A 50-year-old American pastor, who relocated to Melitopol City, Ukraine, was abducted by Russian forces on Saturday, the second incident reported since the invasion began.
World of Life Church Bishop Dmitry Bodyu was held hostage by ten Russian soldiers based on the account of his family, The Christian Post reported. The soldiers also took away his American passport and the phones and gadgets of the entire family.
Helen Bodyu, the pastor's wife, recounted that the soldiers seemed to be aware of Bodyu being an American pastor as they aggressively took him away. While Esther Lily Bodyu Ogawa, the pastor's daughter, shared her worry to NBC News for the safety of her father. She also affirmed her mother's hunch that the soldiers knew of her father's identity. She said the Russian troops even returned the next day asking for the pastor's sleeping bag and Bible
"They walked in and they just started kind of questioning him right away, like, 'Are you guys American citizens?'--that's one of the first questions they had," Bodyu Ogawa said.
"I am worried. I mean, deep inside, I believe and I want to believe that he's safe and he's going to come home. But of course, from not knowing exactly what's going on and how he is and not getting any information, that's what is, of course, building up that worry inside," she added.
Bodyu Ogawa said she was shocked her father was targeted by the troops when he was only helping out people in need because of the invasion. The pastor's daughter revealed her father was particularly helping 50 people who he has sheltered in his church and also feed.
Accordingly, Pastor Bodyu urged Melitopol residents to seek shelter in his church when the Russian invasion began. He even posted on Facebook about it. He also asked for prayers for everyone's safety.
"If you need help of any kind or you have nowhere to stay or afraid to be at home...the church is open. I am in the church building...very thick walls...solid building. That's why you can be there. We will try our best to supply as much as possible...May God's peace be upon your hearts and keep you safe. Let's all pray and call on the Lord that the Lord will keep us from every harm in the name of Jesus Christ," Bodyu said in his last post on Facebook.
Bodyu Ogawa said another reason her father was targeted was due to him being an American. Another reason they could think of is because of is her father's big influence in the city. She disclosed that her father had many followers who listen to him being a preacher. She said maybe the Russians don't want him to speak against them.
As per the Religious Information Service of Ukraine, the Russian troops have also abducted three other individuals in Melitopol. These are Dmitry Stoikov, a police officer; Olga Gaisumova, an activist; Sergiy Prima, the Melitopol District Council Chairman.
The Russian troops have previously abducted the city's mayor, Ivan Fedorov, on March 11. The mayor was freed six days later when nine Russian soldiers were given in exchange.
Bodyo, an immigrant to the United States from the Soviet Union with his parents at the age of 17, returned to Ukraine when he already had his own family. They were forced to leave Crimea in 2014 due to the Russian annexation.
In similar news, the daughter of Pentecostal Church of Good Changes Senior Pastor Gennadiy Moknenko was killed by Russian troops when tanks fired at the apartment she was living in last March 13.