Missionary Recounts Haitian Jail Ordeal

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BRADENTON, Fla. -- The city of Bradenton, Fla., is located 800 miles from Haiti. But it is a world away from the confines of the Haitian prison in the city of Jacmel, where a judge had Christian missionary Danny Pye incarcerated in October of 2010.

There has been no legal explanation for his confinement.

Locked Up, No Charges

Pye and his family have lived in Haiti for seven years. He and his wife, Leann, run an orphanage that cares for 22 children. On October 13, 2010, they had gone to court to handle paperwork for some ministry property. When examined later, the paperwork revealed Pye was arrested for being in contempt of court. However, he had done nothing to justify the charge.

In the end, Pye spent five months and two days locked up in a 10 by 12-foot jail cell. He shared the tiny space with 27 other inmates.

A judge finally released him from the prison on March 15, 2011.

Recalling His Ordeal

Just days after the release, Pye spoke with CBN News in Bradenton for his first extensive interview about his confinement and eventual release.

"In the beginning, I think I embraced prison pretty well because, actually in arrogance, I believed as an American, how long could they hold me?" Pye said. "I mean I am not a criminal. I didn't commit a crime. I did not hurt anybody. So I assumed five days, maybe seven days."

There were convicted murders, rapists and even goat thieves in the cell with Pye. But as he formed friendships with the inmates, he soon learned there were also many like him -- behind bars with no explanation, locked up by the same judge.

"That is what began the fear to arise because there were people there for six years that have never been convicted of a crime," he explained.

Fear Grows as Months Pass

Pye's fear grew with news of what was happening inside and outside the jail -- the deadly cholera outbreak in October, the floods of Hurricane Thomas in November, and the prison breaks in December that followed the presidential elections.

He also witnessed guards beating inmates to death.

"I have been tased and I have been shoved and pushed. But I have never been beaten to the level they were beaten that day," the missionary said as he recalled his jail experiences.

Pye's wife Leann told CBN News of the hardships she had to face during the time her husband was in the Haitian jail.

"Danny being in prison has been the hardest thing I have ever had to go through," she said.

Leann was left to run the orphanage alone, prepare to give birth to their second child, and to fight for her husband's release.

"Around the middle of his incarceration, I stopped giving him details of all the rabbit trails that I would run because, when it didn't work out, there is just a lot of pain when hope dies," she explained.

"There were a lot of moments of helplessness, of just wondering what the purpose was and why me and why am I going through this?" Pye recalled.

At even his lowest points, the missionary says he found comfort sharing the gospel with his cell mates.

"Men that were hard killers were on their knees in tears, on the ground, crying out for salvation," Pye said.

He would later find himself in tears while reading the letters his wife delivered almost daily from the children at their orphanage. When guards blocked those letters, she would bring him food and write the messages on the foil wrapping.

News of Imprisonment Reaches U.S.

The news of Pye's imprisonment reached more people in the United States in February after his wife returned to Bradenton to have their son. She hated leaving Haiti, because she felt like she was deserting her husband. He would have no one to bring him letters - and no one to make routine trips to court to beg for his release.

"Having to go on that plane was the hardest thing I ever had to do because it felt like no one was going to push. No one was going to be there," Leann said.

But as the word spread, believers began to fast, pray, and lobby politicians for help. Their cry eventually connected a prominent Haitian attorney with the American Center for Law and Justice in Washington, D.C.

Working together, the attorneys negotiated Pye's release at no cost for their clients.

"It was all very quick. We thought that release was going to happen every week for five months and then all of a sudden it happens," Pye told CBN News.

Still, he didn't quite believe it. Until he was on a plane headed for Florida on March 17 to join his wife and four-year-old daughter. He arrived just in time as Leann gave birth to their son Joseph two days later.

Will Return to Haiti Soon

It was a happy reunion in the U.S. However, the Pyes say their family will not be complete until they are all back in Haiti.

"We made a promise to 22 kids that we were going to be their mom and dad until they get though high school and they are ready to be adults. And we don't plan on breaking that promise," Pye said.

The family is waiting for baby Joseph's passport to be issued. Then, they will be heading back to the rest of their children in Haiti.

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CBN News
Efrem Graham

Efrem Graham

News Anchor & Reporter

Efrem Graham is an award-winning journalist, who comes to CBN News from the ABC owned and operated station in Toledo, Ohio.  He received his master's degree from the Columbia University Journalism School. He also holds a bachelor's degree in English Literature from the Richard Stockton College of New Jersey.  Follow Efrem on Twitter @EfremGraham and "like" him at Facebook.com/EfremGrahamCBN.