JIBLA, Yemen (BP)–Southern Baptist medical workers at the Baptist hospital in Jibla, Yemen, turned to each other and the local community to ease the pain of losing friends and loved ones after a gunman killed three of their coworkers Dec. 30.
God’s spirit has worked in a powerful way, replacing chaos with peace and drawing people together, International Mission Board workers say.
“The gunman has caused so much pain,” said Lee Hixon, the hospital’s assistant administrator, “but there is no panic here. It’s hard for some people to understand, but there is peace, not fear here.”
The killer’s planned chaos evaporated almost immediately. God’s supernatural comfort quickly filled the hearts of many of the people at the hospital, explained Al Lindholm, an IMB worker who reached the hospital a few hours after the attack.
“It was actually very calm when I got here,” he recalled. “Somewhere I heard that an early report said all the workers were in panic. I didn’t find that; I found them in prayer.”
Christians in other parts of Yemen responded the same way.
“It would have been so easy to hate right then,” said a Christian worker in the capital city, Sanaa. “But God’s grace has just poured out. So many of my Yemeni friends this week have called or stopped by to mourn with us.”
On the first Sunday after the murders, many of the hospital’s Christian workers, along with friends who had come to the compound to help, walked through the Jibla community to talk, mourn and pray.
“That was so good,” Hixon said. “I don’t know who needed it more — the Jibla community or us. The security forces had almost totally locked down the hospital after the attack. We appreciated the protection, but it was time to get back into the communities that we’ve come to serve.”
For several hours, small groups of workers walked through markets and visited homes, drinking cup after cup of hot tea and listening to people’s grief, questions and scorn regarding the attack.
“This man was not one of us,” said Halmet Masudi, as he flicked both hands out and turned his palms face up in a sign of rejection. “We are one community here and this has left us very sad. Adults, teenagers and even small children gathered in the square at the front of the hospital to cry because of this.”
“I work in a government office,” he added. “And we have had calls from people all over the country. They have called to tell us how upset they are over this situation.”
Lindholm had heard these same sentiments for more than a week. “So many of the people we worked with from the community have been devastated,” he said.
Though soldiers closed off the hospital almost immediately after the shootings, “local families, some of whom were hospital workers and others who were just friends, stood out front and cried,” Lindholm said.
“It was the same for me,” he said. “I didn’t take time to cry until I was with some of our Yemeni workers. When I greeted them, with the usual hug, I just lost it and began to cry.”
This scene repeated itself throughout the week as the hospital staff returned to the work of transferring administration of the medical center to the Yemeni government.
“The grief is ongoing and we deal with that in our small groups, but a major concern now, after the transfer, is the restart of the hospital and the continuation of ministries,” Lindholm said.
These ministries include food distributions, village medical clinics and water projects, explained John Brady, IMB regional leader for northern Africa and the Middle East.
“The impact of this hospital is going to be seen more in the impact of relationships,” he said. “This community around the hospital has seen many come and live in Christ. Now they have seen three come and live in Christ and die in Christ.
“That is a powerful witness. This is not something any one of us would choose, but there is a peace about all this and I know God will use this for good.”
Bill Koehn’s widow, Marty, has had many of the same feelings.
“I have never felt the presence of the Lord so strongly as I have during these last days,” she said. “It is as though the Lord himself took my hand in his and said, `This is the way. Walk in it.'”
(BP) photos posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo titles: INTERCEDING, COMFORT and UNITY.
— Memorial gifts honor slain workers: http://resources.imb.org/index.cfm/fa/prod/ProdID/871.htm.
— Yemeni gov’t appoints Jibla hospital administrator: http://www.imb.org/learn/news/story.asp?id=875.
— What could you do overseas? http://going.imb.org/whatcanido.asp.
The International Mission Board (http://www.imb.org) is a Southern Baptist Convention entity supported by the Cooperative Program (http://www.cpmissions.net) and the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering (http://ime.imb.org).