Troyer thanked God, those who had been praying for the 17 missionaries, law enforcement agencies, as well as the news media.
“Maybe that’s something you aren’t used to hearing,” Troyer said jokingly to reporters. “But you helped us spread the news of this difficult situation all over the world. Intended or not, this resulted in large numbers of prayers by many of God’s people in many countries.”
Addressing the kidnappers directly, Troyer said, “You cost the hostages and their families a lot of suffering. However, Jesus taught us by word and his own example that the power of forgiving love is stronger than the hate of violent force.”
“As his children, we cannot otherwise but extend forgiveness to you,” Trotter continued. He then went on to explain that, while in captivity, the missionaries had preached the message of salvation in Jesus to their kidnappers. Trotter then invited everyone listening to put their faith in Jesus.
Deston Showalter, who serves as spokesman for Christian Aid Ministries, explained during the press conference that the 17 missionaries spent much of their time in captivity singing and praying. While none of the former hostages were present at the press conference, Showalter showed footage of the group singing a hymn after being reunited in Florida.
“At times, they felt God prepared a path before them,” Showalter said. “God was leading them.”
At one point, some of the remaining 12 hostages felt God “nudge” them to attempt an escape. After much prayer and discussion, they all came to agreement. They decided on the factors that would need to be in place for them to escape, and twice halted planned escape attempts when those conditions were not met.
On the night of December 15, the group decided that the time to escape had come. They pushed past a door that had been closed and blocked, snuck past several guards, and began hiking through the night toward a landmark they had previously identified. Fighting through brambles and thickets, they were guided by moonlight through gang territory for as many as 10 miles.
As night turned into morning, they found someone who could make a phone call for help. Later, the Coast Guard flew the 12 missionaries to Florida, where they were reunited with the other 5 former hostages. Showalter described their escape as miraculous.
“‘If the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed,’” said Showalter, quoting Jesus’ words in John 8:36. “Freedom is not a place. Our staff members that were held hostage would confirm that. They said that despite the difficulties, they experienced freedom, even as they were being held, facing uncertainty. In our minds and in theirs, the true hostages are the hostage takers.”
“God invites all of us, including the kidnappers, to seek and find freedom through Jesus, from the bondage of sin,” Showalter said.