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American Christian Missionary Phyllis Sortor Abducted In Nigeria, $300,000 Ransom Demanded

( [email protected] ) Feb 24, 2015 06:34 PM EST
American missionary Rev. Phyllis Sortor is the latest Christian to be captured by militants in the war-torn African nation of Nigeria, but the $300,000 ransom demanded from her captors is not possible, according to family.
Rev. Phyllis Sortor during a missionary trip in Nigeria. Photo: Facebook/Sortor Family

American missionary Rev. Phyllis Sortor is the latest Christian to be captured by militants in the war-torn African nation of Nigeria, but the $300,000 ransom demanded from her captors is just not possible, according to family.

"We are just a working-class family, we don't have money. That's not a huge church, they don't have money. Why they took her, who knows? The people that are doing this stuff, these guys have no backing - they're just cowards," Sortor's stepson, Richard Sortor, told Q13 Fox News in an interview.

Confirmed by Bishop David Kendall of the Free Methodist Church near Seattle, Washington, the reports of the woman's abduction have been relayed to the U.S. Embassy and the State Department who has confirmed that a U.S. citizen has been reported missing in Nigeria.

Sortor was reportedly taken from Nigeria's Hope Academy compound in Emiworo, Kogi state, where she regularly did missionary work. Mike Henry, a colleague and fellow missionary who had worked with Sortor in Nigeria several times before, said that she is his "inspiration of courage."

Sortor was abducted by five armed and masked men who jumped the walls of the compound and fired shots in the air at 10:30 a.m. local Nigerian time (4:30 a.m. ET). Kogi Police Commissioner Adeyemi Ogunjemilusi told NBC News that he believes the abductors are part of a criminal gang and police are currently searching for clues. "We will do all within the available resources to ensure the safe rescue of the victim," he said.

According to the Free Methodist Missionaries' website, Phyllis Sortor is the financial administrator for the Hope Academy and was working to build a new school in the area for a group of Muslim children at the time of her kidnapping. The missionary also worked to build wells and bring clean water to the community. "She's a very courageous woman," colleague Brenda Young told NBC News. "She's one of the most devoted, compassionate, hard-driving women I've ever known."

Young said that Sortor had been working in West Africa for more than a decade. She was raised in Mozambique by her missionary parents but always considered it her life goal to assist the people of West Africa, including Nigeria. When her late husband, Jim, was dying in a Nigerian hospital several years ago, Sortor described in a video testimony the kindness from both Christian and Muslim Nigerians who helped pay the medical bills. 

"I know that nothing that can happen to me in my future can ever defeat me with God by my side," she said in the 2009 video interview with her missionary group.

The Free Methodist Church is calling on all churches to join together in prayer for the safe return of Sortor while the U.S. Embassy and FBI are working with local authorities to rescue Sortor.