American missionary in Nigeria released

by Karen L. Willoughby, |
Phyllis Sortor has lived in Nigeria for 10 years, working as a missionary to the Fulani people group, who are Muslim nomadic herdsmen. She opened a school in January in Enugu, southeastern Nigeria, for Fulani children.

SEATTLE, Wash. (Christian Examiner) – A Free Methodist missionary from Seattle was released Friday evening, Nigeria time, March 6, after being abducted Feb. 23 and held for ransom.

The ransom for Phyllis Sortor, 71, originally was set at about $300,000 in U.S. funds, but about a week later the amount was dropped to about $150,000.

No information was given as to the terms, if any, of her release, or the name of the group or gang that kidnapped her.

"We are deeply grateful to all who prayed for Phyllis' safe return and praise God the family representative was able to secure her release," said David Kendall in a statement. He is bishop of the 850,000-member worldwide denomination.

"As a matter of sound polity, and to help protect the many, many people who helped secure Phyllis' freedom, we will have no comment concerning the efforts that were undertaken to secure her release," Kendall continued. "Please continue to pray for Phyllis as she processes the ordeal she has faced. Also pray for Phyllis' family members who have been profoundly affected by this experience. We are reaching out to them and will continue to minister to them in the days ahead."

Sortor, who had served in Nigeria for 10 years, knew there were risks involved in ministry but that there were risks and dangers everywhere in the world. She had written in her January newsletter about it.

"There is no guarantee in life; no safe place other than that place we find ourselves when our full faith and trust is in God," Sortor wrote.

Sortor serves as financial administrator at Hope Academy in central Nigeria, an area not known to be of interest to the Boko Haram Islamist terrorists. Local police determined it was a criminal gang who had abducted her shortly after her return the Monday morning from looking at a new piece of property to buy on which to start a new school.

The men had climbed a wall, "shooting sporadically into the air to scare away people before taking [the hostage] away into the bush," a Kogi state police spokesman said.

Nigeria is one of the world's worst nations for kidnapping with millions of dollars being paid in ransoms each year as criminal gangs kidnap scores of expatriates in southern and central Nigeria.

In a recent 6-minute video about her ministry filmed by Free Methodist World Missions, Sortor said, "Nothing that can happen to me in my future will ever defeat me with God by my side."

In a March 4 blog entry, Kendall wrote about freedom using Psalm 72 as his text.

"God's priorities, power and promises find their most consistent focus on the poor, the needy, the oppressed and the captive," the bishop wrote. "The faithful has always known that there can be gaps of time between our cries and God the Lord's responses."