Family Says Ukrainian-American Pastor Taken by Russian Forces Has Been Freed: 'Prayer Does Make a Difference'
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A Ukrainian-American pastor who was reportedly taken captive from his home by Russian forces on March 19 has been freed, according to his family.
In a Facebook post on Monday, Dmitry Bodyu's wife Helen shared the news of his release.
"Thank you all so much for your prayers!!! Dmitry is home. He's doing well," she wrote. "Thank you for your participation, for your concern, help and love!"
"God is good!!!" Helen continued. "Praise the Lord!"
Dmitry's family has still not been able to speak directly with him since they found out about his release. All internet and cell services have been disrupted in the Russian-held city of Melitopol.
Helen told NBC News that Dmitry, 50, was taken from their home by a group of Russian soldiers as her family watched.
She noted the soldiers were not aggressive.
"They just came in in the morning," she told the news outlet via phone. "They took our phones, gadgets, computers, documents — and took him somewhere. I don't know where."
Olesya Griffith, Bodyu's sister who lives in North Texas, told KXAS-TV she was "happy and relieved" to hear he was freed.
Pastor Otis Gillaspie of Open Door Church in Burleson, Texas is a friend of the Bodyu's. He told the television station that he had faith Dmitry would be released due to his outgoing personality and the power of prayer.
"I really feel like prayer makes a difference and it's made a difference in this case," Gillaspie said. "You can't meet him and not like him. I felt like he captured those who captured him."
Gillaspie told KXAS Dmitry's brush with danger won't change a thing. He said he believes his friend will continue to minister and provide support for the people in his community.
"He won't leave his people, his flock," Gillaspie said. "He feels a mandate from God to do what God has told him to do, no matter what is happening around him."
As CBN News reported, the news of Dmitry's kidnapping took days to become public because the city was captured and troops confiscated the family's cellphones and other devices.
"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," his daughter, Esther Bodyu-Ogawa, said.
Dmitry was born in the Soviet Union and emigrated to the United States at 17. He later moved to Crimea before working in Ukraine.
He serves as the pastor of Word of Life Church in Melitopol. His last Facebook message urged Ukrainian citizens to visit the church if they needed shelter during the invasion.
"If you need help of any kind or you have nowhere to stay or afraid to be at home...the church is open," he had said. "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," he added. "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-Ogawa told NBC News soldiers vaulted a wall around their home before entering the premises. The 30-year-old said they looked through her father's social media postings before taking him.
"All he's doing is just helping such a huge amount of people that were hiding in the church, which was, like, over 50 people," she said Thursday. "And he was feeding all of them, too, throughout this whole situation."
Russian forces invaded the city of 150,000 after they advanced from bases in Crimea in late February.
A spokesman for Ukraine's deputy prime minister, Irene Vereshchuk, told NBC News Russian forces had kidnapped or abducted at least 14 local leaders since the invasion.
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