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Kathleen Gariety was committed as a friend & neighbor in Yemen

MILWAUKEE, Wis. (BP)–Kathleen Gariety knew the immense danger of living in Yemen as an American and a Christian, but she saw the people around her as good friends and neighbors, her pastor told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Keith Chase, pastor of Layton Avenue Baptist Church in Milwaukee, and his wife, Joanne, recalled Gariety’s embrace of God’s call to help people in Yemen.

“That’s not the first place you would choose to go, but it became the place she would choose to be,” Joanne Chase told the Journal Sentinel. “She is a person who is able to look beyond stereotypes and politics and see into people’s hearts, and she was very concerned about the people.”

Gariety, 53, was one of three Southern Baptist International Mission Board personnel killed Dec. 30 by a lone gunman who smuggled a rifle into the Jibla Baptist Hospital in Yemen where Gariety had been a purchasing manager for a decade.

“From the crown of her head to the soles of her feet, she was devoted to this ministry and felt that God had called her to be involved in this hospital,” Keith Cogburn, executive director of the Lakeland Baptist Association in Wisconsin, told the Journal Sentinel.

Friends said her title of purchasing manager understated her complex work in keeping the hospital stocked with linens, medicine and equipment. On trips to the States, she was known to speak about her work at the hospital and coordinate the shipment of thousands of dollars worth of donated supplies back to Yemen.

The Journal Sentinel reported Dec. 30 that Gariety opted to live in a small apartment among the people of Yemen instead of housing provided on the hospital compound because she wanted to be more of a friend than a foreigner.

Some who knew Gariety have used the word martyr to describe her and the way she died.

“I see a martyr as someone willing to put their life on the line for something they believe in strongly,” David Moorman, a friend from Layton Avenue Baptist Church, told the Journal Sentinel about Gariety. “In her case, Kathy was quite worthy, and I have no problem calling her a martyr. She died carrying out her mission.”

Keith Chase said the three hospital workers who were killed would never have called themselves martyrs. They would prefer to be seen as people who loved the Yemeni people enough to lay down their lives for them, he told the Journal Sentinel.

He also said people who grieve the loss of the workers should pray for the killer.

“We are called to love our enemies. They would want us to pray and to recognize that the vast majority of the Yemeni people condemn the acts of the killer as much as we do,” Chase said. “It would tarnish the life and ministry of these people to allow hatred to win.”

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  • Erin Curry