Hart-area family kidnapped in Haiti welcomed home

Michigan

HART, Mich. (WOOD) — The West Michigan family kidnapped in Haiti was welcomed home by the Hart community Sunday with a luncheon and prayer service. 

Cheryl Noecker and her five children from Hart were among the 17 missionaries kidnapped by a Haitian gang in October. Cheryl Noecker and her 6-year-old son were released on Dec. 5, while the remaining family members were among the final hostages that pulled off a daring escape later that month. 

The Noecker family returned home to West Michigan last Thursday after spending the last few weeks visiting family out east. All of the family members taken hostage, including the children — ranging in age from 6 years old to a young adult — attended Sunday’s event.

Ray Noecker, the father of the family who was also on the trip but was not kidnapped, spoke at the luncheon, thanking the community for their prayers and support. 

While talking with reporters at the event, Ray Noecker described what it was like to be reunited with family.  

“I just remember running up and the (car) window was open and jumping on the side and I started yodeling,” Ray Noecker said. “I learned to yodel in Kenya and it was just an amazing time and everyone got out of the vehicle and we just spent about 20 minutes just praising the Lord.”

While few details have been released about negotiations with the kidnappers, Ray Noecker said a ransom deal was reached leading up to the release of his wife and son

“To my understanding that ransom was delivered the Sunday night that my wife and son and the other lady were released,” he said. “The ransom agreement was for the entire group but there was some division within the gang so they were not able to release all of them at that time.”

Ray Noecker said he does not know how much money was paid or who paid it. 

The day after returning home to Hart, the Noecker family reunited with close friends at a small gathering on New Year’s Eve. 

“It was just a time to sit and relax and enjoy one another’s company and the younger people were very busy listening to the tales from Haiti and I was listening too,” minister Ron Marks said. 

All the family members are said to be in good health, as they focus on readjusting to life at home.

“I hope it keeps going well (because) you never know what could turn up emotionally, psychologically, spiritually because they came from a very hard place in Haiti,” Marks said. 

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