MONTGOMERY, Ala. (BP)–Ask the family of slain Southern Baptist missionary Martha Myers to describe her life, and they will say she was one of the most selfless and loving people you could ever meet. They also will say that her ministry began long before she ever encountered the people of Yemen.
Even as a child, Myers was always more concerned with others than with herself, her father, Ira Myers, of Montgomery, Ala., said. While she was very young, it became apparent to him that she had been blessed with a gift to serve.
“She started out life being mindful of loving people,” said Myers, who served as Alabama’s state public health officer from 1963-86. “She took care of her brother who was 13 months younger than she was even when she was in nursery school.”
Myers also enjoyed acting as a mother to her younger sister, Joanna Kingery, who is often shown in the arms of her older sister in childhood family pictures.
“She raised me,” Kingery said. “She would even write bedtime stories for me. She was a neat big sister. I kind of grew up in her shadow, but it was a wonderful place to be.”
Early in her youth, Myers became interested in the medical field, sometimes imitating medical procedures on her toddler brother, Grady. When she was about 3 years old, he recounted, she attempted to give him a blood test by pricking his finger with a pin.
At age 8, Myers accepted Christ into her heart, and while in the fifth grade she told her church that she wanted to be a missionary, a desire evidenced as she regularly tried to meet the needs of people she encountered.
Myers was a great writer, a good communicator and had the gift of discernment, her sister said, and she played the organ for a small church in the Birmingham area while in college and medical school.
During her senior year in medical school, she took her first missions trip to Yemen and returned telling her family that God had called her to work with the Yemeni people. So, after graduating and completing training in obstetrics/gynecology and surgery, she began preparing to return to the country by receiving seminary training and taking Arabic language studies in London and Yemen.
Over the next 25 years, Myers worked tirelessly for the Yemeni people, delivering babies, performing surgeries, ministering to people and directing an immunization program through the Jibla Baptist Hospital. Often she would go to great lengths to help needy people who would not otherwise receive medical attention.
Despite the intensity of medical ministry, Myers would try to visit her family on special occasions, traveling to America every two to three years. On one visit, she was able to deliver her sister’s youngest child.
While at home, she would continue to work hard to help the Yemeni people, her father said.
“I used to refer to her as the Energizer bunny,” he said. “All the time she was home, she was taking speaking engagements for any group that wanted to know more about what was going on in the Middle East. I don’t think she slept in her bed the last time she was home for more than one or two nights.” Additionally, she would spend a great deal of time communicating by the Internet and telephone to people all over the world about the work in Yemen.
When her family visited her in Yemen, she had very little time to take them sightseeing because she was so well recognized by people in the area.
Even when she was on vacation, Myers kept her medical bag with her, Kingery said. People would flock to her asking for help and she always gave it without hesitation.
“She never met a stranger,” Kingery added. “She felt that we need to grab every opportunity to get to know people, find out where they are and share with them.”
Often her guests would have to accompany her to the hospital and on medical visits.
“We couldn’t keep up with her,” Kingery said. “It’s like she always runs on more than a full tank. She had a passion for what she did and for the people of Yemen. She once told me, ‘I can’t believe I get paid to do this.'”
Although her family was proud of her life’s work, at times they would fear for her safety, but she would never consider leaving. Myers would tell them that her call was from God and to Yemen and she would stay no matter what happened.
“Martha said that she was never going to retire,” Kingery said. “She said that if she was lucky she would be there until her dying day.”
Even when she was kidnapped at gunpoint about five years ago, the thought of leaving never crossed her mind.
“She was well aware of what could happen over there,” her brother said. “They had a place in the hospital where you check your weapon when you go in. I guarantee that if she had been shot and wasn’t killed, she would not come home. She was just that dedicated.”
But, on Dec. 30, she was shot and killed by a lone Yemeni gunman, along with two other hospital coworkers.
In giving everything she had to helping the Yemeni people, including her life, her father said, “She would not want any credit for this. She would be embarrassed about the amount of coverage that this has been given. I am certain that if she knew that this was going to happen to her, that would not have deterred her.”
Although the family misses Myers greatly, they hold no hatred in their hearts for her assailant.
“Christianity is all about love and forgiveness,” said Myers’ father. “Since he [the assailant] said he was trying to get closer to God … our prayer is that he find the right God and that he be saved. Our greatest desire at this point is that God would somehow use this for his own glory.”
Washington is a freelance writer in Birmingham, Ala.
(BP) photo posted in BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo title: OUT AND ABOUT.