Sole ambush survivor encourages obedience
    December 15 2010 by Dianna L. Cagle, BR Assistant Managing Editor

    More than six years after an ambush in Iraq, sole survivor Carrie McDonnall can tick through a complex list of her injuries received that day, including 22 bullet wounds, shrapnel galore, and losing three fingers on her left hand.

    Doctor after doctor told her, “I don’t know how you survived.”

    “It was the hand of God only,” McDonnall said Dec. 2 to students in Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary’s chapel service. She continues to stand firm on the promises of a Savior who saw her through “some really dark days. He was with me, and He was comforting me.”

    The March 15, 2004, attack in Mosul, Iraq, took the lives of missionaries Larry and Jean Elliot of Cary, as well as Karen Watson of Bakersfield, Calif. David McDonnall, Carrie’s husband survived the attack, but died after four military surgeons worked six hours to save his life. The four died from bullet and shell fragment wounds reportedly from automatic weapons and rocket-propelled grenades.

    Carrie was 26 at the time. From Texas the McDonnalls had met while serving as journeymen with the Southern Baptist International Mission Board. They served in different countries but in the same region. She was in Israel. He was in Sudan.

    They started seminary at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, in 2001, married in 2002, and they were “itching to get back into ministry.”

    When the IMB contacted them about going to Iraq, the couple put a day aside to fast and pray and come together to see what God had told them. Not finishing seminary … “that wasn’t a big heart breaker for us,” she said.

    God works on His own time, McDonnall said, and the couple weighed the choices: obedience or disobedience.

    “We wanted to be faithful followers,” she said.

    When they arrived in Iraq the McDonnalls were looking forward to learning from the Elliots who had served as missionaries in Honduras for more than 25 years. They could have retired, McDonnall, said, but they too felt called to help the Iraqi people get fresh water as well as to share the living water only found in Christ. Watson had worked with the Kern County Sheriff’s Department in California before she joined the International Mission Board as a humanitarian aid coordinator for Iraq in 2003.

    “I heard (Watson) breathing, then I felt her die,” McDonnall said in a Florida Baptist Witness article after the attack. The McDonnalls had been in Iraq since November 2003 helping internally displaced people with food and water needs.  

    Typical day
    That March day started like a lot of others: the team loaded up in a vehicle and headed out to assess a refugee camp’s needs. The team visited an old factory where some refugees were living. The elders came out to greet them. The ladies went inside to visit with the other women, and the men stayed outside.

    BR photo by Dianna L. Cagle

    Carrie McDonnall shares about her survival of a 2004 ambush in Iraq.

    The site had two water tanks but one was completely empty and the other had only a few inches of water.

    None of them knew the next time a water truck would come and fill the tanks.

    The men and women had long conversations about America, water, families and more.

    “They had next to nothing yet they offered the best that they had,” McDonnall said.

    When the group left, McDonnall said they were “all on cloud nine.”

    Larry Elliot had mentally figured out how to get water to them.

    “We were excited because a relationship had started out that day,” she said.

    Mosul, Iraq, was a common place to go through because there were not many roads. So Mosul offered the best option for getting to and from the factory where they visited. They were nearly on the other side when “men came up around us and started shooting.”

    With no such thing as 9-1-1, Iraqi men came out and helped after the gunfire had subsided.

    McDonnall could only move her head and could not get out of the car. In the Iraqi culture men do not touch women but they set aside that cultural barrier to lift her to safety. They put her on the ground and in the process the hem of her garment rose above her ankle, a horrible faux pas. One man reached down and pulled her garment back down to protect her modesty.

    “To be quite honest with you I did not notice,” she said.

    Those men disregarded their cultural boundaries to help she and her husband escape the vehicle and get them to a military hospital.

    “I share these glimpses to see the heart of the Iraqi people,” she said, “and also to see the sovereignty of God that day.”

    Those men faced repercussions within their community by helping them.  

    Medical emergency
    McDonnall remembers David talking to the doctors and soldiers at the hospital, before being taken into surgery. She lost a lot of blood and they considered amputation of some of her limbs. Doctors operated on McDonnall for 10 hours in Iraq, enough to stabilize her. Then, they flew her to Germany and on to Texas.

    Doctors put her in a medically induced coma. She received wounds in the chest, face, and all four limbs. Small arms fire shattered bones in her right arm and leg. It wasn’t until several days after she woke up in the hospital in Texas that she learned David had died.

    “I couldn’t move a thing,” she said about when she first awakened.

    It was in the hospital in Texas where McDonnall learned about the depths the psalmist talks about in Psalm 23.

    But even with the blinds down and McDonnall spiritually and physically wanting to be in a fetal position, “even those days He was faithful. My heart was shattered and I had plenty of wounds. We hold fast to Him,” she said referring to Heb. 10:23.

    She was in the hospital about a month. “Of all the things I had lost God assured me I had not lost Him nor had she faced more than Christ had on the cross,” she said.

    In a Baptist Press article just five months after the attack, McDonnall said she didn’t regret the decision to go:

    “You go into a place that is so dark and a place that just does not have hope, and you go and you offer hope and you offer it because you have the love of Christ in you,” she said. “People see that. They ask, ‘Why do you do this?’ We tell them, ‘I love the Iraqi people and I love them because Christ loves me.’ The people just don’t have a hope, and some of that stems from being under Saddam and some of it is just from the fact that they don’t know Christ — a lot of it is from that.”  

    Carry On Ministries
    Today McDonnall is back at Southwestern working on finishing her degree. As founder of Carry On Ministries, she speaks to various groups about her experience and tries to encourage Christians to be obedient and faithful to the call God has for them. She wrote a book — Facing Terror — in 2005 that chronicled her and David’s experience together.

    Then and now people still ask, “Why would you go to a place like that?”

    She responds, “Are you reading the same Bible I am?”

    She stresses that “Christ love compels us.”

    “It compelled David and I to Iraq,” she said. “We could not hold it to ourselves.”

    She said she continues to share her testimony because “there are so many people hurting.”
    12/15/2010 2:50:00 AM by Dianna L. Cagle, BR Assistant Managing Editor | with 2 comments

Carly Conley
Dianna, Great Article. Thanks for sharing encouragement about submitting to God's plan and the truth of His word. Praise the Lord for his faithful workers!
12/20/2010 12:05:36 PM

Gene Scarborough
And who says, "[b]Women cannot be called as Pastors because God only calls men to be ordained???"[/b]

I don't know what her ultimate plans are, but she is definitely called, in my opinion.
12/19/2010 2:59:10 PM

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