By JOE EDWARDS
NASHVILLE - A missionary doctor kidnapped this month in Nigeria and held hostage for two days says he sympathizes with his young abductors.
Dr. Robert Whittaker, 62, a surgeon, is recovering at Vanderbilt University Medical Center from an arm wound suffered when he was shot Aug. 2 at his southeastern Nigerian home near Aba. He was taken by three or four young men to a bamboo thicket before a ransom was paid and he was released.
He said that to his knowledge, no one was arrested.
"I pray for them," Whittaker said Wednesday in a brief telephone interview from his hospital room. "They said there were no jobs, and they needed money by any means."
Whittaker, whose missionary work was sponsored by West End Church of Christ in Nashville for some 35 years, said he was not mistreated while held an estimated eight miles from his home. He was not blindfolded.
"Amazingly, it went quite well. They were talkative. One of them said he went to church."
Whittaker said his supporters negotiated his release, but he would not disclose the amount of the ransom.
"They just wanted money," he said.
He said he was dropped off on a road, and his abductors told his supporters where to find him.
"These boys had just lost touch," Whittaker said.
He said he'll ponder his future as he continues to recover from the wound in his upper left arm. He expects to be released from the hospital any day and hopes to regain full use of his arm.
"I'm a lifelong missionary," Whittaker said. "I have good friends and counselors here. We'll have to sit down and talk.
"My prayer is God would show me when it was time to leave. In a way, this may be a message.
"But I am committed to serve. There will be a lot of chatting in the next few weeks. You don't want to turn your back on the community you work with."
He worked at the Nigerian Christian Hospital, operated by Searcy, Ark.-based International Health Care Foundation.
Whittaker said his abductors were almost apologetic that he was shot.
"They said it was unintentional."