Missionary heroes deserve honor
January 3 2003 by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor

Missionary heroes deserve honor | Friday, Jan. 3, 2003

Friday, Jan. 3, 2003

Missionary heroes deserve honor

By Tony W. Cartledge BR Editor

Missionaries are my heroes.

It's been that way for some time - since I first learned about missionaries in RA's, since I first read about people like Lottie Moon and Bill Wallace, people who loved God and loved God's people more than they loved their own lives.

Enough to give up their own lives.

Missionary service is never easy. Often, it involves long separations from family and loved ones, long distances to travel, long years in language study and long days of learning a new culture.

From the beginning, it has also involved a distinct element of danger - not just the dangers of travel, which in some countries are considerable - but the danger of being seen as snooty rich Americans who think the local religion isn't good enough.

Missionaries have often been targeted for robberies because they generally have access to cars. More recently and more commonly, they have been attacked because they are seen as both American and Christian, which many in the world - to our great misfortune - see as synonymous. Both titles carry considerable baggage to those who feel that their culture, country or faith tradition is threatened by the missionaries' presence.

Missionaries know they stand a chance of being martyrs, especially in politically sensitive or unstable parts of the world, and yet they remain, held fast by love.

Such was the case with Martha Myers, William Koehn and Kathy Gariety, career missionaries to Yemen who lost their lives December 30 when a Muslim extremist gunned them down during a staff meeting at Jibla Baptist Hospital in Yemen. The gunman also wounded short term missionary Donald Caswell, who was working in the pharmacy.

The misguided murderer reportedly said he believed their murders would bring him closer to Allah, though many other Muslims were quick to insist that his actions were not in keeping with the teachings of Islam.

Myers was a missionary doctor described by friends as outspoken and headstrong, but madly in love with the people of Yemen, where she had served for 25 years.

A friend of mine remembers working with Myers, who was prone to putting on a head covering and going out after hours to visit people on all levels of society in Jibla. She was famous for driving to outlying villages to immunize children and was kidnapped once. She was known for overwhelming generosity, and reportedly gave her savings account to finance a local person's kidney transplant.

Myers' compassion for the people was unquestioned, and she had "just the perfect blend of eccentricity to be effective as a single woman doctor in the Muslim world," my friend observed.

Koehn was a quiet and committed administrator who worked long hours to keep the hospital open and sought a variety of ways for the hospital to minister in Christ's name. He was especially known for ministry to orphans, prisoners, and the poorest of the poor. A 28-year veteran of mission work, Koehn was scheduled to retire next October. Like Myers, he was so devoted to the people of Jibla that he had asked to be buried on the hospital grounds.

Local hospital employees built the coffins and lowered them into the ground. One of them said of Koehn, "This is my father, I have to do this," according to Baptist Press.

Purchasing agent Gariety was described by friends as a missionary from the soles of her feet to the crown of her head. She not only kept the hospital stocked with needed supplies, but performed other needed functions. When on stateside leave, she was tireless in gathering donations of medical supplies for the work in Yemen.

Recently, Gariety was outspoken in her criticism of the International Mission Board's plans to transfer the hospital to a local charity and to refocus the missionaries' work.

Her love for the people of Yemen was unquestioned.

Missionaries like these are my heroes - people who love God enough, and love God's people enough - to share that love even at the risk of their own lives.

These are people who deserve our respect, who deserve our prayers, who deserve our financial support.

They also deserve our trust, honor and admiration.

May more of us learn to love God and others as they do.

After all, that's how Jesus said others would know those who follow Him - by their love.

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1/3/2003 12:00:00 AM by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor | with 0 comments
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