Foursquare Missionaries Kyle and Teresa Bauer, and their four children, are adjusting to life back in the United States following a harrowing kidnapping experience in Mexico earlier this year.
“We are letting the emotion subside, and we are listening to the voice of the Holy Spirit as to our next steps,” says 31-year-old Kyle Bauer, who was held captive by kidnappers for more than 20 hours in an effort to extort a ransom from his family. “This kind of thing doesn’t take God by surprise. I believe that the devil had something far worse planned, but that it was cut short. I think that it should have been a lot worse than it was.”
Bauer found himself in the middle of a “telephonic kidnapping” on March 14, as he walked around Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. According to the Citizens of the City of Mexico, a local human rights advocacy group, there are an average of 370 kidnapping attempts of this nature committed every month throughout Mexico—roughly 12 a day. Victims receive aggressive and frightening phone calls threatening violence against loved ones who are believed to be captured, and end up being held for ransom in an attempt to ensure the safety of their families.
Bauer’s experience was no different. As he prayed through the neighborhood near his home, he received a phone call on his cell. The caller identified himself as a member of a drug cartel, informed Bauer that his wife and four children were being watched, and threatened to murder them if Bauer did not follow his orders.
Because of the prevalence of drug-related crime in the area, Bauer did as he was told. He managed to send his wife a brief text message that he hoped would signal something was wrong, before switching to a new phone he had been told to buy. The caller instructed him to check into a local hotel, where captors were waiting to prevent him from leaving.
News of the event ricocheted across the country, as many recognized Bauer’s significance within the Foursquare movement as a whole. Kyle Bauer is the grandson of former Foursquare President Jack W. Hayford, and the son of Scott and Rebecca Bauer, who served as senior pastors of The Church On The Way in Van Nuys, Calif., from 1999 until Scott’s death in 2003.
Bauer and his family felt a strong call to serve as missionaries in Puerto Vallarta, an area riddled with crime and poverty despite its resort reputation. During their seven months serving as missionaries there, the Bauers established a growing church, holding services in their home.
During his 20 hours of captivity, Bauer relentlessly sang worship songs and preached the gospel to his captor—challenging him to repent and turn to Christ.
“I spoke to [one of the captors] from Genesis to the resurrection of Jesus, and how we can recover everything God intended us to be in Him,” Bauer recalls. “I was hoping he would repent. I’m a missionary; I do what I do because I love God and I love people. Regardless of somebody’s sinfulness, I care about their soul.”
At one point the captor even asked Bauer if God could really forgive a man like him, who had done so many terrible things.
“That is the good thing about God,” Bauer told him. “There is no sin or sinner too great that He is unable or unwilling to forgive. You need faith in Jesus Christ, but you also must turn from your sin!”
During the night, the captors asked if Bauer knew any songs. When he replied that he did, they asked him to sing. Bauer jumped on the opportunity to invite the presence of the Lord into that place and burst out singing, “Majesty! Worship His Majesty!” For the next several minutes, Bauer worshiped the Lord in song with all the captors listening. One captor even called his wife and patched her through so she could hear the worship.
Despite his fears for his own safety and for his family, Bauer says he knew that God was with him. What he didn't know was that his wife, Teresa, had been able to contact the couple’s sending church—The Church On The Way Santa Clarita (TCOTWSC) in Santa Clarita, Calif.—setting in motion a discrete prayer chain, and the involvement of the FBI and other authorities.
Church leaders mobilized a small prayer chain and monitored social media postings to ensure nothing was shared publicly that could jeopardize efforts to end the tense situation.
“Our goal was prayer, not widespread pandemonium,” says Senior Pastor Doug Andersen, Bauer’s uncle. “Many were in prayer for long hours during the night.”
As the threats and waiting dragged on the following day, Kyle’s wife, Teresa, was diligently working with U.S. and local authorities. She was advised to shut down Kyle’s cell phone. The extortionists closely monitored Bauer’s cell phone and ordered him not to use it unless they told him to. Kyle realized his captors would no longer be able to monitor his cell phone once it was disconnected.
Miraculously, the previous occupant of the hotel room had left the Wi-Fi password on the room’s table. Right before his phone was deactivated, Bauer was able to connect his phone to the Internet and send out an email with his location.
Because no ransom had been forthcoming, the extortionists said that Kyle would have to stay longer. He was instructed to go down to the hotel lobby and extend his stay. Once in the lobby, Bauer was approached by two detectives, who were able to track him down as a result of the email he had sent. One of them took the phone from Bauer and told him, “It’s over.”
No ransom was paid.
Following an emotional reunion, Bauer and his family left Mexico the following day. They shared their remarkable story at a service at TCOTWSC, and have since been recovering and meeting with church and Foursquare Missions International (FMI) leaders as they plan their next steps.
The Bauers, and the pastors at TCOTWSC, have voiced their gratitude for the diligent and effective efforts of The Foursquare Church during the emotional ordeal. FMI had a plan in place for several years to deal with situations such as this one—only this was the first time it had to actually be implemented. It worked flawlessly.
“I have never been more grateful to be part of The Foursquare Church than right now,” says Bauer. “They were wonderful!”
At the time of this interview, the Bauers have been evaluating and processing with Foursquare about the next steps they are to take, whether they are to go back or not. But they are not worried about their future.
“God is faithful,” says Bauer. “The safest place to be in the world is right in the center of God’s will, and if that puts us in harm’s way, He will be faithful.”
By: Andy Butcher, a freelance writer living in the Orlando, Fla., area, and Sarah Wray, who serves as an executive assistant at The Church On The Way Santa Clarita