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Father leads physician Martha Myers’ tribute in chapel

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (BP)–“God doesn’t call extraordinary people. He calls ordinary people to do extraordinary jobs.”

With these words, Ira Myers challenged students, faculty and staff at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary during a March 30 chapel service. Myers was a special guest at the Kansas City, Mo., campus as the father of Martha Myers, one of the three Baptist workers killed by a lone gunman at Jibla Baptist Hospital in Yemen on Dec. 30, 2002. Ira Myers was joined by his wife, Woodie, and their pastor, Rick Evans of Dalraida Baptist Church in Montgomery, Ala.

Before bringing greetings from his family and Dalraida where Martha Myers grew up, Ira Myers presented to Midwestern a scrapbook compiled by the International Mission Board containing photos, articles and prose describing Martha’s selfless life and her sacrificial death. “I leave this as a gift to those interested in missions,” Myers said.

In accepting the keepsake on behalf of the seminary, Midwestern President Phil Roberts said it would be exhibited in the entranceway of the evangelism training facility recently named after Myers, a longtime physician in Yemen, and a fellow worker martyred at the Yemeni hospital, Midwestern graduate Bill Koehn. The Myers, along with Dalraida Baptist Church, contributed more than $50,000 to be used for the renovation of The Bill Koehn and Martha Myers Center for World Evangelism.

“Before we were formed in our mother’s womb, God had a plan for our lives,” Myers, a retired physician, told the audience. “It is a specific plan no one else can fill.”

He continued by saying that Martha not only knew but fulfilled God’s plan for her life. Martha “refused to fit a pattern,” he said. “She was unique.”

Myers said his daughter knew at a young age that she wanted to be a missionary.

Saved when she was 9 following the showing of a Billy Graham film at church, Martha became active at Delraida and, through her involvement in the Girls in Action (G.A.) organization of Woman’s Missionary Union, she decided she wanted to be a missionary, though she did not know where.

Years later, while attending medical school, Martha contacted the then-Foreign Missions Board (now the International Mission Board) about short-term missions work. She was sent to a hospital in Yemen. After witnessing firsthand the neglect of the women and children, Martha knew God wanted her there. She returned to the University of Southern Alabama Medical School and finished her residency in obstetrics and gynecology. She also received training in general surgery, including thoracic surgery, her father recounted.

It was then that she came to Midwestern to complete the studies required to be a career missionary.

“Martha had a mind of her own,” Myers said. “Some people call it stubbornness, I call it stickability.

“She was a great believer in education,” he continued. “She studied hard and was an avid reader.” He recalled Martha receiving one B in high school and that her siblings made a comment that she may be normal after all.

The desire to learn stayed with Martha all her life, her father said. During her stateside assignments, Martha would be seen carrying books, notepads and highlighters, and she took advantage of continuing education courses. He recalled Martha sitting at the computer for hours transcribing medical tapes. She also was known for her love for the printed word. As a result, a special book fund was established for her. Her father said she was known for “buying out the bookstore.”

Myers said his daughter’s philosophy was that “things don’t matter, people do.” He added, “Jesus set the example in Martha’s life. He gave. She gave. He lived in her.”

Not only did she give of her resources, but herself as well, Myers said. “Martha had an apartment, but she rarely lived in it. She spent most of her time at work, studying or giving her life to the women and children of Yemen.”

After her death, it was only natural that her body would stay in Yemen, Myers said.

“The government wanted to bring her body back to the States to perform an autopsy,” he said. “We didn’t see the point. We knew what killed her. She was mercifully killed instantly.”

He said, “If she had been buried in the United States, it would only be a grave. In Yemen it is a testimony of her dedication to the cause of Christ. She made that decision a long time ago. She wanted to be buried in Yemen.”

He added, “At the foot of her grave is a stone which simply reads, ‘She loved God.’ I hope we can have that said about us.”

Looking back at what many would call a tragedy, Myers said his daughter’s death called attention to terrorism and to Christianity under attack. He said Martha often spoke to him about spiritual warfare. Because of the possible persecution in the region, they had to correspond with Martha in code.

“I have a great desire in [Martha’s] death to accomplish what she couldn’t in her life,” Myers said. Like Joseph in the Old Testament, her enemies meant it for bad, but God meant it for good.

Not being one to seek personal recognition, Martha probably would not have chosen to have a training center named after her, Myers said. However, he said it is his prayer that this will provide vital support and information to those who are called to the mission field.

“Her experiences make potential missionaries aware that you run a risk,” Myers said. “If you don’t take a risk, you don’t make progress. It is not about us, it is all about God.”

Myers’ first wife, Dorothy, died of cancer a month after their daughter’s death.
(BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo title: REMEMBERING MARTHA.

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  • Susan Reed