A 71-year-old American missionary who was abducted in central Nigeria in February has been released unharmed her Free Methodist Church has said in a statement from Seattle.
"We thank God Phyllis Sortor, Free Methodist missionary to Nigeria, was safely released Friday, March 6, early evening Nigeria time, into the care of authorities and Free Methodist Church leaders.
"She had been abducted February 23. We are deeply grateful to all who prayed for Phyllis' safe return and praise God the family representative was able to secure her release," the church said in its statement.
Richard Sortor, her stepson told NBC news, ""When I was called at work and found about it today, you probably could have heard me yell around Seattle.
"Prayers are answered. Thank you very much, and you've got to believe. This doesn't happen very often and we're praising God."
Sortor has devoted many years to working in Africa, a continent she deeply loves.
She spent her childhood in Mozambique, born to Free Methodist missionaries Victor and Susan Macy.
After living many of her adult years in Seattle, Washington state, Sortor and her husband, Jim, moved to Rwanda where they ministered for nearly six years.
RETURN TO AFRICA
They returned to Africa in 2005, this time serving in Nigeria.
After Jim's death in October 2008, Phyllis Sortor remained in Nigeria where her main focus has been leadership development and International Child Care Ministries, the Free Methodist Church's child sponsorship program.
She has also been instrumental in establishing schools in Kogi State for the children of Fulani herdsmen and in instituting grazing projects as one solution to long-term conflicts between Nigerian farmers and Fulani herdsmen.
The U.S. missionary was aware there were risks associated with her ministry, "but also knew there are very few places in the world without risks and dangers," her church said.
"She recently said "Heaven is for real! 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!"
Scores of expatriates have been kidnapped in the past in southern and central Nigeria, where kidnapping is a major criminal enterprise that makes millions of dollars a year. Reuters news agency reported. Central Kogi state has also had low level activity by Islamist extremists linked to Boko Haram, security sources said.
David W. Kendall, for the board of bishops of the Free Methodist Church said, "As a matter of sound policy, 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.
"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."