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MISSIONARY HOSTAGE: “Prayer Works; I’m Proof”
24 MIN

“Hope is the first thing to go” Jeffery Woodke says, speaking about his six-and-a-half years as a hostage held by radical Islamist terror groups. He says he started out, after being kidnapped, praying eight hours a day. But over the years his hopelessness increased and his prayer time faded to twenty minutes daily. Suicidal, he beseeched his persecutors numerous times to take his life, knowing heaven would be much better than his existence as a hostage chained to a tree.

Despite his doubts, God was always with Jeff. He found he couldn’t abandon prayer altogether.

Listen as Jeff shares more about his time as a hostage; his hunger and water strikes to get better treatment and the ongoing trauma he deals with after his experience as a captive. He’ll tell the stories he heard about the Covid pandemic—and how he assumed his family must have all died and mourned their loss.

Jeff will also tell about his release, from getting a “fruit basket” from the leader of his terrorist captors to being taken to the largest gathering of jihadists and Mujahadin he’d ever seen. It was there, under a tree, he met the French journalist Olivier Dubois. The two men were released together in March, 2023.

Jeff spent several days in medical care after his release as doctors tried to stabilize his health before he could get on a plane to return to the US. One of the first things he asked for was a Bible. “It’s good to have the Word of God,” he says. He quickly turned to the gospel of John and began to read.

Jeff’s testimony of forgiveness is powerful. After being chained physically, Jeff asks why anyone would chain themselves up willingly with unforgiveness? Forgiveness, he says, can cut those chains.

Jeffery Woodke is still learning to process his years of hostage trauma. Pray for healing as he and Els explore what this season in their life will be. Jeff was amazed and humbled how Christians around the world prayed fervently for his release. “Prayer works,” he says. He’ll help us continue to pray for persecuted Christians still held hostage in West Africa and other parts of the world.

Join VOM Radio host, Todd Nettleton, for the I-Am-N Virtual Event on March 8. Registration is free. You may also want to talk to your pastor or church leaders about hosting this inspiring event at your church. More details at

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