Reverend Phyllis Sortor is the Seattle woman who has been kidnapped in Nigeria, according to her church, the Free Methodist Church.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. She Was Kidnapped at Gunpoint in the Middle of the Night
Reuters reports that the U.S. State Department has not confirmed that Sortor was kidnapped. The agency says that Sortor was taken at gunpoint from her home in Nigeria’s central Kogi state on the night of February 23. Speaking to the AFP, local police spokesman Sola Collins Adebayo said she was kidnapped on the campus of the school where taught and worked, “The kidnappers were unknown gunmen … (who) came into the school premises shooting sporadically to scare away people before taking (the hostage) away into the bush.”
2. Her Family Say They’re Being Kept in the Dark About the Kidnapping
Speaking to Q13, Sortor’s stepson, Richard, said the family is being kept in the dark about the kidnapping. He told the station, “She was taken in front of her house by three guys with machine guns.” Her stepson said at a prayer service for Sortor, “[Aid workers] are over there doing good for other people and this happens.” He added, “She believes in God, she’s doing God’s work” and he called the developments, “surreal, just surreal. I can’t believe this.” In her last communique from Nigeria, Sortor spoke glowingly about her recent experiences, she wrote:
Greetings, friends, loved ones, partners in ministry!
Just a little note to share the joy with you regarding the (long-awaited) opening of our brand-new ICCM school in Enugu! We have worked long and hard on this school, and are so thrilled that yesterday, January 19th, 2015, we were able to open our doors for the first time!
We began with 82 children, 58 of whom are Muslim, Fulani kids from one near-by camp! (There is a second
camp preparing to send their children as well!) We have two excellent, Hausa-speaking teachers for these
Fulani kids! The Fulani parents are wonderfully cooperative – sending food and water with their kids,
organizing a Parent-Teacher Association – giving us Fulani security guards for the school!
We have 6 teachers altogether; a tutor/chaplain, bursar, driver and ‘mother’s helper’. All are wonderful Christian people who I know, with God’s help, will make this school great!
God bless all of you!
Sortor had been sending dispatches on average once a month from Nigeria on the Free Methodist World Missions. In one of those messages, Sortor mentions having been in Nigeria since 2005 with her husband, Jim. A Free Methodist blog on Sortor’s kidnapping mentions that Jim died “a few years ago.” That blog post also says that in the late-90s the couple had been working in Rwanda.
3. A Charity Leader Called Sortor ‘One of the Most Dedicated, Tireless Women of God’
She had been working in Nigeria with various charities for 10 years, reports KIRO TV. According to Free Methodist World Missions, Sortor works for the International Child Care Ministries. Her page also says that she works as a financial administrator for a school in Nigeria called the Hope Academy. The Director of Clear Blue, a clean water charity in Africa, Brenda Young, said in a statement,
Phyllis Sortor, our precious friend and partner, who has been abducted by unknown captors in Nigeria. She is one of the most dedicated, tireless women of God we know.
She returned to her beloved Nigeria after her husband died serving there. She is always “pestering” (in her words) for Clear Blue money for the Fulani People and the children’s needs. We move heaven and earth to make it happen. Because her integrity is so great, and anyone with a God-sized dream and God-sized sacrifice and perseverance merits all we can do. What we can do now is PRAY.
4. She Grew Up in Africa
Sortor is a graduate of Seattle Pacific University, according to her Facebook page. Her page also says that she is from Maputo in Mozambique and went to high school in Zimbabwe.
You can watch her talking about her charity work above.
5. Kidnapping of Foreign Nationals Is Rife in Nigeria
Kidnapping is rife in Nigeria with pirates and terrorist group Boko Haram regularly using the tactic to make millions of dollars. A news of Sortor’s kidnapping spread, a bomb killed at least 12 people in Nigeria’s biggest city, Kano, on February 24.