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Abducted pastor released; Boston church rejoices

By Denise Lavoie
Associated Press / July 16, 2012
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BOSTON—At a small Pentecostal church in Boston's Dorchester neighborhood, cheers of "Hallelujah!" filled the air after church members heard that their pastor and two other hostages had been released by a kidnapper who took them from a bus in Egypt three days earlier.

The same happy refrain was heard outside the nearby home of the Rev. Michel Louis as his children and friends celebrated the news.

"We are in joy after receiving such a message," said his oldest son, Jean Louis.

"We believe in God, and let me tell you, he did not let us down," he said.

Michel Louis and Lissa Alphonse, 39, of Everett, a member of a sister church, were abducted from a bus Friday while on a church trip to retrace Jesus' steps through the Holy Land. An Egyptian tour guide was also kidnapped. All three were released unharmed Monday.

The kidnapper, Jirmy Abu-Masuh, told The Associated Press that he handed the three over to security officials near the northern Sinai city of el-Arish. He was demanding the release of his imprisoned uncle, who had been detained by Egyptian police on suspicion of drug possession. He said he released the three after he was promised that authorities were working on his uncle's release.

Louis' four adult children said they were thrilled to talk to their father via satellite phone from Egypt just hours after they learned of his release.

"He just told us that he loved us, that he's safe, and he's coming home," said son Daniel Louis. "He sounds in good spirits."

Daughter Debora Louis said the family was "overwhelmingly happy" to talk to her father after three days of worrying about his safety. Michel Louis, a diabetic, was unable to take his natural medications with him when he was abducted, Jean Louis said.

Parishioners also were overjoyed.

Aline Lalanne said she has known Louis since he was president of her youth church group in Haiti, their native country. She said she is a close friend of Louis' wife, Frederick Gladys Louis, who was on the trip and witnessed her husband's abduction.

"I'm so happy to hear he is released. It's a joy. It's a feast for me!" she said.

Jean Louis said the family stayed in phone contact with their mother, who remained in Egypt after her husband's abduction. He said his mother told him that a group of gunmen boarded the bus and chose Alphonse as a hostage. His mother said Michel Louis offered to take her place.

"My father, being the person that he is, he said that he was the leader of the group and he would appreciate it if instead of taking her that they would take him, but everything was taking place so quickly, they took both of them and the tour guide," Jean Louis said.

Alphonse's family could not immediately be reached for comment. She is married and has two children: a 10-year-old girl and a 6-year-old boy, Jean Louis said.

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