HENDERSON, Tenn. (Christian Examiner) – Roberta Edwards, 55, director of SonLight Children's Home in Port-au-Prince, was killed on Saturday by unknown gunmen who shot her while she was at the wheel of her car and kidnapped one of the three foster boys who were in the vehicle with her.
Witnesses reported that Edwards' car was deliberately blocked by another vehicle before the shooting. The other two boys escaped the vehicle and ran for help to SonLight.
"Roberta was remarkable. She had an unwavering love of God, her children and the people of Haiti," said Jesse Robertson, minister at Estes Church of Christ where Roberta was based. "We are absolutely devastated by her loss."
No news is available about the kidnapped 4-year-old boy.
AMERICAN MISSIONARY KILLED
Since 2002, Edwards had been the administrator of SonLight, which provides for orphaned or unwanted children, and feeds over 160 children two meals a day. The ministry also provides money for children to attend school.
A mission group from Estes was visiting SonLight at the time of Edwards' murder. The group has returned safely to Tennessee, and the church is shortly planning a return trip of elders and counselors to comfort Edwards' foster children.
"The needs in Haiti are great," says Robertson. "We have an obligation to Roberta and her children to see that the work continues."
After spending Saturday evening with Edwards, Bobbie Solley, retired professor and member of a Haiti mission team, was woken up with the news of her friend's murder.
"She was a fabulous woman," Solley said, according to Daily News Journal. "Her only concern was the children of Haiti and the children she was caring for."
At the time of her death, Edwards was the mother for 20 children.
"Two of the boys got away from the gunmen and ran for help," Solley said. "A 4-year-old boy was taken. We haven't heard a word about him yet."
MURDER UNDER INVESTIGATION
Haitian authorities are investigating the murder and kidnapping but have not named any suspects. While her church and community are devastated, it is not presently believed that she was specifically targeted.
"We feel this is an isolated incident," said Robertson. "The team going back will be more experienced. We don't feel [missionaries] are being targeted, but we're being cautious."
State Department spokesperson Katy Bondy confirmed Edwards' death and offered assistance to her family. "We offer our condolences to her family and loved ones on their loss," Bondy said, according to NBC.
Burt Nowers, president of Healing Hands International, which named Edwards a Woman of Hope in 2011, said Edwards owned a handgun for protection, according to CBS. "She knew it was a dangerous place and she took precautions," Nowers said. "It just didn't work out for her this time."
Edwards lived in Haiti for about 20 years. She frequently visited her Henderson home and her parents, Robert and Laura Edwards, in Tennessee.
Whether Edwards' murder was deliberate or a random act of violence, her loss has left heavy the hearts of her friends, family, church, and community.
"I can't imagine doing it without Roberta," Solley said of the mission work in Haiti.