SAN DIEGO — Southern Baptist pastor Manuel Jesus Tec is free after 11 days of torture at the hands of unknown kidnappers who abducted him in Tijuana, Mexico, on Oct. 21. Tec currently is recuperating at an undisclosed San Diego hospital and is expected to make a full recovery.
Tec, 59, was released around 6 a.m. Oct. 31, following extensive negotiations, according to Johnny Tec, the pastor’s 30-year-old son.
“Dad was hurt,” Johnny Tec said, adding that his father endured significant physical and psychological trauma during the ordeal.
Tec was whipped with barbwire whenever he started praying or talking to his captors about God, Johnny Tec said.
“They became angry whenever he tried to pray,” Tec said. “He was kept in a cage on what he thinks was a ranch someplace. He had no food or water. His whole head was covered in duct tape the whole time except for his nose and mouth. Most of the time, his eyes were also covered with duct tape and on one occasion, they threw acid in his eyes.”
Tec said the family was instructed to meet one of the kidnappers under a Tijuana bridge around 3:30 a.m. Oct. 31. Complying with the instructions, one of the pastor’s sons arrived at the bridge and was told his father would be delivered in five minutes. After two hours passed and the kidnappers had not produced his father, the son returned home alone.
Johnny Tec said the kidnappers had loosely buried his father under gravel and sand and shot at him with “some kind of machine gun,” according to what the pastor later recounted to his family. Fortunately, none of the bullets pierced the half-buried pastor and the kidnappers departed.
Tijuana policemen — possibly hearing the gunshots — found Tec, pulled him from the sand and gravel and carried him to a local community hospital in Tijuana.
Around 8 a.m. Oct. 31, the Tijuana hospital called the family and told them Tec had been admitted. The family arranged for Manuel to be transferred by ambulance to an undisclosed hospital across the U.S. border in San Diego.
“It was heartbreaking when we finally first saw him in the hospital,” Johnny Tec recounted, “because he was afraid of us. The kidnappers took advantage of the fact that he had not eaten and was hallucinating. They would tell him that my brother and I were going to continue beating him. We had to gain his trust back because he was afraid of us.”
Also at one time during his capture, Tec had been told that his entire family — his wife Maria and all five children — had been killed by the kidnappers, Johnny Tec said. “He thought we were all dead. One by one, we had to reintroduce the family to him so he would realize that we’re all OK.
“Dad’s making fast progress. As he gets better, he’s remembering more about what they did to him. He’s been through a lot of bad stuff,” Johnny Tec said. “He’s really excited to be back and thanks all the Southern Baptists for their prayers.”
The strange 11-day ordeal began around 5 a.m. Oct. 21, when armed kidnappers abducted Tec as he was crossing over the border from San Diego to Tijuana. His wife and son Giovanni were with him but not taken or hurt. Tec is pastor of a new Hispanic church plant in San Diego, Iglesia Familiar y Vida.
Johnny Tec said the family still has no idea why his father was kidnapped. Tijuana is known as a dangerous border town, where the kidnapping and murder of white-collar professionals by gangs is almost a daily occurrence.
“I don’t think we’ll ever know why he was targeted,” Johnny Tec said. “My dad just thinks God wanted us to become closer as a family.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE — Noah is a writer for the North American Mission Board.)