Med Team in Afghanistan Remembered as Heroes

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Mourners recently gathered in Kabul for a small memorial ceremony in honor of 10 aid workers murdered in Afghanistan this week.

The team of six Americans, two Afghans, one Briton and one German had spent two weeks bringing medical care to some of the most remote regions of the country.

In exchange for their selfless service to help Afghans in need, the workers were gunned down in a country they had come to love.

"I can say without hesitation that Tom and Libby were the most honest, unvarnished, direct mission workers I've ever known," said Pastor Lawrence Roff of First Presbyterian Church in Schenectady, N.Y.

CBN News spoke with Hussain Andaryas, host of the Afghan Christian TV show "Voice of Christ," about the recent attack on misions workers.  Click play for his comments, following John Jessup's report.

Also, Heather Mercer knows first-hand the dangers of ministering in Afghanistan.  She and seven other Christian workers were held captive by the Taliban for 105 days.  Click here for her comments on the challenges of working in Afghanistan and what can be learned from the most recent attack on mission efforts in the country.

The group had just wrapped weeks of treating people with eye diseases and other medical problems in a remote part of northern Afghanistan.

Authorities said the team was ambushed on their way back to Kabul.  The Taliban had accused the group of trying convert Muslims to Christianity.

The International Assistance Mission (IAM), a non-profit Christian organization, was responsible for organizing the the trip.

"We want to pay tribute to each of our colleagues who died, to their commitment to serve the Afghan people," IAM said in a statement on their website. "Those who have known them and seen them at work can do nothing put pay the highest tribute to them."

"Over the next few days and weeks, there will no doubt be many news articles about the lives of these individuals," the statement read. "They will speak for themselves."

Among those killed was team leader Tom Little, an optometrist who had worked in Afghanistan with his family for more than 30 years.

"He gave his life, the best years of his life, to bring medical care to the afghan people," his wife, Libby Little, said. "And he'll be buried in a christian cemetery right there in Kabul."

Another victim, Dr. Karen Woo, was a surgeon who gave up her practice to help Afghans in the poorest parts of the country.

She once wrote that even though she was living in a war zone and was flat broke, she believed delivering medical care was worth the risk.

The team knew the trip was dangerous but felt it was something they had to do.

Meanwhile, the victims' church homes have rallied to help their grieving families.

"So we're just surrounding them with support and love, and just praying for them," said Dwayne Curry, associate minister of youth and discipleship of Woodlawn Christian Church in Knoxville, Tenn.

Others remembered what they admired most about their friends.

"We're going to miss her a lot, and we're going to miss the way that she put smiles on senior citizens' faces and all the members of the church's face," said Marion Rhodes, friend of Cheryl Beckett, one the six Americans killed in the ambush.

The Taliban have claimed responsibility for the murders. They accused the team of spying and trying to convert Muslims to Christianity. But police said they believe the team was probably robbed by local criminals.

Still, some of the victims' families deny claims that they were proselytizing.

The U.S. State Department called the team "heroes" -- others are calling some of them martyrs.

"The Taliban has called this group of medical aid workers spies and proselytizers," U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Karl Eikenberry said, addressing Afghans in a video message. "They were no such thing. These were selfless volunteers who devoted themselves to providing free and much-needed health care to Afghans in the most remote and difficult parts of your country."

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has condemned the murders -- calling the killings a "despicable act of wanton violence" that demonstrates the brutality of the Taliban.

Despite the tragedy, friends said they believe the work will continue.

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John Jessup serves as the main news anchor for CBN, a position he assumed after 10 years reporting for the network in Washington, D.C. His work in broadcast news has earned him several awards in reporting, producing, and coordinating elections coverage. Follow John on Twitter @JohnCBNNews and "like" him at Facebook.com/John.V.Jessup.