At the Dorchester home of the Rev. Michel Louis, family and friends applied fresh paint to the sun-bathed porch, listening to joyful gospel music, while supporters bustled in and out of the front door bearing homemade meals. Next to the door was a sign taped to the mailbox: “Faith isn’t believing we know, it’s knowing we believe.”
It was a scene that was their greatest hope a week ago.
Louis and Everett resident Lissa Alphonse, who were released Monday after being kidnapped in Egypt, are scheduled to arrive in Boston Sunday. For family and friends, the pair’s arrival will mark an end of a terrifying ordeal that attracted attention around the world.
“We’re just grateful that it turned out the way it turned out,” said the pastor’s son, the Rev. Jean Louis. “It could have been different.”
The ordeal started July 13, as Michel Louis, 61, led a group of Boston-area church members on a missionary trip from Egypt to Israel. In the Sinai Peninsula, an armed man intercepted the group’s tour bus, declaring he would take Alphonse as a hostage in an effort to negotiate his uncle’s release from prison. Louis demanded to take her place. The kidnappers took them both, along with an Egyptian translator.
“By any estimation, it was an extraordinary act,” said the Rev. Eugene F. Rivers III, who has been in contact with the Louis family since the kidnappings occurred. “Saying, ‘I’m going to put my life on the line for this woman’ — it’s a real big deal.”
After two days, the kidnapper, Bedouin tribesman Jirmy Abu-Masuh, agreed to release Louis and Alphonse after officials promised they would help organize the release of his uncle, who he said had been wrongly imprisoned for refusing to pay a bribe.
Louis and Alphonse, 32, will arrive Sunday on the original flight they had scheduled for their return trip, accompanied by the rest of the group members from the tour. The pastor and Alphonse were given the option to fly back early once the hostage-taker released them, but they asked to return to the group, Jean Louis said.
Upon arrival at the airport, they will undergo a debriefing with the FBI, then they are scheduled to be honored at a 7 p.m. homecoming celebration at Jubilee Christian Church in Mattapan.
“It’s going to be a celebration, a welcome home, and a thanksgiving,” Rivers said Saturday. “We want to thank God first, and we also want to thank all of the public officials.”
Alphonse’s family said they planned to meet her at the airport, bringing along the woman’s 10-year-old daughter and 6-year-old son. The children were aware that their mother was “in trouble,” but family members attempted to shield them from details about the kidnapping, said Michelet Germain of Somerville, a family friend.
“They were quite scared,” Germain said. “This was a big relief for them.”
Sinobhard Alphonse, the woman’s father-in-law, said the outcome is better than they could have hoped for.
“We are very, very, very happy,” Alphonse said, smiling.
Jean Louis said church members are looking forward to getting back their beloved spiritual leader. At the Wednesday morning service at the Free Pentecostal Church of God, the substitute pastor called Michel Louis and connected the phone to a microphone so he could speak words of thanks.
Jean Louis said he last spoke to his father Friday to talk logistics about his return trip home.
“He sounds a little bit tired, but he sounds like he’s OK — at least a good 90 percent himself,” Louis said.
Louis said that while he appreciates the attention placed on his father’s heroic acts, he hopes the family will soon be able to return to their day-to-day life.
“I don’t know if he knows what he’s about to walk into,” Jean Louis said.