INDIANAPOLIS (BP)–Just three months after losing her husband and being seriously injured in Iraq, Carrie McDonnall is telling people who feel called to a dangerous task for the Kingdom they’d “better go.”
“We have to keep going to the hard places. We have to keep going to the violent places,” McDonnall told Baptist Press June 16 at the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting in Indianapolis. “God’s call was not just to go to the places that were easy.”
McDonnall was the lone survivor from a March 15 drive-by shooting in which her husband, David, and three fellow International Mission Board workers, Larry and Jean Elliott and Karen Watson, were killed while traveling in northern Iraq.
McDonnall said she hopes people don’t look at her and decide not to go to places like Iraq.
“I hope this fires people up, not that they say, ‘I can’t go. Look at her, look at the tragedy in her life,’ but rather say, ‘Look how God has overcome this,'” she said. “He should be glorified, and He will be glorified into the uttermost parts of the world, and the church needs to rise up and go.”
Though she had a close walk with God long before the shooting, McDonnall said she certainly has struggled with why God would allow such a tragedy to happen. But she has found God to be faithful, full of grace and mercy.
“That has not changed one bit. From the time I woke up [from the coma], God has been very near. He was near when we were being attacked,” she said. “I woke up and my world turned upside down, and I found out my husband didn’t make it.
“So therefore I’m dealing with my body being broken and my heart being broken, and His Word says that He is full of love and He is sovereign, and my heart’s going, ‘That doesn’t sound right. That’s not what I’m feeling,'” McDonnall said. “But I just continue to cling to the truth, even though there have been hours of going, ‘Is that right?’ and going, ‘I know it’s right, and I know that He is sovereign and He is full of love.'”
Reflecting on what she would consider her favorite verse, McDonnall laughed and said rather than holding to one specific verse to get her through recent weeks, she has held to nearly a whole book of the Bible because of the magnitude of her need — “pretty much the whole book of Psalms!”
God’s hand has been evident in many ways, she said, but one major way is through her remarkably fast physical healing. The bone in her left leg was shattered by a bullet, and a large gash of skin, bone, ligaments and muscle was blown out, she said.
“The doctors, when they first saw it, were thinking they were going to have to basically restructure my leg so I could walk, and when I got to Dallas, they looked at it and were just going to let the wound heal correctly to see if that was needed,” she recounted.
It turned out the reconstruction wasn’t necessary. Neither was the insertion of a rod in place of the bone. Also, the severity of her leg injury, the doctors predicted, would require about 10 months to heal. Instead, it has taken only about 10 weeks for her to go from an external fixator to a cast to a splint on her leg. And the splint, she said, should be off by the end of the summer.
“Again, that’s God’s grace. That’s God’s hand that has been upon me. I’m blown away that I’m here,” she said through tears. “I was in that truck. I know what happened. His hand was upon me. He kept me alive….
“And I’m thankful so much for the prayers of the saints and everybody that has prayed and sacrificed their time to lift me up, and I know that is evident in my healing,” McDonnall said.
For those who want to continue praying, McDonnall said they may pray for God to give her guidance concerning what to do next. She said she had no blueprint for the way things have happened, so she doesn’t know what’s next. She also requested prayer for her family as they continue to grieve the loss of her husband. The two were married just one year and nine months at the time of the attack.
The people of Iraq are still a great concern for McDonnall because the actions of a few did not taint her love for the nation as a whole. She and her husband answered God’s call to Iraq to fulfill something as simple as the need people there have for clean water.
“The Iraqi people are a great, spirited people. They were very kind and very loving. They need help,” she told BP. “They have a situation over there where they need a leg up. The Iraqis that we came in contact with invited us into their homes and into their lives and were very gracious and glad that we were there to help them.”
Her assessment of the state of mind of many Iraqis after the liberation is that they are timid about embracing the freedom they have been given. After living so many decades under brutal oppression, they still fear someone may be watching and waiting to harm them for exercising their freedom.
“That’s one of the things we had to deal with even from the affluent to those who were living in mud huts,” she said. “It was just this sense of ‘We want a hope, and we want to have this freedom, but we’re not quite ready to trust you all.’ We can understand because the hope and freedom doesn’t come in a stable government. It comes through Jesus. And this is something that’s opening up over there, and hopefully we will be able to share that with them so they can know that hope and know that true freedom.”
And that’s a point that leads back to the need for others to be bold in traveling to the hard places. McDonnall said even when she and her husband were praying about following God to Iraq, there was a tremendous concern for their safety and several people told them not to go.
“He very clearly through His Word and through prayer showed us that this is where we needed to be. … We went and we knew the risk and we knew the cost and we counted it, but we knew we had to follow what God was leading us to do,” she said.
During a news conference at the convention, McDonnall told more details of her story, including sharing characteristics of her husband she will never forget.
“He would be the life of the party. If he was in here, you would all be in stitches. He was a journalist, so that’s right up your alley. He was a photographer. He took beautiful pictures. But his heart was in missions. Everything he did, he did to the fullest,” she said. “If you asked him to do something, most likely he was going to say yes because he could not say no. And he would do it to the best of his ability until he thought that it was done right.
“He was a man of true virtue. … He wasn’t somebody you would think you couldn’t approach. I never saw my husband meet a stranger. Within minutes you would count him as a good friend. He loved to tell stories. … He loved his Jesus, and he taught me to love my Jesus,” McDonnall said.