Friends gather in Yemen to remember lives of slain hospital workers

SANAA, Yemen (BP)--About 275 Yemenis, Americans and other internationals gathered Jan. 1 to remember the lives of three International Mission Board workers murdered Dec. 30 at the Baptist hospital in Jibla, Yemen.

In the auditorium of the International School in Yemen's capital, Sanaa, friends and co-workers of Martha Myers, Bill Koehn and Kathy Gariety shared memories of their lives, sang favorite Christian songs and quoted Scriptures close to their hearts.

"It was good for people who loved them to be able to remember Martha, Bill and Kathy, to honor the Christ they loved and served and to worship him for the way he worked in and through their lives," said John Brady, who leads IMB work in northern Africa and the Middle East.

"We were able to express our sorrow about their deaths and share the hope that gives us all meaning and the strength we need to move forward," he said.

People rose in turn to recall the way their lives had been touched by Myers, Koehn and Gariety, Brady said.

"People talked about the ways Bill encouraged them to be a leader, to think and listen and to care for the Yemeni people," he said. "They spoke about Martha's great passion for the Lord and the selfless way she gave herself to Yemenis, no matter what the cost. They praised Kathy's deep desire to serve people and the way she touched so many lives behind the scenes."

The grief and fond remembrances are shared by more than just American colleagues of the three, Brady noted.

"There was a deep recognition that literally thousands of Yemenis also are mourning this loss," he said. "They each were described as people who did more than just talk about their love for the Yemenis.

"People re-emphasized that their motive was love, that they did not come to tear down but to bring hope, the love of Christ and a cup of cold water to the people of Yemen."

The three were killed Dec. 30 when a lone gunman burst into a room where they were holding an early morning meeting. He opened fire on them with a semiautomatic pistol, then moved to another room where he seriously wounded a fourth worker, pharmacist Don Caswell.

Caswell attended the memorial service, walking unassisted into the auditorium.

The memorial service followed a morning in which Southern Baptist workers gathered to talk about coping with the tragedy and looking toward the future. Immediately before the service, Judy Williams, a physician at the Jibla hospital, read a statement for members of the international press assembled at the city's Sheraton hotel.

"These individuals deeply loved and cared for the people of Yemen," Williams said. "They freely chose to give their lives to serve the people of this country. And although their lives on earth have ended, nothing was taken from them that they hadn't already freely given.

"My friends [at the hospital] want you to know that they don't hold anything against the assailant. They want him to know that they forgive him and they want him to know God's forgiveness.

"The real tragedy here is that the very people Martha, Bill and Kathy loved are the ones who will be blamed for this. And they shouldn't be. Our hearts are still in Yemen and we will continue to seek ways to serve here in the months to come."


(BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo title: WORKERS HONORED IN YEMEN.

-- Video clip pays tribute to slain hospital workers: www.imb.org/learn/news/story.asp?id=865

-- More on developments in Yemen: www.imb.org/urgent.

-- Martha Myers' memorial service: 3 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 4, Dalraida Baptist Church, Montgomery, Ala. Services for William Koehn were held Jan. 2 in Burleson, Texas, along with an initial memorial service for Myers in Mobile, Ala. Services are still pending for Kathleen Gariety in Wisconsin.