There is still no news on the American Missionary who was abducted from his home in Niger on October 14. Jeff Woodke has lived in Niger with the community he loves and serves for over 20 years. We pray for the safe return of Jeff Woodke and also for other missionaries who live in Mali. A American Missionary couple said “This is 450 miles from us and we’re fine. But we would ask for fervent prayers that Jeff would be found and safely released and that no weapon formed against him will prosper.”
10/21/2016 Niger (World Watch Monitor) – The kidnap of a pioneering American missionary in Niger is a “terrible tragedy” for the communities he served for 24 years, according to the local mayor. It has also raised security concerns among the country’s missionary community.
Jeff Woodke, 55, who worked for Jeunesse en Mission Entraide et Developpement (JEMED), a branch of the US-based Youth With a Mission (YWAM), was abducted by unknown assailants late on Friday evening (14 Oct.) from the town of Abalak in northern Niger.
Bilou Mohamed, the mayor of Abalak, told World Watch Monitor the community had “suffered a terrible tragedy” and locals “wept with sorrow, lamenting the loss of a friend” the day after his abduction. He added: “This man has lived among us for years, even in when it has been difficult to accompany vulnerable populations… Everyone knows his goodness.”
According to Niger’s interior minister, Mohamed Bazoum, a group of armed men – believed to be from a radical Islamic group called Mujao – burst into Woodke’s home at around 9pm. After killing two security guards, including a member of the National Guard who was stationed there, the kidnappers took him by force and drove towards eastern Mali, where Mujao has a stronghold.
After Woodke’s abduction, the US embassy in Niamey issued a statement advising U.S. citizens “to take appropriate security precautions and to avoid predictable travel patterns within Niger”.
Jacques Kagninde, who heads the Esprit Bible College in the Niger capital Niamey and has known Woodke for many years, said he was shocked by the kidnapping. “This is the first time a Christian missionary has been targeted,” he said.
Rev. Kagninde said Woodke was “no stranger” to the Tuareg community. “He has lived in the region since 1992 and is perfectly integrated there. He feels at home in Abalak and mixes happily with the local population. He always wears a [Tuareg] turban,” he said.
He added that Woodke speaks the region’s two main languages: Tamasheq, spoken by the Tuareg, and Fula, the language of the Fulani people.
Woodke is known in Abalak for his devotion to Niger and its nomadic populations. He runs several development projects among the Tuareg, focusing on farming, health, literacy, primary school education and improving access to drinking water, amongst other things.