TIJUANA, MEXICO More than a week has passed since San Diego pastor Manuel Jesus Tec was kidnapped Oct. 21 in Tijuana, and his family still has not talked with or heard from him.
Originally, the kidnappers demanded a $1-million ransom for Tec's release, but in two calls Monday night, Oct. 27, the kidnappers lowered that figure to $500,000 and subsequently to $200,000.
"Last night, we also heard a recording of his voice saying he was OK, and he asked us to do all that the kidnappers told us to do because his life was at risk," Tec's 30-year-old son Johnny said Oct. 28.
"We are totally hopeful and faith-filled," Johnny Tec said. "Mom is holding up pretty good. We've been having prayer meetings every night here at the house. We give credit to the prayers of so many people out there. We're hearing from places all over the world where people are praying for us. I don't know how they found out, but we're hearing from people all over the U.S. and Mexico, from Japan, the Philippines and even Africa.
"Only God can give us joy in the middle of a storm like this," Tec said. "But that's what we've been experiencing the comfort of God and the hope that He will bring our dad back soon."
Pastor Manuel Tec, 59, was kidnapped after crossing the border from San Diego into Tijuana with wife Maria and his younger son Giovanni. Gunmen stopped the car around 5 a.m. and forcibly abducted Tec, but left his wife and son free and unhurt.
The kidnappers contacted the Tec family for the fourth time Sunday night, Oct. 26, "trying to be intimidating," Johnny Tec said. He said the kidnappers have not allowed him or his mother to talk to Manuel since abducting him.
The Tecs first heard from the abductors on Oct. 21, the day of the kidnapping, when the kidnappers called the family three times at 5:15 a.m., 11:45 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. to voice their demands.
"Every time they called, they got more aggressive and more graphic in their threats," said Tec, adding that the family is in the dark as to why his father was targeted for kidnapping.
"He wasn't famous so we don't know why anyone would want to kidnap him. He was friendly, well-liked and popular with his church members and those who knew him. But we don't know why someone would want to kidnap him for money, especially $1 million."
Tec added that the kidnappers have instructed the family, "Keep cooperating with us and your dad will be OK."
"They said to come up with the money that this wasn't a game. They've also said they know all of the Tec brothers and sisters and would go after the entire family," Johnny said.
Manuel and his wife have three sons and two daughters. Though he lives in Tijuana, the pastor travels regularly to his new church plant in San Diego, Iglesia Familiar y Vida. A graduate of the Dr. G.H. Lacy Baptist Seminary in Oaxaca, Mexico, Manuel has pastored numerous Baptist churches south of the border since 1981, his son Johnny said.
"We just say 'gracias' to Southern Baptists everywhere for praying during this crisis we're going through," Johnny Tec said. "Let Baptists know that their prayers are being heard. We can feel how God has strengthened us. We think God is setting the stage for one more of His miracles that will leave us all in awe. Something grand is going to come out of this to show the world the power of prayer and God."
Tijuana increasingly has become known as a dangerous border town, with a growing number of kidnappings and murders -- often with doctors and other white-collar professionals as targets. The escalating violence is blamed on gangs and drug traffickers. Authorities recently rounded up some of the kidnapping gangs.
"It's getting worse," Johnny Tec said. "A lot of people are fleeing the city because the violence has skyrocketed over the past five years. Tijuana's an unsafe place to be, with a lot of evil on the streets. Ten people a day are showing up dead on the streets of Tijuana."
Tec said demanding a $1 million or even a $200,000 ransom for a Baptist minister makes no sense.
"The first ransom proposals down here seem to always be for $1 million, no matter who they pick out," said Tec, adding that the latest ransom demand of $200,000 is still "well out of our possibilities."
Tec said his family has "come to the crossroads," however, where it may have to begin bargaining with the kidnappers.
To offer encouragement to the Tec family, e-mail Johnny Tec at firstname.lastname@example.org.