A shepherd to his flock: Pastor risks life to stay with woman kidnapped in Egypt
The kidnapped tourists have become unfortunate tools of negotiation that the some Bedouins have used to extract concessions from the transitional Egyptian government. Though the tourists have yet to be harmed, the U.S. State Department has warned that kidnappings are becoming routine, and the U.S. government has prohibited its employees from traveling overland in most areas in Sinai.
Louis had made this trip without incident before, and was looking forward to showing his fellow Bostonians some of the great vistas from atop Mount Sinai. His son, the Rev. Jean Louis, said if the group had been aware of the danger, they might not have ventured there. The director of security in northern Sinai, Egyptian Gen. Ahmed Bakr, said that the incident was “partially the fault of the travel agency” that Louis’ group employed. Bakr noted that if the agency had informed the police of their plans, “we would have sent a police escort.”
For his part, Abu-Masuh told the AP that he was treating his three captives like “guests,” providing them with tea and food. The 32-year old truck driver-turned-kidnapper also said the captives were even given a traditional Bedouin meal of lamb, a feast reserved for guests and special occasions.
‘God, return us home, complete!’
Back on the bus, concerned that the armed men might come return and take more captives, Raymond recalls that he quickly hid his passport for safekeeping. But after the trucks sped off, the mood changed from panic to despair. “The bus became like a funeral home,” Raymond says. “There was crying and mourning and wailing.” Raymond did the only — and he says, the best — thing he could do in that situation. “I led them in prayer to help with the trauma. We prayed for the captives as well as for the aggressors. We’re Christians, and that’s what Christians do in crises. We call upon the Lord.”
While in constant prayer, the other members of the tour, including Louis’ wife, Gladys, eventually made their way back across the border into Israel. They suspended their pilgrimage and waited in their hotel for word on the fate of their fellow pilgrims. “I remember well the prayer that we had,” recalls Raymond. “‘God, return us home complete,’ I prayed.” The group vowed that they would only head back to the states when Louis and Alphonse safely rejoined them.
Haiti in Boston
Raymond said word of the kidnappings quickly spread through the Boston area’s Haitian community. And churches, as they often do in moments of both celebration and crisis, became the gathering places for Haitian Bostonians.
That was certainly true for church Louis founded, The Free Pentecostal Church of God, where congregants gathered to pray for the safe return of their pastor. The small, yellow, windowless storefront church is located on Harvard Street, just off of Blue Hill Avenue, the main thoroughfare that runs through Boston’s three historically black neighborhoods — Dorchester, Roxbury and Mattapan. Though only 7 miles to the south of the world’s most famous university, Pastor Louis’ church would not look out of place in Haiti, where a large percentage of the congregation’s members were born. Even the church’s sign, lovingly hand-painted to read, “Eglise de Dieu de la Pentecote Libre,” speaks to the prominence of the Haitian population in this part of New England.
The greater Boston area has one of the highest concentrations of the “Haitian Diaspora” (Haitians living outside of their homeland) in the country. Beginning in the 1950s and 1960s, Haiti’s political and economic turmoil meant that millions of Haitians left their home country. Tens of thousands have settled in Boston, mostly in areas of the city historically occupied by African Americans (Malcolm X spent much of his youth in Roxbury, and Martin Luther King Jr. lived in Dorchester while attending Boston University). The section of Blue Hill Avenue that runs just south of Louis’ church is often considered Boston’s Haitian “downtown,” where pedestrians passing by Haitian grocery stores and churches are more likely to hear Haitian French-Creole than English. The website “Haitian Christianity” lists 86 Haitian churches in Massachusetts, with only Florida and New York having more Haitian congregations.
United in prayer, even thousands of miles apart
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