signed up to go with Ohio-based Christian Aid Ministries. The friend said the family left on their mission earlier this month. This was their first trip to Haiti.

The 17 missionaries, 16 Americans and one Canadian ranging in age from 8 months to 48 years, were kidnapped Saturday. Haitian officials have said the gang responsible wants $17 million to return all of them safely. U.S. and Haitian officials are working to secure their release.

“This group of workers has been committed to minister throughout poverty-stricken Haiti. Their heart-felt desire is to share the love of Jesus. Before the kidnapping, their work throughout Haiti included supporting thousands of needy school children, distributing Bibles and Christian literature, supplying medicines for numerous clinics, teaching Haitian pastors, and providing food for the elderly and vulnerable. In recent months, they were actively involved in coordinating a rebuilding project for those who lost their homes in the August 2021 earthquake. When kidnapped, the group was returning from a visit to an orphanage that receives support from Christian Aid Ministries.”

Christian Aid Ministries, Oct. 19

“It was rather shocking because it’s just things that you hear out there, it’s not something that happens close to home to you,” the friend said.

She said the family was aware of the risk they were taking by going to Haiti, but never imagined an outcome like this.

The church community is now praying for their safe return.

“I think we realize what could happen, but we know that we have to trust God,” the friend said. “He’s the only one that can do miracles and we know that he’s the one that can take them out of this situation. And whatever the outcome, we’ll have faith that it’s for a reason and a purpose.”

Outside the immediate church community, local faith leaders and city officials were also shocked to learn the news.

“When something as big as this happens, I don’t know if Hart knows how to respond,” City of Hart Mayor Vicki Platt said. “But we are a family-type (community) and it affects every single one of us.”

Platt is working with faith leaders to organize a prayer vigil for the community.