A shepherd to his flock: Pastor risks life to stay with woman kidnapped in Egypt

By Max Perry Mueller

For the Deseret News

Published: Friday, Aug. 24 2012 5:00 a.m. MDT

Like Louis and Alphonse’s fellow pilgrims in Israel, Louis’ family, congregation, and much of Boston’s African American community in Dorchester came together to pray. At a press conference on the evening of July 14, outside his father’s church, the Rev. Jean Louis, a Presbyterian pastor, told dozens of supporters and journalists that he and his family remained constant in their prayer for a safe resolution. “We’re in good spirits. … We’re doing what we can do in the body of Christ.”

Rev. Jean Louis also said that he remained in constant contact with U.S. government officials, notably Massachusetts Senators Scott Brown and John Kerry.

And while officials worked the phones from the States, the captives in Egypt waited and prayed. After a violent start to the ordeal, Louis said, the captors were “very nice with us.” As Abu-Masuh had claimed, the captives were well fed, but each night they were moved to a different location in the desert and slept on the ground. And though Louis was without the medication needed to regulate his diabetes, he said he never feared for his life. “I just sat quietly and looked at them because I knew God wasn’t going to let me down.” Louis recalled that he spent his evenings staring up at the desert night sky, praying that he would be reunited with his fellow pilgrims from Boston.

Details are sketchy as to what, if any, promises were made to secure their release, but on July 16, Abu-Masuh drove the three captives to meet a police inspector to whom the kidnapper release Louis, Alphonse, and their interpreter. Some reports indicate that Egyptian authorities have promised to work to free his uncle, but Abu-Masuh said what motivated him to release his captives was a change of heart. He said, “We are people of mercy, and they don’t have anything to do with this.” Raymond said, “I believe the power of the Almighty God through prayer softened the kidnappers' hearts and ordered them to release our people. God is alive and true.”

As Louis and Alphonse made their way to rendezvous with the rest of the tour group in Israel, he called his family at their Dorchester home via satellite phone. Upon hearing that their prayers were answered and their father was “coming home,” joy erupted in both Louis’ church and the Louis family home. “It’s just great to finally have this realized,” said an emotional Rev. Jean Louis. “We believe in God, and let me tell you, he did not let us down.” During an impromptu service of celebration at the Free Pentecostal Church, Louis said of his father, “The pastor not (only) teaches what he preaches. He did what he preached.”

On July 22, after he returned to the U.S., Louis was greeted with an even bigger celebration. Some 1,000 people packed into the Jubilee Christian Church, where another of Louis’ sons, Daniel, is a worship leader, to celebrate Louis’ safe return. The pastor, surrounded by family members sporting T-shirts that read, “God Made My Dad A Hero,” recounted his ordeal in his native Creole, with Daniel interpreting, explaining how he offered himself in exchange for Alphonse. Sen. Brown, who attended the celebration, also called Louis “a hero” for putting his health, even perhaps his life, on the line to stand by one of the pilgrims he promised to protect.

This irony that a pastor, while leading a pilgrimage to celebrate the life of Jesus Christ, acted in such a selfless manner isn’t lost on Louis’ friend Raymond.

“(Louis) did what we as Christians should do: follow Jesus Christ’s example,” Raymond said. “Certainly, Pastor Louis (acted) like a shepherd of his flock.”

Max Perry Mueller is associate editor of Religion & Politics, a project of the John C. Danforth Center on Religion & Politics at Washington University in St. Louis. Twitter: maxperrymueller

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