An American missionary who became a well-known pastor in a major Ukrainian city has been kidnapped by Russian soldiers from his home.
Dmitry Bodyu, the pastor of Word of Life Church in Melitopol, was taken by eight to 10 Russian soldiers Saturday, his wife Helen told NBC News. He is 50.
“They came in, took our phones, [electronics and] took him somewhere – I don’t know where,” his wife said.
His daughter, Esther Bodyu-Ogawa, told NBC News the Russians asked if he was American. They also took his passport.
“We’re praying for him. And we’re praying that he’s strong,” Bodyu-Ogawa said. “They just took him against his will.”
The pastor had told Ukrainians they could shelter from the war at his church.
“They walked in, and they just started kind of questioning him right away, like, ‘Are you guys American citizens?’ – that’s kind of, like, one of the first questions they had,” Bodyu-Ogawa said.
The pastor’s sermons, delivered in Ukrainian, can be viewed on the church’s Facebook page. His father lives in Texas.
The pastor said in a 2017 interview with Ignite Europe that “we do everything that God is telling us to do.”
“That’s the most important thing,” he said.
He was kidnapped from the same city, Melitopol, where Russian soldiers previously kidnapped the mayor, Ivan Fedorov.
The mayor was later freed as part of a swap with Russia.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky referenced the mayor in a speech last week.
“I talked to him today,” Zelensky said. “The Russian military abducted him on March 11, trying to persuade him to collaborate. But our man withstood. He did not give up. Just as we all endure.
You all. Just as we all do not give up. Because we are Ukrainians. And we always protect our own.”
A spokesman for a humanitarian organization told NBC News they are searching for the pastor.
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Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.