Late Monday afternoon, Ben was awakened from his nap under the rock by the sound of a loud SNAP in the forest nearby. The kidnapper was instantly alert, grabbed his gun, and warned Ben to remain silent. A few minutes passed and nothing more was heard, so the kidnapper gradually relaxed somewhat. He nervously unloaded and reloaded his rifle, and then they settled back down under the rock, just sitting quietly, as the sky grew dark.
Once the kidnapper deemed it dark enough, he and Ben emerged from their shelter and started off through the underbrush. They were not following a path, and the kidnapper untied Ben's hands so that he could keep his balance better and catch himself when he would start to slip and fall on the muddy, uneven ground. After a good bit of walking - Ben couldn't tell me many details about this walk in the dark, except that it "went on forever" - the kidnapper stopped in a quiet spot where the forest met a cow pasture. He tied Ben's hands, blindfolded him, and then placed a phone call.
Ben could hear that the other caller was a woman. The kidnapper said, "We're here, at number two," and the woman answered, "I'm coming, I'm coming." As they awaited the arrival of the woman, the kidnapper moved Ben a short distance, and they sat down on some large rocks, because the ground was still very wet from the earlier rain.
After about fifteen minutes the woman came and brought them some beans and tortillas in a small pot, two plates, two small bags of chips and two cans of peach juice. While the woman was with them Ben remained blindfolded, but after she left the kidnapper took off the blindfold and untied his hands so that he could eat. Ben was disappointed to find that the cans of juice were frozen almost solid, and they had to let them thaw some before they could drink. They quickly ate everything except the bags of chips - the kidnapper put those into his woven bag, stating that they would save them to eat the next day. Ben related that while the kidnapper had seemed nervous all day, the woman seemed much more nervous, and she was clearly angry about something.
After the meal, Ben and the kidnapper sat for a few moments, and the kidnapper grew chatty, talking about how he was scared that we might have contacted the police, who then would be looking for him. Soon they got up, and carrying the dishes from their meal with them (in a larger bag the woman had brought them in), they started off walking. In about 5 minutes they came to a place where Ben could see a streetlight in the distance. They stopped while the kidnapper blindfolded him, then continued walking, for about 5 more minutes.
During this bit of blindfolded walking, Ben encountered a local plant which causes immediate stinging and itchiness when it touches the skin - he couldn't see to avoid it, of course - and from then until sometime in the middle of the night he dealt with inflamed skin, from the tops of his shoes to about five inches up his legs. Fortunately they were close to the end of their walking for that day. They arrived at a house.
They entered the house, and the kidnapper did not turn on any lights. He had Ben sit on the edge of a bed, and he took off Ben's shoes and blindfold, and then tied both his hands and his feet. The bed had a full size mattress, with rough sheets and one pillow. There was also a twin size bed in the room, and the woman who had brought them their meal was in that bed - Ben knew that because her phone rang and he heard her speak, and he could see a bit from the light of her cellphone. The kidnapper let Ben use the pillow on the larger bed, and Ben, exhausted from the day he'd had, was soon asleep with his kidnapper lying beside him. The itching and stinging of his legs kept him from sleeping very soundly, though, and he was grateful for the nap he'd had under the rock earlier.
On Tuesday morning they awoke at dawn. The kidnapper blindfolded Ben, picked him up, and spun him around a few times to disorient him, so that Ben wouldn't be able to tell the direction back to the house. He carried Ben for about 15 minutes. Ben is always slow to awaken in the mornings, and that seems likely to be the reason he was carried at this point.
Ben was then placed on the ground and his blindfold was removed. They walked across fields, often having to pass over or under barbed wire fences. After a few of these fences, the kidnapper untied Ben's hands, to make it easier for him to scramble between the wires. They walked along in this way for a couple of hours. Once, they came to a spot where there were three houses, and the kidnapper stopped and backtracked to avoid these.
Eventually they arrived at a shady place in the woods where the kidnapper stopped, and they sat down and rested. Ben could occasionally hear the sound of motorcycles and other vehicles going past on a road that was very close by, apparently just on the other side of a small hill. The kidnapper tied his hands again.
From this location, numerous phone calls were placed. During his conversations with Russell, the kidnapper frequently mentioned his "boss." The police didn't really believe there was a boss, but Ben thinks there was, as the kidnapper was calling someone else and talking to them, between some of his calls to Russell. Ben was able to overhear and understand much of the content of the conversations he heard, as the negotiations progressed. Many times Ben listened as the kidnapper threatened to kill or harm him.
At one point Ben became seriously afraid, after an especially awful threat was made. He started crying and shaking with fear. When the kidnapper got off the phone, he gently told Ben not to worry, that he wasn't really going to hurt him, and he patted him on the head.
Ben tells a story about his fear during this part of the kidnapping. A squirrel appeared in a nearby tree, and watching the squirrel helped him to be brave. Squirrels aren't common in our area, so it was a distraction for Ben to watch the antics of this cute and unusual (to him) animal. Gradually he began to feel quite calm. This seems to be such a small and unimportant detail, but apparently it impacted Ben deeply - he believes that God sent the squirrel to him, to help him keep up his courage.
The kidnapper had eaten his small bag of chips much earlier in the day, and Ben had gnawed on an ear of corn from a field at that same time. In the early afternoon the kidnapper's empty stomach began to growl, and Ben offered the kidnapper his bag of chips to eat. When asked why he didn't want his chips, Ben told the kidnapper that he would rather wait to get something to eat at home. The kidnapper accepted Ben's chips.
The plan was now to release Ben in exchange for a ransom of 300,000 Lempiras ($15,000). The kidnapper untied Ben's hands, telling him that he should be free to go soon, because that was a very small amount of money. To amuse himself while waiting, Ben picked up some small sticks and pieces of bark, and started throwing them at a nearby tree. The kidnapper joined him in the game, and they competed to see who had the best aim.
With the next call to Russell, the kidnapper was informed that we couldn't even pay this smallest ransom demand. He was quite angry, and Ben was afraid that the man would become physically violent with him. He retied Ben's hands, and made another phone call, to the "Boss."
This was the moment we had most feared. Although we were attempting to continue "negotiations" with the kidnapper, he had realized that there wasn't a lot of money coming from this situation. Ben was still in the hands of his captor, and he was no longer of any value to him - he was, in fact, a potential witness against him; a source of information to the police in their investigation of this crime. There was no reason to keep Ben alive, and several logical reasons to kill him - plus there was the anger and disappointment of the kidnapper, and possibly fear of a boss' retaliation in response to the failure of their scheme.
We were out of time and had tried everything we could think of to save Ben. There was nothing more we could do. We knew God was aware of Ben's peril. We knew prayers were being lifted on his behalf. We knew that miracles can occur - but would that be God's plan for Ben? Would God move to save him?
And then, God moved. There were no paint-smeared commandos crashing through the jungle to the rescue. There were no flashbang grenades, no car chases, not even any swordplay. There was just love. The love that comes from God, that teaches us to live in ways that are more like His ways. To show mercy and compassion. To rescue the helpless. To be kind to one another.
As so many people around the world prayed specifically for God to soften the heart of the kidnapper . . . the young man simply decided to let Ben go home to his family unharmed.
When the man told Ben that he was free to go, Ben immediately twisted his hands and wrists around and showed the kidnapper that he could easily remove his bonds by himself. They both laughed as Ben handed the kidnapper the rope that had so often restrained him over the past 30 hours. Then the kidnapper called Russell and said, "My boss will be mad at me, but I'm going to let him go."
The kidnapper put his arms around Ben and hugged him goodbye. Then he pointed him in the direction he needed to walk. When Ben crested the small hill next to the hiding place and saw the dirt road on the other side, he immediately knew where he was - on the road that passes right in front of our property. He was about a mile from home - an easy walk for a young boy used to living in the country.
Ben looked back toward his kidnapper, who waved at him and called out "Adios." He turned toward the road again, and behind him he could hear the kidnapper placing a call, telling Russell where we should go to pick Ben up.
Upon receiving that call, Russell, at his home in the city of Gracias, relayed the information to Allen, who was at our home, much closer to Ben. Allen grabbed the keys and raced to the Land Cruiser. Within moments Ben was in his arms!
Russell's phone rang again, about fifteen minutes later. It was the kidnapper, checking to make sure Ben had made it back to us safely!
Ben came home, scratched and bruised, filthy and smelly, with his clothing and sneakers in tatters, and still wearing his necklace, bearing these two scriptures:
He will cover you with his feathers, under his wings you will find refuge. His faithfulness shall be your shield and rampart. Psalms 91:4
Love one another. John 15:17
There is now another post, relating events that happened immediately after Ben's release: After the Kidnapping
**** I am writing this post a week and a day after Ben's release. As of this point, he continues to show few signs of being traumatized by his experiences. His sleeping and eating patterns are unchanged, and he still jumps at any chance to ride to town! He jokes and laughs about the events of those 30 hours of captivity. Of course, we're keeping a close eye on this, but it would appear that the prayers for him to be protected from trauma were answered, as well as the prayers to spare his life.
****I will likely eventually write more about the events which followed the kidnapping, since this is my regular blog where I write about our lives and our ministry. I seem to have been a bit more affected by this trauma than Ben, and it is highly possibly that in my struggle to get this all down quickly while still finding my feet after these events, I left out parts of this story that have left people with questions in their minds. Although I hope that people will use the comments section of this post to praise God for his mercy and His goodness to us, I plan to put up another post soon, where you will be encouraged to ask any questions you might have.