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Wisconsin Parishioners Rejoice Upon News Of Release Of Hostages In Haiti

LADYSMITH, Wis. (WCCO) -- There is a sense of relief in a small Wisconsin town after news that all of the hostages held for two months in Haiti have been freed. That includes a family from the area of Ladysmith.

A release late this afternoon from Christian Aid Ministries says everyone -- including a 10-month-old baby, and 3- and 6-year-old boys -- seems to be doing reasonably well. Churches in northwest Wisconsin kept the faith, knowing a family of four would soon be home.

"It became pretty real. Pretty fast to our area," Brian Chitwood, Senior Pastor of First Church of Christ in Ladysmith, said.

Chitwood says two months ago, when his town of 3,000 got word a local family was among those being held in Haiti, his congregation began to pray.

"It hit us all. I know a lot of churches were praying as well," he said.

WCCO has been asked not to identify the father, mother and two children who are members of a local Mennonite Church for ongoing safety reasons. But a photo shows the released hostages boarding a coast guard plane in Haiti to return to the U.S.

A pastor in Michigan where some of the other missionaries are members said they were treated "relatively well."

The group of 17 were kidnapped by a gang leaving a Port-au-Prince orphanage Oct. 16. Five of them were released in separate groups in recent weeks.

Little information had been released until news broke Thursday.

"In fact, I didn't know what happened, but our administrative assistant here she let out a holler," Chitwood said. "We wondered what happened and she said all of them have been released."

While details are still unclear on the condition of their freedom, Chitwood says there is finally relief they'll be home soon.

"We just celebrate there's good news at Christmas for this family," he said.

The Haitian gang had been demanding a $1 million ransom paid for each hostage.

The State Department so far has only said it will continue to provide appropriate assistance to them and their families, thanking Haitian and international partners for their release.


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