Dmitry Bodyu, a pastor and missionary in Ukraine, has been released by Russian troops who kidnapped him from his Melitopol home March 19. In a Facebook post on Monday, March 28, his wife, Helen, writes: “Thank you all so much for your prayers!!! Dmitry is home. He’s doing well. Thank you for your participation, for your concern, help and love! God is good!!! Praise the Lord!”
Helen Bodyu had previously described how Russian troops entered their home and confiscated their phones, computers, and documents. The couple’s daughter, Esther Bodyu-Ogawa, said soldiers weren’t aggressive but “took him against his will.” Troops seemed to know that her father was a pastor, she adds, and they inquired whether the family had U.S. citizenship.
Dmitry Bodyu Sheltered Ukrainians at His Church
Pastor Dmitry Bodyu, 50, was born in the Soviet Union, and his family moved to America in 1990, when he was a teenager. After settling in Texas, he became a U.S. citizen. Later, he and Helen moved to Crimea and then Ukraine, where they planted several churches. “We do everything that God is telling us to do,” the pastor said in 2017. “That’s the most important thing.”
In his last social media post before being kidnapped, Bodyu told Ukrainians they could take shelter at his church, Word of Life. He indicated he was at the building, which has “very thick walls,” adding, “We will try our best to supply as much as possible.” His daughter says about 50 people accepted the offer, “and he was feeding all of them too,” she adds.
Bodyu’s family said they had no contact with Dmitry during his ordeal, and news of his kidnapping spread slowly due to communication disruptions. The U.S. State Department indicated it was aware of abduction reports but didn’t comment, citing privacy concerns. Melitopol is the same Ukrainian city whose mayor was kidnapped by Russian forces and later released in a swap for nine Russian soldiers.
Ukrainian Pastor Captured ‘Those Who Captured Him’
Pastor Bodyu is well known in Ukraine, and his daughter says his status likely made him a target. “It could be because we’re American citizens,” says Bodyu-Ogawa. “It could be because he’s…a big influencer. A lot of people follow him and really want to know what he’s preaching about and what he’s telling people, making sure he’s not talking about Russia and trying to tell people, ‘Yes, this is a bad thing.’”
Longtime family friend Otis Gillaspie, a pastor in Texas, tells the local NBC affiliate people had warned Bodyu to leave Ukraine when war broke out. But “he won’t leave his people, his flock,” says Gillaspie. “He feels a mandate from God to do what God has told him to do, no matter what is happening around him.”