Somerset church group hijacked on mission trip

| February 18, 2013

Despite being kidnapped, robbed and left for dead in the forests of Guatemala, the short-term mission group from Riverside Church in Somerset, Wis. said they feel blessed.

“We are just grateful to be alive,” said Rev. Bill Hieb, leader of the mission trip and pastor at Riverside Church.

The mission trip was supposed to run Jan. 23- Feb. 4, but it was derailed on the first night, while the group was driving to the place they planned to stay that night.

The group was about 25 minutes away from their destination on a dark highway when a pickup truck containing several men with guns drove up.

“They just pushed us off the road,” Hieb said. “They were screaming and shouting and there were at least three bullet rounds that were fired, likely over the top of our vehicle. We did see the gun flashes and the sound was extremely loud.”

Within moments, the attackers were in the vehicle.

Hieb, who was in the van’s front passenger seat, said one man put a gun into his ribs, while another pushed the driver into the back seat and took over the vehicle. Hieb said the occupants of the back seats were also held at gunpoint.

The men drove the van into the woods. Hieb said he was told to close his eyes, but other group members said they were not.

When the van stopped, Hieb said he was pulled out of the vehicle, lined up against the van and his pockets were emptied.

Hieb’s hands were tied with his own shoelaces. His captors walked him behind the van and made him kneel.

“I thought, frankly, that that was an execution about to take place,” Hieb said.

Instead, he was pushed face down into the grass and his legs were tied at the ankles.

One-by-one, the other group members were subsequently robbed, tied and laid on the ground, faces down.

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Category: Mission Trip/Missionary Security

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