Returned-missionary Joshua Holt and his new wife, Thamara, were recently arrested after returning from their honeymoon in Venezuela.
Joshua Holt returned from his mission in Washington state this January, and shortly after he met Thamara Belen Caleño Candelo through lds.org.
On June 16, the two were married in Venezuela, and after a honeymoon on a Venezuelan island, Joshua and Thamara Holt returned to Thamara's apartment in Ciudad Caribia where her two daughters, who are 5 and 7 years old, were waiting.
While the couple was waiting for Thamara's visa to come through, Venezuelan police raided the couple's apartment and allegedly found a hand grenade and AK-47 assault rifles.
Since that time, representatives of the U.S. Embassy in Caracas have met with Holt twice during his incarceration and his family has been fighting tirelessly for his release. As a result of their diligence, media outlets like the Washington Post have highlighted his story.
On August 22, Holt's mother, Laurie Moon Holt, posted a letter from her son on Facebook where he describes his "horrible nightmare."
At 6 a.m. on the morning of his arrest, Holt was woken by his new wife to hear "people screaming, babies crying, and the sound of people trying to break into homes." Thamara told Holt that the Venezuelan police were going door to door.
He writes, "We kneel and offer a prayer unto the Lord that he will bless us and protect us. I go to the living room and look out the window and gaze upon hundreds of police officers that where sworn to protect people as they break into apartments, chase people, and shoot at others."
The police came to search the couple's apartment twice. The final time, they took Holt with them when they left. "They tell me to get dressed because I had to go with them," he writes. "I’m scared and confused. What did I do? Did I do something wrong? Am I in trouble? They assured me that everything would be okay and they just wanted to verify all my information. As they take me to an old pickup truck another police office ask them why they have me and their one-word reply gives enough information for the officer to understand, 'Gringo,' and the officer responded, 'ah okay.'"
Later, when Holt is transferred to an office, Thamara is finally able to enter the room where he is being detained. Holt says his new wife, "with tear filled eyes, she looked me in the eyes and said, 'My love, they are saying they found a gun and a grenade in our apartment.'"
He continues, "The following hours were full of fear and terror as they threatened to do horrible things to me, as they took pictures of me and laughed as if I were some freak of nature or some animal from another world. . . .
"It wasn’t until days later that I found out that the police had entered into our apartment a third time asking for $10,000 dollars and afterwards planting these things in our apartment because we had no money."
But, despite these horrors, despite this abuse, Holt still continues to cling to his testimony as his life support:
"I do rejoice in my God and my Savior. I know that they are watching and listening to every prayer. I don’t know when he will answer my prayers, but I know he will. . . .
The only thing I can do is beg the Lord to soften the hearts of this people and that of the governments . . . As Elder Holland once said, 'Don’t you quit. You keep walking, you keep trying, there is help and happiness ahead. Some blessings come soon, some come late, some don’t come until heaven, but for those who embrace the Gospel of Jesus Christ they come. It will be alright in the end. Trust God and believe in good things to come.'"