Ben's Kidnapping - Part 1
Ben's Kidnapping - Part 2
***Since there are no photos of the kidnapping (I know - a good blogger would have been more prepared, LOL), I've chosen to share old pictures of Ben with this post. You may have seen him referred to as the BucketBoy in some of the comments. The first two photos below were used in my signature line in an online forum many years ago (soon after he joined our family), and my friends there gave him that nickname.
Blindfolded, with our hands tied, Ben and I waited for our kidnapper. He came around to the back of the Land Cruiser and opened the doors. He removed my blindfold and untied my hands, then he removed Ben's blindfold and helped him out of the car. We were in a lightly wooded area, with no road to be seen at all, though traffic could occasionally be heard passing on the road we'd just traveled, a very short distance away. We were close to both open fields in one direction, and moderately wild, overgrown forest in another. Because of Ben's ability to see and relay landmarks in spite of his blindfold while we were traveling, I had a pretty good idea more or less where we were.
What I couldn't figure out, at this point, was what the kidnapper's intentions might be. I sat for a moment, in a bit of a stupor. I pride myself on being a somewhat logical thinker, and I just couldn't figure out how everything that had happened so far fit together. Why had he driven us, unblindfolded, way out into the bush? Why had he then blindfolded us to drive us back so close to where we'd started in the first place? Why had he now untied my hands . . . and not Ben's? None of this made sense to me. Then the kidnapper gave Ben a small push to start him off away from the vehicle.
In my limited Spanish (which seems to get worse, not better, under pressure) I said, "Wait - you're taking him? You're not taking me?" Using words and gestures the kidnapper explained that he would be taking Ben, and that I was not to go with them.
It had been very hot in the vehicle this whole time, as our kidnapper had kept all of the darkly tinted windows closed. My mouth was so dry I could hardly speak, and here was Ben, being forced to walk off through the woods. I grabbed the almost full bottle of iced tea I had bought for Ben back before we'd left Gracias that morning, and I held it out to the kidnapper. "For the boy," I said, and he agreed to let Ben take the bottle.
The man then asked me if I had any rice in the car, "for the boy." I had not purchased any groceries while I was in town that day, and there was nothing but an unopened 12 oz. bottle of cola and part of a bag of candy corn my father had handed me as he'd been packing in his hotel room earlier. The kidnapper took the cola, but when I offered the candy corn to Ben, he refused it, as it isn't a candy he's especially fond of. When he was released the next day, Ben told me he'd wished, during his time of captivity, that he had taken that candy!
Although previously he had tended to avoid much eye contact, now the kidnapper faced me squarely. With warning in his voice, and holding up two fingers, he said, "Dos dias. Dos dias." Then, with a rifle trained upon my son, he marched Ben off into the bushes and they were gone.
We hadn't said "'goodbye." I'd not had a chance to give Ben any advice or encouragement. I hadn't told him that I loved him.
I knew what I had to do - I had to contact someone and get people looking for Ben as quickly as possible. I got into the driver's seat of the Land Cruiser, and looked in my purse for my cell phone. Of course it wasn't there - the kidnapper had taken that. Everything else was still right there in my purse though - several passports, a credit card, some cash - all in plain sight, and all untouched. I turned the Land Cruiser around - yes, the kidnapper had left me the keys - and headed back to the road, which was only about 150 feet away.
As I nosed up to the road, almost immediately I saw a pickup truck coming from my left. I pulled the Land Cruiser straight out into the road, and started waving my arms above my head to get them to stop. I imagine I really terrified the older man and two women in that truck - they probably thought at first that they were being robbed or kidnapped! But when I explained the situation, they allowed me to use their cellphone to call for help. Because I thought my husband had already left town (he was scheduled to be driving a wedding guest to the airport that day), I called my oldest son, 24 year old Russell. Fortunately, the kind family in the pickup truck also gave me some water, as I could barely talk at that point because my mouth was so dry.
I made that call at approximately 11:40 or so. My actual part in the kidnapping had only lasted about an hour and a half - not even long enough for my family to know I was missing. They had just started calling me to find out why I hadn't gotten home yet, and they were wondering why I wasn't answering my phone.
Within a few minutes, my husband, Allen, arrived at my side - Russell had called him, and Allen hadn't left Gracias yet, though he'd been just about to do so. Russell got there soon after. He had taken the time to contact the local police for assistance in searching for Ben.
Soon after this, police with AK47s spread out across the area where the kidnapper had let me go, and roadblocks were set up on the major roads out of the area. Allen called the alcaldes (mayors) of other municipalities in our surrounding area, asking them to set up roadblocks in their locations. Allen has done charitable humanitarian work - building schools, roads, bridges, water projects, etc - in lots of the municipalities in our area, and these contacts allowed us to go directly to the leaders of the communities for help.
I drove myself into Gracias, and waited at the home of Russell and his wife Iris, until a friend picked me up and took me to the police station to make my statement.
While I was waiting for her to arrive, all I could think to do was to make sure that people started praying right away. My son and daughter-in-law don't have internet access in their home, so I called my daughter (the one who had gotten married the previous Friday - I pretty much ended her honeymoon with that call) to get the phone number of a local missionary friend who could post my prayer request online from her home computer. I didn't have any phone numbers with me, since the kidnapper had taken my phone, but I knew my daughter had my friend's number.
Because internet related crimes are not uncommon in Honduras, I didn't have my friend post the details publicly, but only within a private group of homeschooling moms on Facebook. I asked those ladies to share the request for prayer support, with minimal identifying information, as widely as possible, but to keep all mention of this off my Facebook page.
Within minutes, hundreds of people were fervently praying for Ben - especially my online friends who felt a personal connection with him, as they had watched the BucketBoy growing up through my photos and posts of his antics for so many years!