What had begun in terror for Deborah Dortzbach—a pregnant 24-year-old missionary nurse who was kidnapped May 27 in Ethiopia—ended in a joyous prayer meeting of thanks at New York’s Kennedy Airport led by Debbie’s father, a Bible-Fellowship minister.
The ordeal began when Debbie and Dutch nurse Anna Strikwerda were forced at gunpoint out of the American Evangelical Hospital in Ghinda by four rebels who hoped to have the nurses ransomed.
The terrified women were hit on the back with a stick to make them run, but when Anna bent down to put her Scholl sandals back on her blistered and bleeding feet one of the men panicked and shot her to death. “All I could think,” Debbie recalls, “is, ‘Why did they shoot Anna? Am I going to be next?’ I was stricken with fear, and at that point as I was running up into the mountains a Psalm came to mind, ‘I will lift mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help.’ And I can honestly say I wasn’t afraid.”
After a gruelling two-hour run, Debbie, who is from Freehold, N.J., was taken by helicopter to a small mountain village, where she quickly became friends with compassionate native women. A week later, the terrorists moved her to a lonely shepherd’s hut, where she often went off by herself to pray. Her prayers were answered 26 days after she was kidnapped when her captors agreed to release her, though no ransom had been paid. “They even gave me a coffee jug as a gift,” said Debbie, “and took me back by camel.” More comfortable was the airplane ride home from Addis Ababa.
Back in the U.S. now, Debbie is on a three-week vacation with her husband Karl in the Colorado Rockies, where they are taking time out to speak to churches about their life and hard times in Ethiopia.