DALLAS — A North Texas missionary greeted his congregation Sunday days after he said he was taken hostage in Mexico.
“It was truly gut-wrenching,” said Kyle Bauer, 31, of Garland. “I didn’t know what was happening with my wife and my children — nor did I know what was going to happen to me.”
On Thursday, the father of four said he was kidnapped off the streets of Puerto Vallarta, where he was doing mission work for a California church.
Bauer said his captors held him in a hotel and demanded a ransom from his wife.
“The guys calling me: 'Don’t contact the police. We’re going to send you his fingers... his hands,’” Bauer’s wife, Teresa, told their congregation at the Church on the Way in Santa Clarita, California, during Sunday services. “I prayed like I've never prayed before.”
Bauer and his wife shared their story of survival with their congregation, but Bauer declined to be specific about exactly how he was kidnapped.
“I don’t want to go into a lot of detail about that,” Bauer said when pressed by a reporter. “Needless to say, it was awful.”
Puerto Vallarta is a popular beach destination for American tourists. Although reports of kidnappings are common in parts of Mexico, the U.S. State Department has no travel advisories that include Puerto Vallarta on the country's Pacific coast.
Bauer moved there in August with his wife and four young children after living in North Texas for three years. The family was active at the Antioch Church in downtown Dallas before leaving for their mission.
Antioch’s senior pastor Mark Brand was among the first to get the call that something had happened to Bauer.
“The phone rang, and it was his wife calling from Mexico and she said that within the hour he had been kidnapped,” Brand said. “It was very unexpected. Obviously, we were very concerned.”
Bauer said he was held against his will for hours but, at times, was left alone with the threat his captors were still watching him.
“Let’s just say they had me under surveillance the whole time,” he said.
During the ordeal, Bauer said he managed to convince one of his captors to pray with him.
“I said, 'As long as we have time to kill, you might as well hear the gospel,” Bauer recounted telling his captor, to the cheers of his congregation. “So I preached to the man for three hours.”
Bauer said he even sang worship songs in Spanish and felt like he was getting through to his captor.
“You could tell the guard was let down,” Bauer said, recalling this question from his kidnapper: "'You mean God can forgive somebody like me?’ I said, ‘Yeah, that’s the good thing about God.’”
The next morning, while Bauer said he was briefly left alone, he was able to use his cell phone to send an e-mail for help.
He was rescued unharmed 20 hours after he was first taken.
“When it was all over, I burst into tears,” Bauer said. “I knew I could see my family and my kids again and they were unharmed.”