Refusal To Negotiate Helped Win Release, Ex-captives Say
ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) _ Four American missionaries taken hostage by leftist guerrillas in Colombia returned home Sunday, saying their faith and their refusal to pay ransom led to their release after nearly five weeks of captivity.
″We were terrified. They kept saying we were CIA spies, that the United States was responsible for many atrocities,″ said Bonnie Cain, 33, of Front Royal, Va., who was captured along with her husband, Tim, and two other missionaries who tried to help them.
″Our faith, our inspiration, was the many small miracles performed by God to show us he was with us.″
On Sunday, all four returned to the New Tribes Mission headquarters near Orlando.
Guerrillas burst in on the couple on Oct. 5, held a gun to Cain’s head and forced him to radio his home base, saying he was sick and needed to be evacuated.
Missionary-pilot Paul Dye, 45, and Steve Estelle, 34, flew a single-engine Cessna from a nearby camp to the Amazon village in the Puinave Indian country southeast of Bogota where the Cains had been working for nearly four years.
They too were captured by heavily armed guerrillas of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia.
Dye was forced to fly some of the rebels to another of their jungle camps while the Cains and Estelle were kept prisoners at the Indian village.
Dye slipped away from his sleeping captors after five nights, and made a risky nighttime flight in heavy fog. Although he ran out of fuel, he landed safely and alerted authorities.
On Sunday, there were tears, cries of joy, prayers and singing as the four were met at Orlando International Airport by friends and relatives.
″The guerrillas said they were investigating to see if we were spies and kept saying how terrible the United States was, and especially Ronald Reagan,″ said Cain, 35. ″They wanted to know if I was President Reagan’s brother.″
Dye, whose father, Cecil Dye, was among five missionaries killed by Indians in Bolivia in the early 1940s, said, ″I think they wanted my plane and a pilot″ for transporting arms and perhaps drugs.
″Right after I escaped, they captured an Italian pilot and a Colombian pilot, with their Cessna 206s,″ said Dye, a tall, crew-cut man who disclaimed any hero’s role.
About a week after the missionaries were captured, a ransom note was slipped under the door of the New Tribes Mission guest house in Villavicencio. The conditions: No negotiation on Tim Cain or Estelle. But Mrs. Cain was reported ″not well,″ and a ransom for her return was set at $130,000.
New Tribes Mission officials ruled out any ransom payment.
The Colombian government contacted the guerrillas through a peacekeeping commission which included rebel factions and it won the release of the trio.
They were freed at about the time another leftist rebel group, the M-19, assaulted the Palace of Justice in Bogota, an incident resulting in the death of more than 100 people after the army stormed the building last week. Mission officials do not believe the two incidents were related.
The FARC guerrillas ″knew there was nothing to be gained,″ New Tribes Foreign Secretary Melvin Wyma told reporters in Orlando.
″Our policy follows the same logic as Reagan’s,″ Wyma said. ″Once you pay ransom, there’s no end to it.″
The New Tribes Mission, based in nearby Sanford, is an interdenominational evangelistic group with 1,900 missionaries in 20 countries, Wyma said.
Missionaries and their families live among people of underdeveloped nations, teaching them to read and write, providing some medical help and translating the Bible into native languages.
The Cains’ two daughters, ages 9 and 10, were at a base camp when their parents were taken. Estelle’s wife and three children and Dye’s wife and two children also were in Colombia at the time and were later flown back to the United States. The Dyes are from Port Huron, Mich., and the Estelles from Indianapolis, Ind.
Wyma said 40 to 50 New Tribes missionaries remain in Colombia, and the four who returned Sunday plan to go back to that South American nation.
″Our work isn’t done,″ said Cain. ″We still have a job to do there.″