An American missionary who was kidnapped by armed men in Nigeria last month was released Friday, according to her church.
Rev. Phyllis Sortor, 71, a missionary with the Free Methodist Church in Seattle, was released into the care of church leaders early Friday night local time, according to a statement from the church.
Sortor was abducted from the Hope Academy compound in Kogi state on Feb. 23 and her captors demanded almost $300,000 for her safe return, Nigerian police have said. Police said they believed Sortor was the target of the raid on the compound — which they said was likely gang related — because no one else was taken. The statement from the Free Methodist Church said they would not be disclosing what was done to secure her freedom in order “to help protect the many, many people who helped.”
Sortor's main ministry was working with children and establishing schools in Nigeria, according to the church. She had previously spent six years serving in Rwanda.
"Phyllis was aware there were risks associated with her ministry, but also knew there are very few places in the world without risks and dangers," the statement said, adding, "We are deeply grateful to all who prayed for Phyllis’ safe return and praise God the family representative was able to secure her release."
Sortor had also partnered in Nigeria with the Clear Blue Global Water Project since 2009. Brenda Mason Young, the executive director of the non-profit, said everyone at the organization is “delighted and excited to know that this has all worked out and that she’s well.” When she got the news of Sortor’s release, Young said, “I could hardly contain myself.”
Young didn’t know if Sortor planned to return to Nigeria, but told NBC News, “I know her heart is there.”
— Elisha Fieldstadt