Danger Rises for American Missionaries in Yemen

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In 2003, CBN News covered the dangers Yemen missionaries face. Read below:

American missionaries have increasingly become targets of Muslim harrassment in the months since 9-11.
    
The problem has many American seminaries rethinking the way they reach the lost overseas.
   
"I am reminded of the calling and how strong my calling was to come to Yemen. There's a reason for being here," slain missionary Kathleen Gariety said prior to her death."I might not know what one little thing it is that I am here to do. But I am here and I will continue to stay until God tells me to go home."

Gariety and two of her Christian co-workers did go home in a way because they never quite considered this world their home.

On December 30, 2002, a man cradling a gun in a baby blanket slipped past security at the Jibla Baptist hospital in Yemen.

"I heard some shooting. I saw the guy running outside. I was afraid. I heard them saying 'he killed the doctors! He killed the doctors,'' Abdel Salam, eyewitness said.

His killing spree took the lives of Gariety, Martha Myers and William Koehn.
    
The shooter never met his victims. Never felt their healing touch. Never saw the lives saved by their work.
    
To the gunman, the doctors' crime was simply being an American, and a Christian.
    
But these doctors are only a few of the victims of a killing rampage by Muslim extremists in the months since 9-11.
    
And in the past medical missionaries usually have been left alone to do their work. Their benefit to the community they served was too great to go without it.

"Medical missions has in modern mission history has been a way for Christian compassion and the spirit of Christ to be expressed in the midst of human need," Mike Edens, IMB representative said.

But the relative safety of medical missions is no longer guaranteed.

Nurse Bonnie Witherall, 31, was in early at the Christian pre-natal clinic in Lebanon one day in late November 2002.
    
There was a knock at her door and when she answered a man shot her three times in the head.
    
Sheikh Maher Hamoud is a leading Muslim cleric in Lebanon. In the weeks after Witherall's murder, he was quoted in local media as saying she had deserved death.
    
But in an exclusive CBN News interview, the Sheikh seemed to have toned down his rhetoric for the camera.

"Those missionaries, their work is dangerous and we can't define their true goals," he told CBN News. "To say her mission was humanitarian, if the community doesn't accept her. Well, it isn't up to her to call her mission humanitarian. The society is refusing her."

The Sheik's words echoed the sentiments of colonel Munir el Makdah. He is named as a terrorist on an Israeli government watch list.
  
He told CBN News that Witherall's American citizenship is to blame for her murder.

"Many Americans get killed in the world," he said. "I believe, Americans should review their accounts in foreign policy."

The recent attacks on Christians may bring the future of missions into question.

CBN News spoke with several Bible colleges to see what they are doing to train their students so the next generation can pick up where others have left off.

Different seminaries around the U.S. are starting to rethink their approach to missions.
    
Now that Americans are targets, many leaders believe in the future missions work will be done more by Christians who are natives to their country.
    
But one thing has not changed. And that is, students' resolve to go no matter the cost.
    
Not one seminary student said he or she would stay home because of the recent attacks.

"It really doesn't dissuade my decision to be a missionary," seminary student Blake said.

Christy, a 26-year-old Baylor University student, said a physical death is not as bad as a death of the soul.

"It seems to me that to not go overseas would result in a different kind of death for me because I feel like that's who I am made to be," she said. "I feel like that's who God has called me to be. And that's my passion and my love and so for me to deny that in hopes of having a safer life would result in a death of who I am."

"My greatest fear is not going. My greatest fear would be to let people to die with out knowing Christ," student Yanira said. "I do not want to stand before God one day and say 'Lord I didn't go.' 'Why not?' 'Because I was afraid.'"

Adriana is a young dentist training to work in a Muslim country one day. She grew thoughtful when asked what she would say to the families of the missionaries killed recently.

"I think of my mom. And if I'll die, I would like her to be so happy that the one you love is in heaven and he is safe there and he did what was his best," she said.

Doing one's best. That is something the missionaries in Yemen were known for.
    
But a new season has started for the hospital in Jibla.

Media reports say the hospital has been handed back to the Yemeni government.

CBN News asked Mike Edens, IMB representative if the reports were true.

"No. Not by any means," he replied. "First of all, it's not a failure anytime God's people are obedient. There are people today in Yemen, in Jebla, continuing to live out the Gospel of Jesus Christ and love Yemenis in the name of Christ and that is never a failure."

"I would say that no prayers are wasted in Yemen or any of the other countries because the needs are so great," slain missionary Martha Myers said. "And I would say the fields are white unto harvest."

*Originally aired March 7, 2003

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