Dispatches > The Buzz

Not a 'senseless waste'

Baptist missionaries plan to carry on in the face of Islamic terror threats

Issue: "Lord of the box office," Jan. 11, 2003

The man who showed up at the hospital gate about 8:15 a.m. on Dec. 30 told security guards he was visiting a sick relative, and they let him pass. The 77-bed Jibla Hospital run by Southern Baptist Convention missionaries had stood here in the wilds of Yemen on the Gulf of Aden for 35 years, treating some 40,000 mostly impoverished patients annually, and saving the lives of many. On this very day, the hospital was to be turned over to a Yemeni charity, but the missionaries would continue to staff it.

The man walked quickly to a meeting room, pulled a semi-automatic rifle from under his clothes, and burst open the door. In a meeting inside were three veteran SBC "representatives" or missionaries: administrator William E. Koehn, 60, a former supermarket manager in Hays, Kan.; obstetrician Martha C. Myers, 57, from Alabama; and purchasing agent Kathleen A. Gariety, 53, a former college bookstore manager in Wisconsin.

The assailant fatally shot each in the head, then cornered pharmacist Donald Caswell, 49, and shot him twice in the abdomen. The attacker surrendered to the security guards. Mr. Caswell underwent surgery and was expected to recover.

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Authorities identified the assailant as a student in his 30s at the Al-Iman University, a hotbed of Islamist militancy. He reportedly confessed to belonging to a jihad group and having received training in Afghanistan. One official told Reuters that the man "said he shot the Americans because they were preaching Christianity in a Muslim country."

SBC mission officials in the immediate aftermath said no decision had been made to relocate other Americans connected to the hospital. Indeed, some American staffers at the hospital vowed to continue their work. Said Kaye Rock: "We're asking people to pray that these deaths will not be a senseless waste, but that God will complete all He has intended here, and that He will be glorified."

Crowds of local citizens lined the road leading to the hospital and mourned the deaths. A woman who identified herself only as Fatima told a reporter the attack was "a crime unacceptable in any religion." She added: "They cared for us and looked after us. I can't even count the number of children they treated and saved."

Edward E. Plowman
Edward E. Plowman

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